Sometimes we wish we could peer into the future. Twenty-nine sailors from Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) St. John’s recently had the opportunity to do just that when they visited the BAE Systems Shipyard in the United Kingdom (UK).
The facility houses the construction of the UK’s Type 26 frigate, which is the winning design for the Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC). Up to 15 new CSC vessels will be built for the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN).
The St. John’s crew was shown a presentation on the main differences between the Royal Navy Type 26 and the RCN CSC. Some of the most obvious differences include the accommodation spaces and the combat systems. The hangar will accommodate the CH-148 Cyclone, Canada’s main ship-borne maritime helicopter, providing air support to the Royal Canadian Navy.
There are many commonalities however. For instance, the largest mess will be a home to nine sailors in both designs. A gym area is planned in the original design, unlike the current ships where it has been retrofitted from existing spaces.
Following the presentation, the St. John’s crew members had a chance to view the computerized 3D model of the ship and see its various decks, spaces, and compartments. The ship will have two main passageways, one on each side, with interconnecting passageways in between the two.
The messes will open up into the cross passages. The passageways will not be directly up against the side of the hull, as an engineering void will be reserved for the cabling, piping and equipment on the ship. The enclosed forecastle where the cable party and part-ship hands will be protected from the weather will be most welcome.
At first glance the galley seems much larger than on the Halifax-class frigate. On the quarterdeck both sides will have a capstan to help the personnel handling the lines, rather than just the one present on Halifax-class frigates. Lastly, the bridge wings will wrap around the bridge providing easy access to the outside of all the windows.
One of the most innovative features of the ship is the new mission bay. The mission bay is a very large area located forward of the hangar, spanning the width of the ship. With a crane located on the deckhead that slides on rails from port to starboard, this space will likely prove to be very flexible and adaptive to the mission roles the RCN is likely to have in the future. It will have enough space to house 10 shipping containers, four rigid inflatable boats or any other configuration required.
In terms of propulsion, the ship will have a single gas turbine driving a cross-connect gearbox with two electric motors mounted on each shaft in a combined diesel-electric or gas configuration. At lower speeds, the diesel engines will provide the electrical energy to turn the electric motors. For faster sprints, the gas turbine will provide the required power.
St. John’s crew continued the tour with a visit of the Govan Shipyard. BAE Systems has established new construction methods for the Type 26 by working on the River-class Offshore Patrol Vessels for the Royal Navy. This is similar to Irving Shipbuilding’s model, which started the construction of the Harry Dewolf Class in advance of the start of the CSC program.
The first building hall contained the fabrication and forming shops where plates of steel would be received and formed into useable building blocks for the ships. During the tour, workers were fabricating new components for the Type 26 project.
Following this, the crew proceeded to the second building which housed the construction of the forward and aft ends of the first Type 26 frigate, HMS Glasgow. Here, from scaffolding erected on its starboard side, they were given a bird’s eye view of the engine spaces and the rest of the aft end of the ship.
The visit concluded with the presentation of a ship’s plaque to the staff at BAE Systems. They told the crew that it will be hung with pride in the shipyard’s new Canadian project office.
Most people don’t get a chance to see what the future has in store. But some of the crew of HMCS St. John’s did just that—and the future looks bright for the Royal Canadian Navy.