A Canadian oiler in better days...

We Navy-Gazers write a lot about anti-access threats. Most of the threats are frighteningly kinetic–the Type 022 carrier-killing small boat or the DF-21D carrier-killing missile. But looming environmental anti-access threats–the legal exclusion of replenishment vessels that pose a potential environmental “threat”–are just as scary. And possibly, in a raw strategic sense, more effective, too.

International legalese may not be as exciting as a Type 022 catamaran, but insuring access for mundane old replenishment vessels is important. If a carrier–or any other warship–can’t get fuel, it can’t do the job.

So over at NextNavy.com, you can find out why Canada’s government worries that the HMCS Protecteur and the HMCS Preserver, their two 40-year-old oilers, are going to pose an environmental anti-access threat to Canadian Forces.

And you can find out why America may face a rather rude surprise if it doesn’t engage on this issue–and get serious about recapitalizing (or re-conceptualizing) its long-underfunded logistical train.


Posted by Defense Springboard in Foreign Policy, Maritime Security, Navy, Soft Power
Tags: ,

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

  • Tom

    “But Canada has little to worry about. They have a plan, and they’ve only got to build build 2-3 new ships.”

    And that plan has existed for 5-6 years and has yet to get anywhere near a finalized design or signed contracts.


    Canada is still two years away from a completed design, and perhaps even further away from the start of construction, especially since the government is apparently unwilling to consider constructing the ships outside of Canada.

    The government announced ambitious plans for a national shipbuilding strategy to build 28 ships and 116 smaller vessels over the next 30 years (including the new support vessels), all built in Canadian shipyards, but do not count on this ever actually happening. Canadian governments have been historically always apathetic when it comes to the military, and there is no sign that is going to change anytime soon.

  • Derrick

    This may be a set of silly questions, as I know nothing of the details of this issue:

    Are these tankers purposed for refueling ships while at sea or are they supposed to refuel air and land forces based overseas (from North America)?
    Why can’t the Canadian navy purchase fuel for its ships at the foreign ports they dock at?
    What risks does this pose to the US Navy? I thought most if not all US naval warships were nuclear powered? So wouldn’t fuel ships be mainly supplying jet fuel?

  • Aubrey


    I am going to leave the detailed responses to those better able to discuss current operations – I am a naval history guy, so I approach mainly from that perspective. That being said, the ability to refuel at sea is crucial to actually being able to operate, as is the necessity of controlling your own logisitcs and supply. One of the single most influential innovations in WWII was the US fleet train…

    You can’t just pull a DDG up to your local Chevron and yell out “fill ‘er up”. And you definitely do NOT want your operations dependent on whether or not another country feels like giving you a tank of gas.

    As far as “most if not all US naval warships” being nuclear, it is not even close. Only a small percentage of the USN is nuclear.

  • Eagle1

    What do you mean by “…(re-conceptualizing) its long-underfunded logistical train?”

  • Derrick

    What is the percentage of US naval warships that are nuclear?

  • Chuck Hill

    All aircraft carriers and submarines are nuclear. None of the other ships are.

  • Chuck Hill

    Even the nuclear powered carriers require tanker service regularly to provide fuel for the planes.

  • Derrick

    Does this mean that during war, the US navy will not use tankers that only have a single hull? Or can the environmental requirement be waved for reasons of national security?

    How many single hull tankers does the US navy have?

    How much does it cost to build a double hull tanker?

  • Tom


    Sorry for the delayed reply, Derrick, hopefully I can provide some details for you.

    The JSS (Joint Support Ship) was meant to be a vessel that meant to have a fairly basic strategic sealift capability (it was going to have RORO), C&C facilities to support a naval task force and/or a land force, fairly sizable helicopter facilities, etc. All this in addition to the replenishment at sea role. Exact requirements:

    * The provision at sea of fuel, food, spare parts, and ammunition. Goal is to enable a Naval Task Group to remain at sea for up to 6 times longer than would be possible without these ships;
    * Afloat support to Canadian forces deployed on shore;
    * The ability to navigate in first-year arctic ice up to 0.7 m thick;
    * 20 knots sustained speed;
    * A covered multi-purpose deck space for vehicles and containers with space for additional containers on the upper decks. Total of 1,000 – 1,500 lane meters desired on upper and lower decks;
    * Ability to carry 7,000t – 10,000t of ship fuel,650 – 1,300t of JP-5 naval aviation fuel, and 1,100 square meters of ammunition.
    * The operation of 3-4 maritime helicopters per ship, with rapid reconfiguration possible should the ship wish, for example, to use its hangars for evacuated disaster survivors;
    * Roll-on Roll-off (RO-RO) of cargo;
    * Lift-on Lift-off (LO-LO) of cargo.
    * The ability to function as a Joint Task Force HQ
    * Work and living space for additional personnel, over and above the standard crew of up to 165 people;
    * Modern medical and dental care facilities, including an operating room for urgently needed operations;
    * Repair facilities and technical expertise to keep aircraft and other equipment functioning; and
    * The ship will be configured with both active and passive self-defence systems


    Shockingly, all this capability proved rather expensive to design into a single class of vessel, and it was found that the budget originally planned would not be enough to build the ships, so the program was put on hiatus until recently when the strategic shipbuilding plan was released. Far more back story included in the link above, but that is the basic story.

    The new twist in the story is that the Dutch have gone ahead with a similar project with a scheduled launch date of 2014:


    The resurrected Canadian JSS project is apparently going to be in a design phase for the next two years. I would be shocked if the ship capabilities, if not design, isn’t already fairly well settled, so I suspect the two year delay has more to do with the strategic shipbuilding plan and the time it is expected to take to get that plan developed and finalized more thoroughly.

    All this in the backdrop of two aging replenishment vessels that really should have been out of service by this year. All par for the course when it comes to defense policy in Canada, though.