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Welding flaws plague two Canadian Victoria-class subs

HMCS Victoria

Two

of the Royal Canadian Navy’s Victoria-class submarines will be confined to the dock in Esquimalt, B.C. because each have several hundreds of welds that may not hold tight when the vessels dive underwater.

The vessels were part of a fleet of four used diesel-electric submarines the government bought for $750 million from the United Kingdom back in 1998 to replace the navy’s decommissioned Oberon-class submarines.

The HMCS Chicoutimi and its sister HMCS Victoria will remain in Esquimalt until repairs are done, according to a briefing note for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, which was obtained by CBC News.

Since February this year, technicians had looked into 344 welds on Chicoutimi and found at least 30 needed to be re-welded. Technicians will also inspect 325 welds on HMCS Victoria. It is estimated that downtime on the Chicoutimi will be around eight months. Analysis of problems with the Victoria could easily come up to five months.

“The situation is the result of a sub-contractor not performing work to required standards,” the briefing document said.

At the time of their purchase, the Victoria-class submarines were considered by the Liberal government, led by then Prime Minister Jean Chretien, as a bargain.

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The submarines were designed in the late 1970s to augment Britain’s nuclear submarine force. The Victoria-class was de-commissioned at the end of the Cold War.

Even before they reached Canadian ports, the submarines have been plagued by problems and costly repairs.

The series of mishaps included a fire, a collision with the ocean floor, a defective engine, as well as maintenance errors.

An electrical fire inside the HCMS Chicoutimi during its transit from Britain to Canada in 2004 resulted in the death of a crew member.

It was only in late 2015, that the government announced that two of the submarines would be ready for operations.

In January this year, a status report on the submarines said: HMCS Windsor, Victoria, and Chicoutimi are currently in their operational cycle in various states of preparedness. HMCS Corner Brook is currently docked at Victoria Shipyards to undergo its Extended Docking Work Period (EDWP) under the Victoria In-service Support Contract with Babcock Canada Inc. It is scheduled to remain in EDWP until 2018.

The main contractor for refurbishing HMCS Chicoutimi, Babcock Canada Inc., will be paying for most of the cost of inspection and repairs on the vessel but is it not clear who will pick up the tab for the repairs on HMCS Victoria, according to the report.

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