A high-ranking official of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) has released a staggering assessment of his own fleet, saying its capabilities and readiness are now in a “critical state.”
Vice Adm. Angus Topshee, who serves as the commander of the RCN, said in a video posted on the service’s YouTube channel that the fleet has been facing numerous shipbuilding and recruiting issues that directly affect its preparedness for future conflicts.
One problem he cited is the lack of surface combatant frigates, with the RCN only having the Halifax class with 12 vessels.
Built in the late 1980s, these ships are reaching the end of their service life, and the navy has not retired any of the 12 frigates because the replacement has yet to come out of production.
Topshee suggested extending the life of the Halifax-class ships for at least another 15 years, considering that the new surface combatants will still have to undergo three years of trials once they are launched.
However, he admitted that keeping the frigates beyond their 30-year lifespan would be a “very considerable challenge.”
In the same video played at a defense leadership symposium earlier this month, Topshee said that many occupations within the RCN are experiencing personnel shortages, with many roles posting an alarming vacancy rate of over 20 percent.
The commander blamed the problem on the Canadian military’s failure to deliver enough recruits for the past 10 years.
As a result, he said the service is only able to deploy one arctic and offshore patrol vessel despite having four ships available to carry out missions.
“Our West Coast fleet is beset with a shortage of qualified techs constraining our ability to maintain and operate our ships and causing us to prioritize the Halifax class at the expense of the Kingston class,” Topshee noted.
1,200 Recruits Needed Annually
Topshee claimed that the RCN needs more than 1,200 new recruits each year to address current personnel shortages.
But he admitted that the task would not be easy, as the Canadian Armed Forces has a shortage of 16,000 troops.
Around 10,000 soldiers also reportedly do not have enough training to be deployed immediately.
Despite the situation, Topshee said that the navy is making an effort to fill the vacancies, including launching a project that allows recruits to serve with the RCN for one year.