The striking naval power of Canada is known as the Royal Canadian Navy and is one of the main commands of the unified Canadian forces. The Canadian Navy was formed in the year 1910 as the Naval Service of Canada and was given the royal status by the year 1911. The Navy o Canada was under the aegis of Department of National Defense in 1923 and formed a part of the Unified Canadian Forces in 1968 which was known as Maritime Command till 2011. A total of about 8,500 regular forces are operating for the Royal Canadian Navy and a total of 33 warships are currently rendering services to the Canadian Navy. The Royal Canadian Navy has served Canada in the first and the second world wars, First Gulf war, war in Afghanistan, Korean War and also has been contributing to various peacekeeping mission of the United Nations and operations of NATO.
History of Royal Canadian Navy
The Royal Canadian Navy was launched in the year 1910 as the Naval Service o0f Canada and was under the guidance of then King George V who gave the go head to change the name to Royal Canadian Navy on 3oth January 1911. The naval college was started in the year 1911 at the dockyard of Halifax, Nova Scotia as the Royal Naval College of Canada which imparted students with complete knowledge of Naval Science. The college was a boon to many students who aspired to join the maritime forces in Canada and were provided with knowledge of various engineering subjects along with applied science, Mathematics, navigation and History. The college was damaged on December 1917 due to Halifax explosion and the remaining items left after the explosion was shifted to Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario. The college again moved to a new building in British Columbia and finally was closed down in 1922.
The Canadian government was focused on starting its new navy. It decided to acquire two ships from Great Britain to train the personnel on how to operate ships. The Canadian government had by now planned to add five cruisers and six destroyers to its naval fleet. The first naval ship that lashed on to the shores of Canadian sea was HMCS Rainbow on August 4th, 1910. She was mainly used for training activities as well as for fishery patrolling along the Canada’s west coast. The second ship HMS Niobe, a cruiser, was commissioned into the Canadian Navy on 6th September 1910 at Devonport in England.
The federal election in 1911 and the defeat of Laurier government to the conservative government of Robert Borden put the Royal Canadian navy’s hopes of further development in cold storage as the Naval Service Act brought forth by the previous government was quashed to a Naval Aid Bill by Borden government. The navy now faced with very limited funds for its operation and did not have the fund to build or acquire new ships. Despite all these problems, a volunteer reserve was established in 1914 called as the Royal Naval Canadian Volunteer Service with a total of 1200 men. Just before the first World War broke, the Government of Canada purchased two submarines from British Columbia that was due to the Chilean navy.
There were six vessels lined up by the Royal Canadian Navy to patrol the west and the east coasts of North America and was mainly used to thwart the threat posed by the German naval forces and by the year 1915 the seventh ship was also introduced by the Royal Canadian Navy. But as the threat of the German naval forces became significantly reduced, the ships were slowly withdrawn from services. September 5th 1918 saw the formation of Royal Canadian Naval Sir Service mainly using the services of flying boat patrol aircraft to carry out anti submarine operations. The RCNAS that was formed was disbanded following the ceasefire on November 11th, 1918 with the US Navy after acquiring the Halifax Naval Station of the United States Navy.
The rebuilding of fleets took place during the inter war period and the main job of the Royal Canadian Navy was to overlook the activities of the Marine Service of the Department of Transport. The first specifically designed warship was pressed into the service of RCN in 1932. The Royal Canadian Navy had in its control a total of 11 ready to fight naval vessels during the outbreak of the Second World War. The RCN became a substantial force during the starting of the World War II and was ranked third among the naval force all over the world at that time. They had either purchased or received many larger destroyer vessels from United States and British navies and the smaller corvettes and frigates vessels were built in Canada itself. Even though the navy was not a dominant force during the beginning of the war, the determination and the will to face any challenges qualities of the many personnel who joined the navy for the war that really proved to be a fatal blow to the axis power and was praised by many operational allies. By the end of the battle of Atlantic, the RCN’s fleet was reduced significantly as it lost 24 ships and about 1800 personnel in the war. But their achievement has been written in golden letters in the history of Royal Canadian Navy. They had sunk about 27 U-boats and had either captured or sunk a total of 42 enemy surface vessels.
