Interview article

VAdm Paul Maddison

RCN Recapitalized & Revitalized
CHRIS MacLEAN  |  Nov 15, 2011

September 2011 – Vice-Admiral Paul Maddison, Commander RCN, takes a moment during his inspection of the Honour Guard to exchange a few words with LS Sandra Tucker.

VAdm Paul Maddison
Vice-Admiral Maddison assumed command of Canada’s Navy on 22 July 2011, and was at the helm when the Navy was renamed the Royal Canadian Navy. He considers this is a pivotal time in the history of Canada’s Navy, especially moving ­forward after its first centennial of naval service. FrontLine recently spoke with him about his vision for the Navy. He credits his predecessor, VAdm Dean McFadden, for having “set the wheels in motion to drive the Navy towards success in the future,” and he sees his new responsibility as “taking that energy, tempered by years of ­feedback and lessons learned, and projecting it forward into the next century.”

The new Commander RCN is understandably optimistic about the future of the Royal Canadian Navy. “We are into the fundamental recapitalization of our naval maritime capability at a time when ocean politics, both domestically and globally, are having an increasing effect on political and military considerations that strategic leaders are making.” To be more specific, he describes the RCN – domestically, continentally and globally – as becoming a “more coherently joint and integrated” component of the Canadian Forces than ever before. “I believe the ‘demand signal’ for the Navy is to be able to act, and act decisively, for our national interests and what Canadians recognize as universal values.” The Admiral sees that demand growing, which is a positive sign for the strategic importance of Canada’s Navy.

While higher demand in the business sector signifies growth, jobs and profits, we must be mindful of the stark reality that increased demand from a military perspective means increased risk to the men and women of the Canadian Forces – and they deserve the most effective equipment to do their jobs. It is now time to deliver on the recapitalization promise that Canadians are expecting, and VAdm Maddison will provide the leadership required to move toward a recapitalized, regenerated, and revitalized naval capability.

Training & Modernization
The Government of Canada has added a new hurdle by declaring it is holding the CF at 68,000 personnel. Will the Navy be able to crew all the new fleets (Joint Support Ships, Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships, and Canadian Service Combatants) as it ­progresses through the recapitalization ­program? While the Canadian Forces grew significantly over the past several years, the Navy was unable to fill its trades. Recruiting into the navy was subsequently made a military priority and that situation is slowly turning, notes the Admiral. “We have begun that recovery over the past couple of years, so what we have now is a large cohort of junior sailors and officers going through the training system to man these ships as they come into the order of battle over the next several years.” In considering crew requirements of the new vessels specified in the NSPS (National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy), he explains that navy planners will be “looking at the shore/at-sea mix to optimize this capability as we bring that fleet into being. And, at the same time, we are looking at how we will manage the end of life of the Iroquois class, and how we will shape those ship’s companies as they come out of the order of battle, to enable the future fleet to come into being.” 

September 2011 – Bridge Boatswain Mate MS Joseph Rempel (left) asists HMCS Vancouver’s Executive Officer (XO) LCdr Ryan Tettamanti as he gives a situation report update to the ships company during an action station exercise. The crew participates in battle readiness exercises as the ship transits to its assigned patrol area off the coast of Libya.

The Halifax class frigates are currently undergoing a full modernization program which has been contracted to Lockheed Martin Canada. Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships Halifax and Fredericton are in progress on the east coast, HMCS Calgary is underway on the west coast, and Winnipeg is next in line. “This,” Maddison says of the refit, “is truly cutting steel on tomorrow’s fleet,” explaining that the upgrades are generating a new capability for this class of ship. Additionally, training and transitional opportunities are being exploited during this downtime. “While the ships are in refit, those sailors – depending on what their trade is, whether they are a sonar operator or a naval electronic sensor operator for example, are receiving training on the new kit.” Lockheed Martin Canada was contracted to build a training facility in the Halifax area for that purpose. The Mari­time Advanced Training and Test Site opened in the Highfield Industrial Park in Dartmouth in 2009. The Commander RCN explains ­further that “as we take delivery of the modernized Halifax class, those trainers and the course curricula will transfer over to the fleet schools in Halifax and on the west coast in Esquimalt.”

