Before leaving office in 1993, the scandal-plagued Prime Minister Brian Mulroney awarded two untendered contracts to Montreal firms.
The first was awarded to Bell Helicopter for the civil Bell 412EP and pretend it was a military aircraft as the CH-146 Griffon. This airframe that was so unsuitable for combat, it was not until the latter years of the Canadian combat mission in Afghanistan that it could after modifications. Prior to this, Cold War era helicopters were leased from Ukraine.
With the four-decade old navy training fleet of 11 ships, SNC-Lavalin was contracted to provide twelve training vessels built to a unique civil design. As a civil design, they had almost no combat capability as they were not built to withstand stresses from explosive events.
12 Bofors gun mounts, so old the barrels had the inscription of King George VI on them. The guns were originally to have been placed on aircraft carrier HMCS Bonaventure, with Canada trying to replicate the armament fit of the 75 percent larger HMS Victorious. This would have caused stability problems with Bonaventure, so the guns were repurposed for airfield defense in Europe.
These guns, after being in storage after Canada abandoning European defense, they were fitted to the SNC-Lavalin program which somehow bequeathed a title of “Maritime Coastal Defense Vessel (MCDV).”
As of 2022, maintenance and upgrade of the MCDV program is still under the aegis of SNC-Lavalin until 2030.
Halifax Shipyard was subcontracted by SNC-Lavalin to build the new ships with a mission system of sidescan sonar was giving to MacDonald, Dettwiler of Richmond, BC. Only two functional sonar sets were provided and to save money no real time data transfer was included.
To conduct a “route survey” to check for mines or other seabed systems, a disc would have to be burned and hand delivered after an MCDV returned to port.
Construction of the 12 ships ended with delivery of HMCS Summerside in 1998.
After a change of government in the 1990s, the naval budget was severely slashed with at sea training being replaced by commercial simulators on land. So, the need to have the MCDV fleet was no longer required.
The 12 nearly new ships languished in port, six in Halifax and six in Esquimalt, in “out of routine” status with their future in doubt.
The poor design of the ships necessitated fitting a twenty-foot ship container at the stern for sleeping accommodations for any operational tasking.
The Bofors guns were removed and given to museums or park displays.
Two Second World War 50 caliber machine guns were the only armament and only one sidescan sonar available nationwide.
A role as platforms for the US Coast Guard antinarcotic efforts was created. Canada has no legal authority to conduct arrests on the high seas, hence requiring the US law enforcement teams.
With no landing platform for helicopter to military grade drone use, a Canadian Coast Guard Type 1100 icebreaker would have better served the narcotic mission.
The naval leadership now envisions the new Harry DeWolf Class ships, also a civil design intended for Arctic use with a Royal Canadian Mounted Police helicopter, the drug patrol tasking.
As of this month, Canada has sent a second pair of MCDVs from Halifax to European waters to train with the NATO Mine Counter Measures ships. Lacking combat capability or the ability to withstand a mine blast, the latest Canadian contribution will see them acting as dive tenders. In addition, Canada has lacked minesweeping capability for 59 years.
With all branches of the military in Canada now suffering from severe personnel shortages, why are the MCDVs still in commission? This would free up personnel to serve on the 12 actual combat ships in service.
Replacement by the Vard Marine Vigilance Class proposal unveiled at CANSEC 2023 would provide the navy with a platform for duties the MCDVs are unsuited for.
The best thing for the MCDVs to be donated to a Third World Nation.