The Royal Canadian Navy also had to reduce their fleet and personnel after the World War II like many other countries. The outbreak of the Cold war once again saw the Canadian Government increase their fleet power and the personnel of the Royal Canadian Navy. The RCN destroyers were pressed into action at the initial stages of the Cold War at the request of the United Nations and were sent to the Korean waters at the request of the United Nations to join other UN naval forces. The duties assigned to the RCN were to bombard the North Korean railway and train lines as well as to keep a tight vigil along the Korean coastline and bombarding the ships of the enemy. They were maintaining peace along the Korean peninsula from 1950 to 1955.
At the same time, the threat from Soviet Union also was looming large and this led to conversion of RCN river class frigates into Prestonian class frigates in 1955. A ;lot of new ships were made in Canada like the anti submarine destroyer escorts, St. Laurent class DDEs etc and this led to the return of the old warhorse ships of the world War II return into the stable. Also, acquiring the Sikorsky CH-124 Sea King enhanced the strength of its anti-submarine warfare ships as well as the capabilities of the RCN by many a fold.
In 1968, the Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Canadian Air Force and Canadian Army were combined together to form Canadian Forces. This was under the Department of the National defense of the Canadian Government. Now, the Canadian Navy was rechristened as Maritime Command (MARCOM) and all the forces were forced to wear the same color uniform. The aircrafts that were ship based and shore based were included in the MARCOM as the “Maritime Air Group”. CFB Halifax was the headquarters of MARCOM. The Maritime Air groups along with its equipments were transferred from MARCOM to the Air Command or the Royal Canadian Air force in 1975. The 1970’s and the 80’s was a period in the Royal Canadian Navy that saw a lot of rationalizing taking place and the Iroquois class destroyer with air defense destroyers entered the fleet of the RCN. The construction of Halifax class frigates in mid 1990 was also part of the rationalizing program of MARCOM.
Three warships were pressed into service during Operation Desert Shield and also during Operation Desert Storm in 1990. The patrolling of the Adriatic Sea by the Canadian vessels during the Yugoslav and Kosovo wars was a significant landmark achievement in the history of MARCOM as per the instructions given by NATO. The Operation Apollo also was served by the RCN’s vessels along the Arabian Sea as part of its support to end terrorism and their vessels were also used to fight against the pirates who threatened the coastline of Somalia. The naval ships under the Canadian navy is named as HMCS which means “Her/his Majesty’s Canadian Ship/ Submarine”, a designation that started with the Royal Canadian navy formation and is still being continued.
Present Royal Canadian Navy
Royal Canadian navy is considered to be one of the most formidable maritime forces of the entire world. The RCN is committed towards protecting the sovereignty and interests of the country by safeguarding the nation from the threats of terrorism and combats from other nations at any moment of time. The present structure of the Canadian Navy consists of a total of about 8,500 sailors and 5,100 reserve sailors along with a total of about 5,300 civilian personnel. The Commander Maritime Command or sometimes referred to as the Chief of Maritime Staff is the commander of entire naval operations of the country. The Commander of the Maritime forces Pacific, Commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic and Commander of the Naval Reserve Force will all report to the Commander Maritime Command. The headquarters of the Royal Canadian Navy is situated in Ottawa; Ontario at National Defense Headquarters The Royal Canadian Navy regained its former name as recently as August 16th, 2011.
