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FELEX: THE FRIGATE LIFE EXTENSION PROGRAM
August 2005

It has been more than fifteen years since the launch of HMCS HALIFAX in 1988, the first of the twelve HALIFAX (or CITY) class Canadian Patrol Frigates. With the remaining twelve being commissioned between 1993 and 1996 (HALIFAX was commissioned in 1992 after several years of sea trials and modifications), the average service age of the Canadian Navy's frigate fleet is more than ten years.

Recognizing that these frigates form the back of the Canadian Navy and will soon take over as the sole major surface combatant as the IROQUOIS class air defence destroyers reach the end of their serviceable lifespan, the Department of National Defence is embarking on a major mid-life refit of each of the twelve frigates which will see various upgrades performed in an effort to extend their service through 2030.

Active Phased Array Radar (APAR) System

There has been much anticipation throughout the Canadian military community that the APAR "3-Dimensional" radar system developed between the Canadian and Dutch navies would be installed on the Canadian Patrol Frigates (CPF) during the FELEX project. The system, developed primarily for the next command & control and air defence destroyer of the Canadian Navy (should there be one), will not be installed on the CPFs due to the simple fact that such an installation would make the frigate "top-heavy" (essentially meaning that it would become unstable in high seas). Given the cost required to retrofit the CPF hull to make it stable with APAR installed, the Canadian Forces has decided against the installation.

FELEX Responsibilities

The PMO FELEX office (which is in charge of the refit program) will oversee the installation of the new HALIFAX Modernized Command & Control Systems (HMCCS) package which will make the computer systems of the frigate among the most advanced in the world, bringing the CPF back to the forefront of the world frigate fleet.

PMO FELEX will also oversee all engineering changes in the design of the frigate, as well as the installation of systems to support the new Cyclone helicopter being acquired under the Maritime Helicopter Program (MHP). Oddly though, the FELEX website states that the MHP modifications will only happen on the second through twelfth frigates of the class, essentially putting the helicopter capabilities of HMCS HALIFAX up in the air.

Capability Enhancement Projects

Some of the major projects, either stand-alone or part of FELEX, which will be integrated into the CPF during the mid-life refit are:

  • HMCCS - Halifax Modernized Command & Control Systems;

  • HALIFAX class radar upgrades;

  • Installation of the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile - ESSM (installation reportedly underway since 2003, though the Department of National Defence has been very tight-lipped on installation date details);

  • IRIUS - Long range infrared search and track system;

  • IFF Mode S/5 Interrogator Friend or Foe Mode S/5 - will allow more accurate detailing of surface and air contacts;

  • Internal Communications system upgrade;

  • Harpoon Surface to Surface Missile system upgrade; and

  • Electronic Warfare system upgrade - electronic support measures.

In addition to these projects, the mid-life refit will do all the general refit work such as ensuring the strength of the hull and superstructure, health of the engine assemblies and electrical systems, etc. Some of the "sustainment engineering changes" announced by PMO FELEX include:

  • Modifications to the main gun of the CPF - the 57mm Bofors Naval Gun, located on the forecastle of each frigate;

  • Replacement of Shield II Missile Decoy Countermeasures System;

  • Replacement of the Integrated Machinery Control System; and

  • Replacement of the Navigation Radar.

Project Timeline

The tentative schedule for FELEX is for the definition phase (i.e. all the tender writing and figuring out what needs to be done) to be completed by March 2008. Following that phase, the implementation phase, which will involve the refits of each frigate, will begin in April 2008 and end in March 2017. The first frigate is expected to enter into refit in 2010 (with the tender for the refit being released in 2009) and the final refit will occur in 2017.

References

Department of National Defence, Canadian Forces
PMO FELEX

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