Progress on Canada’s Arctic Offshore Patrol Ship

Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship

MarineLog is reporting a new contract has been awarded for Canada’s Arctic Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS).

FEBRUARY 21, 2014 — OSI Maritime Systems Ltd. (OSI), Burnaby, BC, has been selected by Lockheed Martin Canada to support the design activity of the bridge and navigation capabilities for the Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN) new class of Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS).

But mostly I wanted to share the illustration. To review, this is a Canadian Navy project, not Coast Guard. It is based on the Norwegian Coat Guard’s Swalbard icebreaker but the design is smaller and simplified somewhat. They plan to build “six to eight” and they will be used both in the Arctic and for more conventional patrol duties.

What we see is a relatively large OPV/light icebreaker, with what appears to be excellent facilities for boats and a single helicopter up fairly large size with facilities to handle at least a small number of containers. Compared to the USCG’s Offshore Patrol Cutters they will probably be about twice the size, oriented much more toward the Arctic, their capability as a conventional patrol vessel is likely to be compromised by low max speed, the icebreaker hull shape, and an almost total lack of weapons.

36 thoughts on “Progress on Canada’s Arctic Offshore Patrol Ship

  1. Chuck – I’m surprised at your apparently derogatory comment about the new Canadian Actic patrol vessels, in that they will have “an almost total lack of weapons.”

    The last time I checked, that would also apply to most every commissioned CG cutter. Why are you dissing our friends to the north? Every time the Coast Guard fields a new class of cutter, it seems to downgrade the armament of those new cutters.

    • I’d be the last to claim USCG cutters are well armed. Anyone who has read my stuff consistently knows that I have complained that I don’t think they can effectively stop a determined crew using a medium to large ship as a weapon, but at least the new large cutters have 220 round per minute 57mm guns (not really much different in their effectiveness from the 80 round per minute 76mm that proceeded them). Weapons on the FRCs are an improvement of the weapons on the 110s.

      We love our Canadian neighbors, but they seem to live in a more benign world than the rest of us. Their Coast Guard is essentially unarmed, although they might have a Mountie with a pistol on board. These new ships are part of their Navy, but they lack even the 57mm of the Svalbard. An NSC or OPC’s secondary armament is equal to their primary armament.

      • Anonymouse must have had his tongue firmly in his cheek…

        After reading your gunnery opinions, I’ve nicknamed you “5-inch Chuck.” (No pun intended, and I have no knowledge of any girls from your old ports of call…) 🙂

  2. A 57mm (6-pounder) is the same size gun in caliber as those revenue cutters in the late 19th and early 20th century. The RCS and Coast Guard always built with smaller guns but with enough hardening to add more and heavier guns. The 5″/51 and 5″/25 used on the first Secretary Class 327s were single shot breech loading guns. Most of the 327s were refitted with the MK30 5″/38 — a definite improvement. The FRAM of the 378s could have been less expensive had the Coast Guard adopted the light weight 5″/54 instead of the 76mm that has now been phased out of the USN. The irony is the Coast Guard did not change the dredger hoists from the magazines in the 378. Ammunition supply remained about the same.

    A gun that can fire smaller caliber projectiles quickly runs out of ammunition faster. I’ve not seen a NSC or how the ammunition is supplied from the magazines or if the magazines space has the capacity to keep up with demand. One thing NOT learned from Vietnam was that massive firepower was not all that effective. What is needed is bulk explosives on target including small surface to surface missiles.

    • Rather than the 57mm, I would have preferred the new 120 round per minute version of the 76 mm, which I believe could have been done by upgrading existing guns, but as I have said before the 5″ would be the best alternative.
      The 76mm will remain in active service with the Navy until the last FFG is decommissioned. I don’t think that is too far away. Does look like the 270s will bee the last US ships to use the 76.

      • Bill, in regard to relative accuracy, there is relatively little data, but I will point out the results of a gun battle I do have statistics for, the fight between the German “pocket battleship” Graf Spee and three British cruisers. Obviously they were firing at each other so the ranges are similar.

        Graf Spee using 11″ projectiles that weighed 694 pounds fired 41 rounds for every hit.
        The cruiser (Exeter) with 8″ guns firing 256 pound projectiles fired 64 rounds for every hit,
        The cruisers armed with 6″ guns (Ajax and Achilles) firing 100 pound projectiles, fired 121 rounds for every hit.

