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Submarine Sustainment

Matthew Crawley, Vice President Corporate Development and Strategy, Babcock Canada

An interview with Matthew Crawley, Vice President Corporate Development and Strategy, Babcock Canada.

A submarine sustainment program plays an important part in supporting submarines throughout their lifetime. In Canada, Babcock has been spearheading the sustainment work of the Victoria-class submarines and is positioning itself to support the future submarine sustainment program of Canada with its Team Victoria-Class. Recently, Vanguard had the opportunity to speak with Matthew Crawley about this subject.

As Vice President of Corporate Development and Strategy with Babcock Canada, Matthew is responsible for the leadership of Babcock’s Canadian commercial operations including contracting, procurement, subcontractor management, supply chain, and delivering on Babcock’s Canadian Industrial Technological Benefits program. Prior to joining Babcock, he held various executive appointments within the Federal Government, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), including Director General of the Marine Services and Small Vessels Sector, where he was accountable for overseeing repair, refit, maintenance, small vessel construction, chartering and marine technical services contracts to support Federal Departments. 

To begin, please share with us a bit about Babcock’s experience with the Victoria In-Service Support Contract program?

For the past 13 years, Babcock Canada has been working alongside the Royal Canadian Navy, the Fleet Maintenance Facility, the Federal Government, and our industry partners, Seaspan Victoria Shipyards and BMT, to sustain Canada’s fleet of Victoria-class submarines. Over the life of the Victoria In-Service Support Contract (VISSC), our team has leveraged both its Canadian expertise and global experience in submarine sustainment to develop unparalleled Victoria-class submarine platform knowledge and a strong Canadian supply chain. Babcock has evolved to become one of Canada’s leading experts and trusted partners in submarine in-service support.

Prior to the VISSC, there was little submarine industrial expertise in Canada. Babcock was able to leverage our global submarine experience and help develop a Canadian industrial sustainment capability. We continue to work and grow that capability in Canada and help support the Canadian marine industry.

Can you expand on the undocking of HMCS Corner Brook and describe the process, and the challenges that were faced, and how they were resolved?

The undocking of HMCS Corner Brook was a great success and a major milestone in the submarine’s deep maintenance period.

HMCS Corner Brook began the undocking process in June 2021 after having completed her Extended Docking Work Period at the Esquimalt Graving Dock. We had moved her out of the purpose-built repair facility at the Esquimalt Graving Dock where she was later transported to Ogden Point in Victoria, British Columbia, for her return to water.

The undocking was a complex evolution that occurred over several days, it was a true testament to the incredible work and cooperation required from a number of stakeholders across government and industry, all of whom played a significant role in getting this strategic asset closer to being fully operational.

This was a significant milestone for HMCS Corner Brook as she is returned to the Royal Canadian Navy for her return to operational service where she will be the most modern and technologically advanced submarine in the Royal Canadian Navy.

HMCS Corner Brook is in the final stages of returning to active duty since being out of commission in 2014. Tell us about some of the notable upgrades on HMCS Corner Brook during its Extended Docking Work Period (EDWP).

HMCS Corner Brook received 47 equipment upgrades, which include new Universal Modular Masts to enable high-speed satellite communications with shore; a new sonar suite; an updated Combat Management System, and upgraded Heavyweight Torpedoes.

Team Victoria-Class has been working together for over 13 years now on the Victoria-class submarines. How has the submarine sustainment enterprise benefitted from the partnership?

Team Victoria-Class has combined their expertise, experience, and capabilities to help support, maintain and refit the fleet of Victoria-class submarines and for over a decade.

Having worked on and supported these vessels for such a period of time, the team has come to develop and build: an in-depth and unparalleled knowledge of these platforms, a strong Canadian supply chain to support the technology and capability of the submarines, as well as technology and processes specific for the Victoria-class. All of this has allowed us to realize efficiencies and ensure safety in our work that no one else could provide. This knowledge and capability have become invaluable and beneficial to Canada and the Royal Canadian Navy.

To continue this sustainment enterprise, how does Babcock see its role in supporting the Victoria-class Modernization (VCM)?

VISSC will be central in supporting Canada’s strategic submarine capability, and this includes the capability enhancements necessary to ensure the fleet of Victoria-class submarines are equipped to deal with the constantly changing environment. The various upgrades expected through VCM will be business as usual to our teams and so we’ll be on hand to support however we can.

Under VISSC, Babcock is the class design agent, as well as the provider of deep maintenance for the Victoria-class submarines. In this role, Babcock sees a key role in supporting the integration, detail production design, and installation of the discreet VCM capabilities into the complex Victoria-class.  Submarines are highly complex, integrated, and very ‘dense’ platforms, and effectively integrating new capabilities, both physically and functionally, requires a broad range of capabilities and platform-specific experience.

As the Victoria-class approaches the end of service life in the 2030s, what issues does Babcock foresee in sustaining these submarines?

As with any complex military asset, delivering through-life platform safety and capability while achieving value-for-money solutions is essential. Submarine complexity and the inherent risks associated with sub-surface operations adds to the challenge. The Victoria-class remain a highly operationally capable and effective platform, as the class reaches the end of its service life in the 2030s obsolescence of equipment originally designed in the 1980s and maintaining a deep understanding of the material state of the platform will be key to enabling operational availability in a safe manner. 

However, our intimate knowledge of the Victoria-class submarines is complemented by our development and application of technology solutions such as iSupport360, where techniques such as digital twinning and data visualization are combined to enable our support teams to make early, cost-effective decisions when conducting activities such as system surveys and obsolescence management. This combined with our experience and expertise supporting platforms through all stages of the lifecycle will ensure the Victoria-class continues safely in their role as a strategic Canadian capability for many years to come.

Finally, any examples of how Babcock is innovating and what impact is it having on submarine sustainment?

At Babcock, innovation is at the core of our business. Across our international business, we are developing our own technologies and designing new platforms, as well as utilizing existing assets in new ways. This extends to our Canadian business and into every program we support, including the Victoria In-Service Support Contract.

Specific to submarine sustainment we have a number of innovation examples, from employing new technologies that replace highly manual processes to exploiting data that results in insightful opportunities to save time and money for maintenance, engineering, and supply chain activities.

In previous extended docking work periods, submarine acoustic tiles were removed mechanically using hand tools which required a lot of labour and time. Babcock introduced Ultra High Pressure Water Blasting that significantly decreased the time it took to remove each tile. The improved process resulted in time savings from 4-5 hours down to 2-3 seconds per tile and provided multi-million dollars in savings.

We employ Babcock’s iSupport360 approach to asset management, by collecting and analyzing data to provide information for decision-making that results in effectiveness and efficiency improvements. We are digitizing our processes to capture and access data at the point of need. Babcock is using LiDAR and laser scanning technologies so that we can create a rich 3D picture for visualization of the submarine material state, which can be used for collaboration across locations from the engineers at the waterfront to the design authorities in Ottawa.

Using the suite of iSupport360 tools we have been able to exploit maintenance and procurement data to provide insights into material management and have realized year over year savings in the acquisition and consumption of spare parts, resulting in greater value for our customers. 

We continue to innovate across our business, and we leverage the incredible high-tech economy that exists in Canada by investing in many small and medium-sized businesses as part of the Industrial and Technological Benefits program. These partnerships between Babcock and technology start-ups and small firms have allowed Babcock to be on the leading edge of some unique technology applications.

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