VAdm Maddison describes the transition plans for other new vessels. For instance, having received the training necessary to move from steam driven to gas turbine and other unique requirements, the ship’s companies from the current replenishment ships will transfer over to the Joint Support Ship (JSS) which are expected to enter into service in 2017/18. Also, “starting in about 2015, when we take delivery of the Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS), those crews of about 45 folks will come from the fleet so, as we grow, my Director General of Naval Personnel and the Fleet Commanders will manage how we crew those ships.” Looking 10 years forward, the crew size of the Canadian Service Combatant (CSC) has not yet been established. That, he says, “will depend really upon missions and technologies and degrees of automation and redundancy.” The Navy will have to assess crew size to maintain a specified degree of readiness and also to be able to respond to “various damage control events or scenarios.”

Shipbuilding Strategy
In terms of the relationship between the military, the government and industry, the NSPS has so far been a huge success story. “We’re very pleased to see the yards in ­Halifax and Vancouver selected ,and very excited to see how this is going to move forward as we turn this policy into steel,” confirms Maddison. Not only the navy but, in fact, the entire country is waiting for PWGSC to finalize the umbrella agreements with both the Irving and Seaspan shipyards so the contracting stage can commence. With a final AOPS design already in place, that program will be the first to move forward. Following the umbrella agreement, ADM(Materiel) will work with both PWGSC and Irving to finalize a contract for the AOPS. This will take time as Irving must study detailed construction plans and establish cost estimates for the multitude of materials and labour, however, many expect the contract to be completed in 2012. A consortium, comprised of the shipyard and industry partners, would likely be required to bring the full capability required for this build. Vice-Admiral Maddison anticipates the cutting of steel will start in 2013, with the first ship delivered in 2015. “I believe the intent is to build one ship per year,” he adds. “There would be a continuous build in that yard which would transition into the Canadian Service Combatant project.”

The joint support ship project, which will be built at the Seaspan shipyards on the west coast, is currently in its Design Definition Phase and the Admiral says two designs are being considered. “We’re driving towards a design decision point late in 2012. There is one military off-the-shelf design; a proven AOR design (German), and we have an in-house Canadian design that is part of the calculus.” The designs will be assessed on cost, capability and risk perspectives, and the selected design will be handed over to Seaspan for construction. Delivery of the first JSS is forecasted for 2017 with the second in 2018.

For the AOPS, the navy is considering a 25mm gun forward says the Admiral, “but they are constabulary vessels not a combatant. They will be built to commercial standards and aimed at providing Canada with an arctic surveillance offshore sovereignty capability and also to be there for search and rescue, to enable other lead departments in their maritime mandates, whether it is RCMP, Coast Guard, Fisheries and Oceans, or CBSA.”

Even though the AOPS are somewhat weaponized, some analysts believe it would have made more sense to build them on the west coast with the Coast Guard ships, and build the JSS on the east coast with the Surface Combatants. The role of the JSS is to support the combatants and thus will require many components that are interoperable with the CSC.

Apparently the NSPS Secretariat had other considerations in mind when it divided the four programs into combatant and no-combatant groupings for two ­shipyards. When asked, VAdm Maddison offers his own theory: “I believe the reason why the AOPs are part of the combatant package, is that it was aimed at providing an opportunity for that yard to take the experience of a relatively unsophisticated warship build (the AOPs) and use that to build capacity, to build a sort of warship-building cognizance and to leverage that as a spring to move forward to having the right folks and skill sets and capacities in the yard to build the CSC. That’s why those two were linked up.”