        Lighter rounds are more affected by variables like wind. At close range, all guns have essentially a 100% probability of hit, but it falls geometrically to essentially zero at max range. To get to its maximum range the 57 or 76mm must be fired at approximately 45 degree elevation and climb to its apogee slowing the whole way (just under 25,000 feet for 57mm) and, then it starts to come back down and gains speed striking at an angle steeper than 45 degrees. A longer ranged weapon firing the same distance does not have to arch as high and is consequently less effected by winds we many not be aware of and the decelerations that goes with climbing to its maximum altitude. If you looked at shooting at a target at the lighters weapons’ effective range, say 8000 yards, I think you would find the time of flight of the 5″ is less than that of either the 57mm or the 76mm.

        Note the muzzle velocity of the 5″/38 and the 5″/54 are the very close, but the 5″/54 mk45 has and additional 8000 yards range because of its heavier projectile giving it greater momentum (it also has a better shape) with essentially the same frontal area.

        My ;other evidence is observational. While at Fleet Training Group San Diego for three years, I watched every Coast Guard ship’s gunnery exercise and even in local control the 5″/38 was more accurate than the 3″/50 inspite of the latter’ higher muzzle velocity (2,700 fps vis 2,500 fps). You might point out that the velocities are not as different, but the range of the 3″/50 is much closer to the range of the 5″/38 than the 76 or 57mm are to the 5″.

        My criteria for the target is the ability to penetrate a ships hull and then go on to penetrate a large diesel engine’s block and stop the engine cold. Large marine diesels are made very strongly to resist great pressure so that is not an easy criteria. There is a discarding sabot round for the 76mm called the Dart that may satisfy the criteria. Most ammunition will explode shortly after passing through the hull, and that may have little or no effect on the engine.

        A larger projectile can always use a fuse type designed for a smaller projectile but the reverse is not always true. Of the three weapons, the 57mm has the smallest number of projectile options. The 76 has many more (not necessarily in the USN inventory) and the 5″ probably has even more (certainly more in the USN inventory).

        Also worth considering is the advantage of range. If you are in a stern chase it may take quite a while to close the difference in effective range between a 5″ and a smaller weapon and as you do so, minute by minute, the 5″ will always be more effective in getting to the ship’s vitals, meaning it will probably disable the adversary more quickly.

    • Did some digging, and found some interesting data on guns. The 57mm and 76mm mounts are exactly the same weight (17,000-lbs). 5″ is a LOT heavier (64,000-lbs), but there were other interesting things. If one takes the respective weight of shell times the number of ready-rounds available on the mount, the 5″ throws much more weight, but it’s only in 20 rounds. Likewise, as caliber goes down, not only are there more rounds, but velocity goes up, making for flatter trajectory. My wild guess is the caliber change has more to do with making hits easier, and having more shots to keep firing if you still miss, than with effectiveness of each round. Probably because budget cuts limit training ammo, so the gunners can’t increase their proficiency.

      • you don’t need to sink it, just mission kill it. anything that requires a 5 incher you would just launch a harpoon from either a helo or ship. JMO. and yes I know cutters aren’t equipped with harpoons at the moment.

      • The larger shell retains more of its momentum than the lighter shells (less frontal area per pound) so the initial velocity of the smaller shells bleeds off faster. In general a 5″ Mk45 is going to be more accurate per round in addition to putting more weight on target per round. In addition while the lighter weapons put out more rounds per minute while their ready service carousels are loaded, once they are depleted, their rate of fire drops considerably, while the 5″ Mk45 can keep up its max rate of fire almost indefinitely.

        A 76mm can keep up its maximum rate of fire for slightly less than a minute. The 57mm for only about 33 seconds. A 5″ Mk45 with 300 rounds of ammunition can keep up its max rate of fire for about 15 minutes.

        I’m don’t have access to actual ammunition allowances, but I suspect that allowances for 76mm and 57mm gun equipped cutters are about 1000 rounds while the allowance for a 5″ mk 45 equipped cutter would be at least 200 rounds and probably more likely 300 rounds. If you multiply projectile weight times allowance you can see that the 5″ can put more steel on target.

