October 10, 2004

Hoon's Used Subs

Back in January, I commented on the failure of the Ministry of Defence to send any equipment to the soldiers in Iraq. It may not be such a bad thing they they had to buy their own kit. Just asked the Canadian navy.

Back in 1998, the Canadians bought four Royal Navy submarines from the MoD on a lease-to-purchase plan for C$750 million. The subs had been mothballed in 1993, but the Royal Navy told the Canadians they were out of service because the MoD had decided to focus solely on nuclear subs.

The first subs were recommissioned in 2001. In 2002, the first of these left port for a planned two-week mission, but was forced to turn back after salt water seeped into a hydraulic motor. The Canadians then revealed that the second has a dent in its hull the size of a pizza, as a result of a collision that occurred before the Canadians took over the sub. The Canadian navy said cracked diesel exhaust valves on all the subs would have to be replaced.

Last year, the Canadian Defence Department said the lease-to-purchase plan for the four new subs would now cost more like C$900 million because of the structural problems discovered. This reminds me of the buy-here-pay-here used car dealers I used to sue for fraud. Apparently the MoD fixed them up just enough for the Canadians to drive them off the lot.

This week on the last of these vessels to be recommissioned, a fire broke out in the electrical equipment room during its maiden voyage under the Canadian flag. No sooner had HMS Upholder been renamed HMCS Chicoutimi and left Faslane, Scotland than it was left powerless in the middle of the Irish Sea. It is not entirely surprising, as the Chicoutimi had been stripped for parts in an attempt to get the three other submarines working. The Ottawa Citizen quoted defence documents as saying the Chicoutimi's hull was so badly affected by rust that the vessel could not dive to its usual operating depth.

And of course the MoD never misses a chance for their shoddiness to cause loss of life. The two very young children of 32-year-old Lieut. Chris Saunders will never remember their father. As always, Defence Minister Geoff Hoon takes none of the blame. "These boats were brought up to Royal Navy standards, they had undergone rigorous trials and tests," he told BBC Radio Four.

If so, what does that say of the standards of the Royal Navy? It's no wonder that Britannia no longer rules the waves. As the pictures of the Chicoutimi adrift in the sea showed, this Government has clearly given the the waves the upper hand.

Posted by david at October 10, 2004 11:08 PM | TrackBack