Defence budget

Navy frigates need additional $50M air conditioning job

Back in November last year, the defence department proudly announced that the navy’s Halifax-class Modernization program was coming in “on-time and under budget.” However, earlier this week it was learned that the $4.3 b billion weapons systems retrofit for the Royal Canadian Navy’s fleet of 12 frigates won’t work unless an additional $50 million in heavy duty air conditioning units are added onto the ships.

The issue with the air conditioning system was not part of the original plan for the modernization of the vessels. Expenses for the work will have to come out of the navy’s annual maintenance budget.

A 2011 report from Bronswerk Engineering, the company which examined one of the vessels, HMCS St. John, found that heating, ventilation, and air conditioning control, as well as “chilling units”, were not working properly, according to documents obtained by the CBC.


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Three of the frigates have since undergone the needed air conditioning upgrade, according to the commander of Maritime Operations Group 5 in the East Coast. He said the other vessels will undergo the upgrade the three and a half years.

The report warned that if left unattended, the issue could lead to systems failure which would “put sailor’s lives at risk” in situations such as when a vessel is required to operate in environments contaminated by nuclear or chemical materials.

Problems are likely to arise when the ship are in equatorial waters where the temperatures are around 29C and above. Even with air conditioning in full power and combat systems off, the inspector said, the air in the ship is warm.

“The poor state of the (air conditioning) plant” and overheating “would likely lead to numerous failures of equipment,” according to the report.

During normal operations, according to the inspector, it means “no cooling, no radar.”

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