Photo Credit: Victoria
Shipyards via CASR, Simon Fraser University
On 8 November 2004, the
Department of National Defence announced the
awarding of a $69.7 million CAD contract to build
six new training vessels for the Canadian Navy.
These vessels would replace the fifty-year old,
wooden-hulled, YAG 300 fleet, which had become
“prohibitively expensive” to operate according to
The YAG 300 fleet,
dating from the 1950s, was in desperate need of
replacement due to a lack of current technology in
their design and systems, improper environmental
systems, poor habitability, and inadequate
workspaces. To compensate for this lack in
capability, the military has employed more
land-based training on simulators for naval cadets;
however, nothing is better to learn on than the real
thing and new vessels would be required to replace
the YAG 300 fleet.
The ORCA class training
vessels constitute the first major Canadian Navy
shipbuilding project since the completion of the
KINGSTON class maritime coastal defence vessels in
1999. The vessels will allow both Regular Force and
Reserve officers of the Navy to hone both
bridgemanship and navigation skills. The class will
allow for advanced training capabilities that
closely mimic situations on major surface
combatants, such as the HALIFAX Canadian Patrol
Frigates. Furthermore, the integration of modern
sensors, such as the Global Positioning System, in
the ORCA class will permit for more effective and
realistic training exercises.
The restricted crew
quarters and work spaces of the YAG 300 fleet will
also be a thing of the past with the introduction of
the ORCA class. Instructors and crew will be housed
in double cabins; students will have the
relative-luxury of being berthed in cabins of four
or six persons, with individual storage space
provided. The extra space will allow students to
comfortably be able to complete assignments, conduct
briefings, and other operation-related work.
Most importantly is
that the more modern ORCA class will allow the
freeing of the HALIFAX frigates, and KINGSTON
defence vessels, from cadet training duties. As a
result, there will be less of a backlog created by
the wait for one of those larger vessels to be freed
up from regular duties for training. Furthermore,
not having to employ large vessels like the 240-crew
HALIFAX for mere cadet training duties will be
highly economical to the military.
Training duties is not
the only mission with which the ORCA class will be
tasked. The vessels will have a higher speed than
the KINGSTON class and a sufficient range to allow
them to be used on coastal patrol duties when not
tasked with training the Navy’s next generation of
officers. The vessels will also have limited search
and rescue capabilities.
intended to enter into service in the middle of 2006,
the first of the ORCA class was officially accepted by
the Canadian Forces in mid-November 2006. The first of
the class, completed in August of that year, bears the
hull designation PCT 55.
ORCA class training vessel
1. First ship will
enter service in mid-2006, with the final being
operational by late 2008.
2. The Canadian
Government holds an option for two additional ORCA
vessels (which would bring the total to 8 vessels)
3. Capable of speeds of
up to 20 knots; cruising speed of 15 knots with a
750 nautical mile range (1390 kilometres).
4. The ORCA class
vessel is 33 metres long, with a displacement of 210
5. Powered by twin 69
litre 1825kW Cat 3516 diesel engines providing
thrust and three 72 kW, 4 litre Caterpillar 3054
diesel generators providing onboard electricity.
ORCA being painted at dry-dock in
Victoria - June 2006. Photo Credit: Canadian Navy Yahoo
Department of National
Defence, Government of Canada
Victoria Shipyards Company Ltd.
Canadian American Strategic Review, Simon Fraser