        1000 57mm projectiles weighs approximately 5,300 pounds.
        1000 76mm weighs approx. 14,000 pounds.
        300 5″ Mk45 projectiles weigh approximately 20,700 pounds

        The effective range of the 5″ is about twice that of the lighter weapons.

        Lots of good info on the weapons here:
        For the Mk110 57mm:
        For the Mk75 76mm:
        For the earlier version of the 5″ Mk45 which I think would be a good choice, and reduce cost because the Navy should have more than enough of in storage after decommissioning the Spruance class:
        And for historical comparison the 5″/38:

      • Instead of using the round’s weight, I would use projectile weight.

        The 57mm fires a 5.3lb projectile @ 220 rds/min with 120 rds. on the mount, so in 33 secs. it is empty with the potential of having put 636lbs of ordinance on target.

        The 76mm fires a 14-lb proj. @ 120rds/min (for new Super-rapid gun) with 80 ready rounds, so in 40 secs. it is empty with potential of having put 1120 lbs of ordinance on target.

        The 5″ fires a 69-lb proj. @ 16-20 rds/min with 20 ready rounds, so in 60+ secs. it is empty with the potential of having put 1380-lbs of ordinance on target.

        Obviously, heavier shells are going to penetrate deeper (all else being equal), but the question becomes how much penetration is needed? Double-sided hulls, plus a bulkhead or two with no armor should be no problem for a 76mm or Hi-Cap 5″. An AP 5″ may overpenetrate, and a 57mm may underpenetrate, but there are many, many variables in play here, not the least of which is what target are we talking about? (See Chuck’s article on What it takes to Stop a Large Merchant Ship, link already provided nearby.)

        Additional effectiveness tidbits:

        The 5″ shell’s velocity is 2500fps w/ max effective range of 15,000m.
        The 76mm’s velocity is 2970fps w/ max effective range of 8000m.
        The 57mm’s velocity is 3400fps w/ max effective range of 8500m.

        Velocity does make a difference on hit potential, with the higher the better. All other factors being equal, that makes me wonder about Chuck’s assertion the 5″ is more accurate. Do you have a data source, Chuck?

        So, other than 1000fps slower velocity, the 5″ wins, but there is one other variable: mount weight. The 57mm & 76mm are identical at 17,000-lbs. The 5″ is 64,000-lbs. That’s significant.

        Given all the variables and effectiveness desireability, I’ve changed my mind, and now think the 76mm is the best bang for the buck. Oto-Melera is also working on some pretty interesting smart-rounds too. The US may have jumped off the 76mm bandwagon too quickly…

        Then again, framed in the question of, “What is our target?” how often does the CG need 76mm or 5″ weight of fire and penetration?

  3. I wonder what the bean counters would think of a decision to “just” fire a $500,000 missile, which has a 60mi range and for which the point of impact cannot be precisely controlled, when your ship is only 1000m away with a weapon which costs a few hundred dollars to fire and is more precisely controlled? Shoot, what would the tacticians think?

    • Actually I think Harpoon cost $1.2M apiece now, but if that were what was needed I would not mind using it. On the other hand having enough Harpoons to go around so that no matter where the threat emerged you would have the missiles to deal with the threat, that gets very expensive, since virtually all the missiles will age and go to waste without ever being used. On the other hand the Navy might think of it as simply as a place to store missiles until they need them.

      I still think light weight torpedoes are a cheaper way to have a mission kill capability that we can put on every FRC.

      • Your comparison with the Graf Spee engagement is interesting and may illustrate something which is even more acute on CG cutters. We should consider that the size/weight of vessel is strongly tied to the caliber/weight of mount. Were the Graf Spee’s 11″ guns really more accurate, or was the ship a more stable platform than the British cruisers? Compare a 25mm on an FRC bouncing and rolling in a 4′ swell vs. the NSC’s 57mm in the same 4′ swell.

        I’ve never run the numbers for big guns on ballistics software, but I will try when I get a chance. Interestingly, the 5″ gun has similar velocity and a relationally larger diameter to the small calibers (76mm & 57mm) as the 7.62 NATO (match ammo) does to a high velocity cartridge such as the 22-250 (which fires 22-cal bullets at about 3400fps). Having run that comparison, I agree there is a point down range where the momentum and ballistic coefficient of the larger, slower projectile actually creates a better hit potential, but until I run numbers on the big-calibers, I’m not sure where that is.