Joint Sea-based HADR (Humanitarian Aid Disaster Response)
Canada has shown interest over the years in a force projection or amphibious vessel. FrontLine asked VAdm Maddison for his thoughts on the value of such a capability. “I wouldn’t characterize it as force projection,” he responded, explaining that “what I think would be extremely useful for a country like Canada to have, just based on what’s going on in the world, is an ability to improve upon our humanitarian operations and disaster response capability from the sea. If you look at what happened with Hurricane Igor in Newfoundland, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and the 2011 earthquakes in Chile and Japan, if you look at these severe climatic events and the impact they have on coastal populations (where about 80% of the world lives), I think Canadians will expect Canada and the Canadian Forces to be able to continue to respond in the lower range of the spectrum of operations, and respond in a truly meaningful way. And I think an amphibious ship with a capability of more rapidly moving people and capability ashore and back, and planning and executing operations in the littoral, would be extremely useful for Canada. It is a capability that all of our allies have, to one degree or another. What I’ve said to the Chief of the Defence Staff is that I’m very interested, alongside the Commanders of the Air Force and the Army, to look at how we would go about introducing a new joint sea-based humanitarian assistance and disaster response capability for the Canadian Forces. I think that is a discussion that will perhaps animate the next cycle of the Canada First Defence Strategy as we move forward. I think it would be a great capability for Canada to have and it’s one I would certainly love to see.” 

Haiti – HMCS Athabaska personnel pose with actor Sean Penn while visiting their shelter construction at an orphanage in Leogane, Haiti.

Would such a capability require a new vessel? “I think it would be a purpose-built amphibious vessel of some kind with the ability to operate utility helicopters for transferring people and kit ashore and back, and with surface connectors as well, some kind of landing craft system. This is something that I would like to see, but something that needs to be very deliberately planned and the resources need to be identified to enable it. At this particular juncture it’s hard to imagine introducing a new capability without it having an impact on existing capabilities, so that’s something we have to resolve as we move forward.

The Victoria class boats are now, according to Maddison, “at the end of a long beginning. HMCS Victoria is in the water and ready to commence trials and then moving rapidly into workups, high readiness, in­cluding full weaponization and firing of the Mark 48 heavyweight torpedo early in 2012. Workups should be underway before Christmas and will progress through the first quarter with weaponization. Timing depends on how well the crew progresses as they move forward. You don’t take any shortcuts when you put folks in submarines and put them under water. That’s the plan, so she would be ready for deployment whether domestically, continentally or forward deployed sometime in 2012, and followed about six months later by Windsor on the east coast.” In the synchro-lift now, HMCS Windsor, will come down in early 2012 to progress through the same sequence. HMCS Chicoutimi will be next.

The intent is to have one submarine in high-readiness on each coast, with a third available as a swing boat on either coast “depending on where we are in the sequencing of the four submarines,” and a fourth will always be in deep maintenance on the west coast through the In Service Support contract. While not completely unexpected, a number of the problems encountered during the Canadianization and refit process were quite “complicated” and which contributed to significant delays in achieving full operationalization in a steady state.

A major cause of delay was that the supply chain for the UK’s decommissioned the Upholder class boats had dried up over the years. When Canada first took delivery of the submarines, renaming them as the Victoria class, one of the first challenges faced by engineers was the unexpected amount of time and effort needed to reestablish or find new supply lines. While that caused significant delays, in the long run, Canadian solutions were found and Canadian companies have benefited. “Yes, absolutely,” confirms Maddison. “There was a Canadianization package that we went through as we brought all the boats over to Canada. That was always part of the plan and included some damage control and some fire fighting and communications systems that needed to be modified to meet our standards to make them more interoperable with our own fleet as well as with our friends to the south. We decided to convert the boats to the Mark 48 torpedo, not the Tigerfish that the Brits were using, which meant a new weapons handling and discharge system which had a couple of challenges with it, again some of them around the supply chain. There was an air turbine pump issue with the weapons handling and discharge system, which we worked our way through, it’s done. We have a prototype of the weapon handling and discharge system at Canadian Forces Maritime Experimental and Test Ranges (CFMETR) at Nanoose Bay, on the east side of Vancouver Island, where we have fired the Mark 48 torpedo from it, and the submarines have all fired ‘shapes,’ which are kind of like inert torpedoes.”