The Canadian Navy’s Atlantic fleet called the Maritime Forces Atlantic has its headquarters at Halifax in Nova Scotia. The Royal Canadian Air force’s 14 Wing greenwood provides the necessary air support to maritime Forces Atlanta (MARLANT) and the 12 Wing Shearwater provides the ship borne air support to the fleet of MARLANT. The east Coast of Canada, responsible areas allotted to Canada on the Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean is fully protected by 19 warships and many auxiliary vessels of MARLANT. The Maritime Forces Pacific is the Royal Canadian navy’s Pacific fleet or MARPAC has its headquarters at CFB Esquimalt in British Columbia. A total of about 14 warships and several auxiliary vessels adorn the homeport of Esquimalt and is responsible for all the actions that take place along the West coast side of Canada and the area of responsibility in the Pacific Ocean and the western side of the Arctic Ocean. The Naval Reserve is another wing of the RCN that has its headquarters in Quebec City and a total of about 24 naval reserve divisions represent the Royal Canadian Naval reserve. There are a total of 4,000 reserve personnel that are readily available with the Royal Canadian Navy.
The Halifax class frigates are warships of the Royal Canadian Navy that is the heart and soul of Canadian Navy. All the Halifax frigates available with the navy have been commissioned between 1992 and 1996. They are multi role patrol surface ships which carry anti ship missiles, anti submarine torpedoes, anti aircraft as well as the darling of the Canadian navy, Sikorsky CH-124 Sea King helicopters. All the 12 frigates are named after the cities in Canada like Halifax, Ville de Quebec, Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal etc and belong to either MALANT or MARPAC. A guided-missile destroyer named Iroquois class destroyer is presently in service with the Royal Canadian Navy that is available with the MARLANT along with another destroyer HMCS Athabaskan. The MARPAC destroyer is the HMCS Algonquin and all these 3 destroyers are used as area air defense destroyers.
The Victoria class submarine called HMCS Victoria is a state of three art diesel submarine that was commissioned to the Royal Canadian Navy in December 2000 for MARPAC. The other three submarines that are with MARLANT are: HMCS Corner Brook, Chicoutimi and Winsor are all nuclear powered submarines that are readily available at their fleet bases. The ships that are used for resupplying of vessels at sea are HMCS Protecteur with the Pacific fleet and HCMS Preserver that is with the Atlantic fleet. The minesweepers that are available at present with the Royal Canadian navy is the HMCS Kingston that is mainly used for coastal surveillance and training.
The weapons that are in the possession of the royal Canadian Navy are: Bofors SAK 57 mm naval guns and Mk 5C cannon, 533 mm torpedo tubes, browning machine guns, anti ship missile and surface to air missile.
Future of Royal Canadian Navy
There are several plans that are in the pipeline that will help in a great way in modernizing the Royal Canadian Navy. The Joint Support Ship program or JSS is a project that is currently on in Canada to provide three multirole naval vessels to the Canadian navy. The naval group will be able to stay at the sea at least six times more in duration than the current ships using the JSS. A total of three ships under the Joint Support Ship project has been sanctioned in 2009 and the work for the same is underway as this will help in performing a wide range of operations by the Canadian navy both nationally and internationally.
The Arctic patrol ship project is one where about eight polar class Arctic offshore patrol ships will be sent into the deep Northern water of Canada at an estimated production cost of $4.3 billion for six to eight ships. The year set forth for the commissioning of these ships is 2014. These vessels will be homemade and will be used as a refueling and resupplying vessel in the future. It is also proposed to establish a deep water port in Nunavut called the Nanisivik Naval Facility. The Iroquois-class destroyer will be replaced by the Single class surface combatant ship that will be pressed into action to serve the royal Canadian navy in the year 2016-17. A total of 15 wide area air defense or destroyer ship will be joining the wide existing fleet of the Royal navy of Canada in about 5 years time. The MCDV’s in the stable of the Canadian navy will be replaced by new vessels as early as 2020. The mid lifted ships will be adorning the seas of Canada till 2045-2055 and are also contemplating on getting newer and latest mid lifted vessels. The CH-148 Cyclone will soon replace the Sea King maritime helicopters that will be used for search and rescue operations.
The Canadian Navy is all geared up to face all the challenges in the 21st century. The Canadian forces are looking forward to playing a significant role in managing the crisis management situations of the world and the naval force is very particular about maintaining the naval diplomacy in the future as well. The Canadian navy will stand by the government in support of NATO operations, UN peacekeeping operations as well. The Canadian navy will be committed to joint operations with key allies in the future also.