        However, then I wonder if the CG typically conducts engagements that far away, especially in peacetime LE missions? I’m betting at those short ranges the high velocity still increases hit potential for that mission profile.

      • If there is a possibility that the target might fight back, I would still recommend that the cutter stay outside 4000 yards. That is still pretty short range for even a 57mm but it makes it much more difficult for the target to use improvised armament like heavy machine guns, anti-tank missiles, or anti-tank and AA field pieces that might disable the cutter or its weapons.

        That is fairly long range for the 25mm, so 110s and FRCs would have to get closer.

      • Chuck said: “I still think light weight torpedoes are a cheaper way to have a mission kill capability that we can put on every FRC.”

        I think this is the winning statement right here. Taking a step back and looking at the big picture, especially in regards to the OPC and FRC, the most powerful, likely maritime threats the CG might face along the coasts of CONUS are submarines and militarized cargo ships (whether terrorist or otherwise). Torpedo tubes, cooperative engagement capability (with helos or USN patrol aircraft), and sonar are THE key high-end weapon systems the CG should focus on. If the Navy needs assistance, it’s with ASW capability on it’s surface ships, which would mean the CG would fulfill a substantial, meaningful war-time role as part of the national fleet, doing ASW escort work of merchant convoys/routes and probably the Amphibs, as the CG sonar personnel would have lots (more than the blue-water Navy) of shallow-water (littorals) sonar experience from peacetime ops.

        As far as the gun, I’m still pretty much a fan of the 76mm. As light as the 57, with nearly the punch of the 5″ (looking at total weight of fire of ready rounds on the mount, not the penetration or range advantage of the 5″). I recall reading in past posts here some genuine criticisms of the 76mm mount, but I wonder if any mount doesn’t have some sort of foible?

      • Bill, with growing fleets of submarines in China, Russia, and Iran, and a shrinking US Navy, I certainly would not disagree with the idea of giving the Coast Guard back an ASW mission, but that is much more of a commitment (and more expensive) than putting a couple of light weight torpedoes on each Webber class FRC.

  4. Pingback: Trade-offs in the 378 FRAM | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

  5. “OTTAWA, Ontario, April 8, 2015 – Lockheed Martin Canada [LMT: NYSE] announced today that it has been awarded the implementation subcontract by Irving Shipbuilding Inc. as command and surveillance system integrator for the Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN) new class of Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS).
    Lockheed Martin Canada is one of AOPS Prime Contractor Irving Shipbuilding’s Tier 1 suppliers for delivering the AOPS vessels as part of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS). With a contract valued at more than C$170M, Lockheed Martin Canada is responsible for key integration of data and information sources to increase the ships’ situational awareness and provide command, control and decision support at all levels of command for the new vessels.”

    That does seem a lot for five or six ships that are essentially unarmed,

  6. Steel is cut on the first of Canada’s Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS).
    They are virtually unarmed and they are slow, but they do look like they will be better able to contend with the arctic than the OPCs and the price, if actually delivered at that price, is not bad.
    “to build at least five of the Arctic patrol ships for the Royal Canadian Navy for US $1.9 billion.”
    This is down from an initial plan of six to eight ships.
    Good to see the Canadians are thinking long term–30 year ship building plan.

      • I think you are probably correct. Looks like the F-35 is finally starting to look successful, but it is still terribly expensive. It is an Attack Aircraft rather than an interceptor. Its stealth is not necessary for the defense of Canadian Airspace. The FA-18E is not a great interceptor either but it will probably do the job equally well for less cost.

        Canada needs a navy. NATO needs more ships. If the money does not get lost and actually goes to the Navy this is probably for the best.

        Probably good to keep the FA-18 assembly line open too.


    “‘It’s important to have a minister who can champion that agency, who can ensure that there are new icebreakers, who can address the difficult question which needs to be addressed right now as to whether the Harper government’s planned construction of light ice-strength Arctic offshore patrol ships is indeed the best use of $5 billion or whether two or three or four new Coast Guard icebreakers would provide much better value for money.’

    Former prime minister Stephen Harper announced plans to purchase six to eight Arctic offshore patrol ships in 2007. The plan was labelled a ‘disaster’ in a 50-page report by the Rideau Institute and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.”

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