In assessing the delays, one only has to recall world issues in 2001. Operation Apollo became a major focus of the Navy as Canada turned its attention to the global war on terror. “We pretty well surged our entire fleet, sometimes more than once, out the door to the Arabian Gulf in the North Arabian Sea from 2001 to 2003.” That ­further delayed the submarine program, he notes, because “we were focusing our efforts, our people, our engineers, and our fleet maintenance facilities (second and third line maintenance), on generating those high readiness frigates and destroyers out the door for that mission.” 

The Mark 48 ­torpedo, optimized for both deep and littoral waters, has advanced counter-countermeasure capabilities. It is also used by the United States, Australian, Brazilian and Royal Netherlands Navies.

After 2003 then – as the Navy returned to a normalized state and again looked at declaring initial operating capability (IOC) for the submarines – the tragedy of HMCS Chicoutimi took place. “What Chicoutimi did, from a program perspective,” observes VAdm Maddison, “was to introduce another delay as we brought the boats alongside. We conducted a very thorough board of inquiry, we looked at all the lessons that were identified through that event, and applied them such that we did declare IOC for the submarines in 2006.”

The refits for Victoria and Windsor, conducted by the in-house fleet maintenance facilities on the west and east coasts were themselves a cause of numerous delays, but that time was used effectively, reveals Maddison. “While were doing these refits, we were learning – particularly taking ­submarines apart and putting them back together again. This is the first time these boats had ever gone through deep maintenance because they were never operated and maintained prior to being purchased by Canada… and collectively, it adds time.” All the while, the navy was also working towards transitioning “from a one-coast legacy of operating, maintaining and training for submarines, to a two-coast model, for all the right reasons, so we can operate out of both bases in the Atlantic and the Pacific.”

Attempting to make the best of the long process, the Navy decided to sequence the full weaponization system into a sustainable operational cycle that would allow commanders and crews to remain current in their training. “We deliberately decided to do that because we wanted to focus the time we had at sea on basic force generation, giving submariners the opportunity to work towards their qualifications. We have deployed our submarines for a total of 900 days at sea since they came over – twice in the Arctic, a couple of times down the Gulf of Mexico in the counter narcotics mission, over in Europe as part of the NATO Rapid Response Force, training the French, the Norwegians, the Brits, working with American carrier groups in exercises, sub on sub, and doing extremely well. As we worked our way through all of that, with Corner Brook especially, also Windsor, the aim was to focus on the sailors because our view was, if there was an operational imperative, we could surge rapidly towards certifying the weapons firing capability but we wouldn’t be able to surge rapidly towards having qualified crews – from the captain to the ordinary seaman on the helm. So that’s where we’ve put our focus over the last couple of years.”

Concurrently, while the training, the refits and the transitioning were ongoing, the navy began a “strategic transfer of the deep maintenance of the submarines from the Navy to industry through the Victoria class In Service Support contract (VISSC).” Previously handled by the navy, this new system of working with industry understandably created some initial challenges.

“So all of this, in aggregate, presented us with a number of challenges that we faced head-on, and through leadership and determination it was outstanding work, not just by sailors but by public servants on both coasts and here in Ottawa and other folks in other departments in town that got us to where we are today. As the submarines are operationalized, now and in the very near future, they are going to bring great credit to Canada through success in operations, I’m absolutely sure of that.”

