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October 06, 2004

HMCS Chicoutimi


First we learn Canada's new submarine fleet is lacking in torpedoes. Now HMCS Chicoutimi, Canada’s Fourth Victoria Class Submarine, is adrift in the North Atlantic following a fire in an electrical panel. My optimism for these vessels should now be described as a cautious optimism. Canadian Fleet Atlantic commander, Commodore Tyrone Pile comments.

But Cmdre. Pile said the fire was a fluke occurrance and doesn't indicate a problem with the submarines. "Like any ship or submarine, these are complex entities, warships in general, and although fires and floods and incidents of that nature are a rare occurrence they do happen and they will continue to happen."

Cmdre. Pile later added: "This incident just tells me that like other warships we'll continue to deal with fires and floods and incidents of this nature, that it happened this week and it's just one of those coincidences."

Let us hope Commadore Pile is correct in his optimism and offer a prayer for some sailors in a cold, damp and hopefully safe vessel.

Update: Oct. 6, 7:15 p.m. The fire was apparently worse than initial reports indicated or were interpreted to be. A Canadian sailor is dead.

A sailor from Canada's stricken submarine off Ireland has died of his injuries, Prime Minister Paul Martin said Wednesday.

Lieut. Chris Saunders, a combat systems engineer, died after being airlifted from the heavily damaged HMCS Chicoutimi as his crewmates remained adrift for a second night.

"We pay him homage and we make known our deep respect to his family," Martin said in the Commons.

Update: Oct. 7, 10:24 p.m. The Arsenal publishes an email that offers the first detailed consideration I have read regarding the seaworthiness of this vessel. It is speculative but in my opinion merits serious consideration.

I suspect that Chicoutimi's problems are the result of equipment which passed muster during the inspection because deterioration was not detected, or the items were still deemed servicable because of lack of use vs age, etc. Fifteen year-old wiring which has not been used for ten years, nor maintained, nor preserved properly, would be less than trustworthy

Update: Oct. 8, 10:09 a.m. Damian Penny carries the text of Rex Murphy's CBC commentary.

We are hypocrites of the worst order. Boasting of our contribution to the international stage, our legendary reputation for peacekeeping missions while consistently short changing the services that at one time built that reputation.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at October 6, 2004 08:45 AM

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I'm in London, and all the news reports on the plight of the Chicoumiti are describing it as a Canadian submarine, as if it was made there. However, it seems that Canada has only just bought it second-hand from the Royal Navy, and it's already broken down. I'm just surprised that no-one in the Canadian navy seems to be asserting consumer rights, and demanding that the seller fix it. Sounds like the Brits have sold off faulty goods. Me - I'd ask for my money back, or a better boat. Still, maybe having a barbeque in the galley was a bad idea.....

Posted by: moray at October 6, 2004 08:59 AM

Hmm. Yes, well. I was working with Vickers when these were being refitted for sale so I cannot quite comment on the consumer rights angle. Though I should add I had nothing to do with the refitting...

Posted by: Flea at October 6, 2004 09:09 AM

I am looking out the window, onto the Halifax shipyard, where 4 old submarines are moored - the very old ones, which were supposed to be replaced by the "ultimate lemons" we bought from the Brits.
I can clearly see that there is movement, on the pier .... wait a minute! I think they are making room for more boats over there. Hey, maybe we can promote this site to tourists - Come and visit the ultimate submarine junk museum!
We can always paint one or two yellow and play some music.
What a joke!
So let me summarize the Canadian Army/Navy equipment situation: we have junk subs, we have 40 year old helicopters falling out of the sky, we have jeeps, too small for the job, we have poor enlisted man & women, and too few of them, too.
Oh, I almost forgot, we don't shoot live bullets anymore - costs too much. We play "realistic" computer animation games, instead. And we just lowered entry requirements for the new recruits. I guess, if one is going to play the video games, one does not need to read, write and be physically fit, eh?
Hey, anyone out there, looking for an entry hole into "Fortress North America"?
Here we have a barn door, wide open - bend over, say ahhhh & cough, we'll do the rest. And I promise, it wont hurt a bit.

Posted by: Paul at October 6, 2004 10:19 AM

Under the contract, the UK has to pay for any of the refits done on the subs Beatle-esque.

Posted by: Alan at October 6, 2004 05:37 PM

....Jokes aside. It is very sobering news. Just to bring it to a different level - Lieut. Chris Saunders left a young family behind, his two children are two years old and four months. He joined the Navy in the Spring, of this year. Here is the new family broken up by the irresponsibly, criminally short sightedness of the federal government.
"Power corrupts - absolute power corrupts absolutely" One acquires a sense of the absolute power after so many years in government.
This is the result of the Liberal government machine, making knee-jerk reaction decisions, affecting real people's lives.
Remember the little toy-like jeeps our troops used in Afghanistan? Government told us they were perfectly fine for the job. Until our soldiers died in them. So, they were not OK. They quickly bought .... Mercedes-Benz's! Hey, we can't buy local - Hummers are no good, apparently. We have to buy exotic staff, that will most likely create a number of other problems - spear parts, service, compatibility, etc.
Is everyone "up there" so affected by the attention deficit that the common sense is completely abandoned?
Sad, very sad - especially when it hits so close to home. Figuratively and literally - Lieut. Saunders lived only few doors from me.
We are all affected by this tragic event. And it did not have to happen.
Our thoughts are with his wife and small children, who will not have a chance to experience Chris's love, growing up.
Peaceful sailing, mate.

Posted by: Paul at October 7, 2004 09:17 AM

I should add a note to the effect that the joking comments were left before any of us had heard of the death of Lieut. Sanders. Paul, thank you for your remarks. They are timely and important. Our thoughts and prayers are with Chris Saunders' family, his injured shipmates and for all the sailors still out there now.

Posted by: Flea at October 7, 2004 09:23 AM

Yup- no disrespect was intended to the real victims of the Chicoutimi affair.

Posted by: moray at October 11, 2004 07:27 AM

The submarines in question are an excellent investment, although I agree with the statements that some of you have made in regards to the fact that the boats were ill-maintained,however the blame does not lie with the Brits per se, the issue lies with BAE, who were hired by the Brits to maintain these subs (which I may point out were barely used at the time that BAE took possesion of them). The Upholder class submarine is a cutting edge boat which (if properly maintained) can outclass many other SSK's or SSN's as well as surface vessels. The cost of manufacturing such boats in Canada would be approximately $6 billion for the four. The loss of Chris Sounders and the injuries sustained by the other men are indeed tragic, however, when one get's their Dolphins, risk is unfortuantely something that goes with them. I think that if anyone should go down for the whole issue, BAE should apologize to all Canadian AND British citizens for it's lack of foresight and trustworthiness when taking on the contract.

Posted by: Patrick at October 25, 2004 04:41 AM