Canada To Acquire 12 New Submarines Amid Arctic Security Concerns: Can They Afford It?

  • TDS News
  • Canada
  • July 10, 2024

Canada is embarking on a major procurement process to acquire up to 12 new conventionally-powered submarines, as part of the nation’s defense policy update, “Our North, Strong and Free.” This move comes in response to the increasing strategic importance of the Arctic, which is becoming more accessible due to rapid warming.

Canada, with the world’s longest coastline, faces unique security challenges. The Arctic, warming at four times the global average, is expected to become a key shipping route between Europe and East Asia by 2050. This has already attracted interest from global powers, to address what they may perceive as unwanted activities in the region and security concerns.

Canada’s current submarine fleet, consisting of four aging Victoria-class submarines, is becoming obsolete and expensive to maintain. These submarines, acquired from the British Government in the early 2000s, are no longer sufficient to counter the modern threats posed by foreign powers in the Arctic.

The Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence, announced the procurement of new submarines through the Canadian Patrol Submarine Project (CPSP). This initiative aims to equip Canada with submarines that combine stealth, lethality, persistence, and Arctic deployability, ensuring maritime security across the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans.

The Department of National Defence is engaging with manufacturers and potential partners to explore procurement, construction, and operational capabilities. A formal Request for Information (RFI) will be issued in fall 2024, gathering data on submarine capabilities and establishing a submarine sustainment capability within Canada. This initiative aims to enhance national security and foster closer ties with allies through strategic partnerships.

The submarine acquisition is part of Canada’s broader defense strategy, “Our North, Strong and Free,” which allocates $8.1 billion over five years and $73 billion over 20 years for defense spending. The policy addresses various capabilities, including Arctic and Offshore Patrol Vessels, ground-based air defenses, long-range missiles, and surveillance and strike drones

While the acquisition of new submarines aims to secure Canada’s maritime borders and respond to global security challenges, it raises a critical question: Can Canada afford this investment, and is it necessary? With significant defense spending already planned, the cost and need for such a substantial fleet expansion are topics of debate. Minister Blair asserts that this new fleet is essential for protecting Canada’s sovereignty in a changing world and contributing to international security.

As Canada embarks on this ambitious journey, the nation must weigh the benefits of enhanced security against the financial and strategic costs, ensuring that the decision aligns with national interests and capabilities.