Despite the delays, the navy is looking forward to the prospect of utilizing its full submarine capability and the Commander RCN believes the purchase has been “absolutely” worth it. “We bought these submarines for about 25% of a new one of equal capability. What we have spent on them actually is what you would expect to spend in maintaining submarines (which are really more akin to high performance aircraft or to space shuttle technologies, especially in terms of safety) and is consistent with what our allies spend on their submarines, but there are two issues here that have caused me concern. First, we have spent the money we expected on maintenance, but the maintenance journey took longer than we had planned, with the result being more time alongside and less time at sea achieving operational effect for Canada. Clearly, I would have preferred to see the submarines at sea conducting dived operations for more than the 900 days achieved to date. The second issue concerns naval culture. Our motto is Ready Aye Ready - it is in our DNA to examine a problem, assess the options necessary to resolve it, and commit to success following the shortest path available, no matter what the odds. We saw the challenges associated with fully operationalizing the boats, we looked at the critical path to get to where we want to be, which is that 2+1+1 steady state [two in high readiness, one in lesser readiness and one in maintenance], and, at the end of day, we ended up, in good faith I will add, unintentionally over-promising in terms of the time it would take, on how quickly we could deal with these complex challenges while concurrently generating high readiness frigates, destroyers, replenishment ships, and coastal defence vessels on both coasts. And of course, there were the "unknown unknowns", like Op Apollo, the Chicoutimi fire, and the establishment of the VISSC contract. So I can see why folks would be frustrated by what they see as under-delivery. But that’s the kind of journey we’ve been on in order to maintain a submarine capability for Canada – a vital one which I think is absolutely critical to the Royal Canadian Navy, as part of the Canadian Forces. The great news is though, that we are at the end of that long beginning. As we forecast out into the future based on the experience behind us, there was ambiguity, there were variances on our accuracy of achieving certain milestones, but that ambiguity has been mostly resolved as we’ve learned from our experiences, become smarter as we’ve applied these lessons, so now when I tell you that we will be running a high readiness submarine on the west coast in 2012 and another one on the east coast in the latter part of 2012, I can say that with some degree of certainty.”

The third submarine, Chicoutimi, is the first to go through a full deep maintenance cycle on the west coast with the Victoria class In Service Support contract (VISSC) through Babcock Canada Inc., and “that’s going very well,” says the Admiral. “She will come out in 2013 such that we will actually achieve that steady state of three boats running, fully weaponized, two at high readiness, one at a lesser degree of readiness but available for operations nonetheless.” A fourth will always be in Extended Docking Work Period for deep maintenance to ensure each boat will be upgraded and serviced regularly, performing efficiently through to end life in the late 2020s. He is confident that “through those operations we will learn, we will improve, we will strengthen that relationship with industry, we will generate more qualified submariners, we will attract more Canadians who will want to volunteer for the submarine service, and I think that will set us up for the next cycle in submarine capability after the Victoria class.” 

September 2011 – Canadian Expeditionary Force Command (CEFCOM) Commander, Lieutenant-General Stuart Beare speaks with HMCS Vancouver crew members during a port visit on the Greek Island of Crete. NATO allies are enforcing an arms embargo and taking actions to protect civilians in Libya as part of Operation Unified Protector.

When asked if nuclear-powered submarines are being considered at for the next cycle, he emphatically responds that there is “no intent” to move towards such a capability for Canada. “But as we move forward we will explore emerging technologies and capabilities that would improve upon what  we now have,” he says. “Especially when we look at the Arctic, an area that we will increasingly focus upon as a blue water environment. Operations in the vicinity of the ice edge will increasing become a priority for us, so we will look very hard at air independent propulsion or any other technologies that emerge over the next several years. We will certainly look at ways we will want to optimize how we work with special forces. We will look at how we will enable operations ashore from the sea through submarines. So there are a number of capabilities we will want to look at as we move forward here, but the first requirement has to be full operational ­capability for the Victorian class, that is the bridge to sustaining submarine capability for Canada. There is no other option in my view.”

