Hon. D. S. Harkness (Minister of National
Defence): Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement concerning a new naval shipbuilding program. Approval has been given for the construction of eight warships of advanced design and the procurement of three modern submarines for the Royal Canadian Navy. These ships will replace existing ships as they reach the end of their useful lives in the next few years.
The warships will be built in Canadian shipyards, the first one being laid down late next year and the others to follow progressively. These ships are being designed by R.C.N. technical staffs and will be known as general purpose frigates, because they will be equipped and armed for a variety of tasks. They will be slightly larger in size than the present destroyer escorts and will perform essentially the same function as the Tribal class destroyers have performed in the past. The ships will have submarine detection equipment and antisubmarine armament of the most modern type, guided missile systems for air defence, and a gun armament for surface to surface action and shore bombardment. The general purpose frigate will thus have a first class antisubmarine capability and also be able to perform a variety of other duties.
Subject to satisfactory completion of negotiations with the British government, the three submarines will be of the Oberon class built in Britain. The Oberon class is the latest type of conventional submarine to be built for the Royal navy. The first of the class was commissioned in November, 1960, the second has since been completed and another nine are under construction for the Royal navy. The cost of these three submarines will be about the same as one of the warships to be built in Canada.
In the training of antisubmarine units constant practice with submarines is necessary to achieve and maintain a high degree of efficiency. The navy at the present time has one submarine, H.M.C.S. Grilse, on the west coast, and in addition on the east coast there are three submarines on loan from the Royal navy for training purposes. The three modern submarines to be procured will make a significant contribution to the training of antisubmarine forces both in the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force. The effectiveness of the submarine itself in the antisubmarine role has been greatly enhanced in recent years by the development of new types of armament and detection equipment. The Oberon class submarine is equipped with modern armament and technical equipment for the antisubmarine role. In addition to the training role the submarines will be a valuable complement to the surface fleet and aircraft in undertaking their antisubmarine defensive tasks.
In considering the acquisition of submarines for the Royal Canadian Navy, detailed studies have been made of the possibility of procuring various types of submarines including those propelled by nuclear power. Mainly because of their high cost, but also because of the time required for their construction, nuclear powered submarines were not considered practicable at the present time for the purposes for which submarines are required in the Royal Canadian Navy.
Arrangements have been made for the Royal Canadian Navy to continue its studies of submarine development, in order to keep abreast of technological advances which may make it practicable and desirable to undertake a future program of submarine construction in Canada.