Will Canada’s demands on submarine capability increase as we get underway with deployments? “Yes, absolutely, declares Maddison. “I will give you an example of the mission in the Carribean, the counter narcotics mission under the auspices of the joint interagency task force south, led by the U.S. Coast Guard with our allies; it is a mission we’ve had a submarine involved in twice. When you look at what the criminal cartels are introducing, in terms of semi submersible and fully ­submersible self-propelled vessels that are taking huge amounts of cocaine out of South America, the best counter to a submarine is a another submarine – and we’ve had success there as recently as this year when Corner Brook transferred over to the west coast. When you look at the proliferation of submarines around the world – some 450 submarines now in over 40 countries – and when you look specifically at southeast Asia to the number of nations that are introducing or have declared intention to introduce submarines into their order of battle, you can see how submarines will become increasingly important in the ocean politics of the twenty-first century. I think Canada, as a G8 nation with perhaps more at stake in terms of a regulated ocean commons through the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea than many others in this globalized economy, will continue to see submarine capability as an imperative.”

Securing the Ocean Commons
As Commander of the Navy, VAdm Maddison is quite concerned with security of the ocean commons, and spoke eloquently about the urgency of the piracy piece at the SecureTech conference in Ottawa in October. But does the average Canadian recognize piracy as a real threat? “No, I don’t think so,” he responds. “I think most Canadians see piracy along the coast of Somalia as a criminal activity that doesn’t have much effect on Canada. The point I would make is that Canada is a maritime nation with a vibrant economy that is absolutely dependent upon free and open globalized economy – which floats through major strategic choke points like the Strait of Hormuz, like Bab-elMandeb, like the Gulf of Aden, like the Suez Canal. Any pressures upon that global system indirectly and, in aggregate, directly impact Canadians’ quality of life and where we might go in the future. As international partners, we must be prepared to deal with challenges to this global system – whether it’s piracy off the coast of Somalia, whether it’s the very concerning activities happening in the in the Gulf of Guinea, whether it’s the counter narcotics piece in the Caribbean or elsewhere, whether it’s human migration. There are a number of pressures and if we aren’t prepared to deal with them, to address them, to let everyone know that, at the end of the day, the global system needs to be sustained for the good of all, then I think more risk will come into the open ocean domain, which would be of real concern to Canadians. So I would like to see a more informed dialogue on some aspects of ocean politics and its relation to Canadian national interests.”

Op Unified Protector
The NATO maritime mission to enforce an arms embargo on Libya was a sea-air campaign as opposed to the air-land mission in Afghanistan. Canada’s contribution was called Op Mobile. The embargo and the protection of Libyan civilians piece was an important effort that was enabled significantly by Canada’s Navy. Targeting and surveillance equipment on board Canadian ships allowed the crews to perform a critical ­targeting role for myriad F18 missions. 

November 2011 – Commander RCN, VAdm Paul Maddison speaks with Naval Communicator, LS Cosette-Bourassa on the bridge of HMCS Vancouver while it was deployed in the Mediterranean Sea. Vancouver will now join NATO’s Operation Active Endeavour to enhance the security of shipping.

“I am very proud of the performance of both Charlottetown and Vancouver and their embarked helicopter air detachments in the Libyan mission,” says the Admiral. “Both of those ships’ companies reminded Canadians of the critical importance of littoral sea control as a vital enabler in influencing strategic decisions ashore.

“Charlottetown was instrumental in keeping the port of Misratah open for the anti-Gadhafi forces, and played a key role in the intelligence and targetting cycle, which directly contributed to saving Libyan lives, all while dealing with sea mines, and the threat of direct fire from coastal artillery and rocket sites. In fact, she took fire, a first for the RCN since Korea.

“Vancouver played an equally important role off of the port of Sirte in the final phase of the campaign, and contributed directly to saving civilian lives there, as Ghadaffi’s elite forces fought desperately to the finish.

“The lessons learned from Charlottetown’s and Vancouver’s efforts will certainly inform the conduct of future operations, and support the requirements for the Canadian Surface Combatant, such as the need for more effective joint fires and ISR from the sea.”

Clearly, tomorrow’s recapitalized and rejuvenated Navy will be properly aligned and prepared to tackle these and other global challenges to the safety and security of Canadians – and VAdm Maddison is committed to leading the Navy through these complex times.
Chris MacLean is the Editor-in-Chief of FrontLine Defence magazine.
© FrontLine Defence 2011