October 22, 2020 – HMCS Victoria, which first arrived in Esquimalt October 23, 2000 and has never deployed, recently achieved another milestone as part of her ongoing sea trials.
With the diesel-electric submarine operating on the surface in Royal Roads, a CH148 Cyclone helicopter hovered above to practice transferring equipment and personnel to the sub below – a first for a Victoria-class submarine and this new helicopter.
“This serial allowed both units to update their standard operating procedures for helicopter transfer with this new airframe,” said Captain Jean Ouellet RCN, Commander Canadian Submarine Force.
“The submarine crew gained valuable experience from this interaction.”
Victoria and its 48-person crew returned to sea on September 18 after a five-year hiatus in dry dock where it underwent routine maintenance, repairs and upgrades.
“The return of HMCS Victoria to sea marked a significant achievement for the Canadian Submarine Force and its submarine enterprise partners. It is the result of our collective hard work, resilience, determination and dedication,” said Ouellet.
As part of the five-year work period, Victoria received the new BQQ-10 sonar, also used on board United States Navy attack submarines, and a new battery.
“This new state-of-the-art sonar system will radically improve our ability to detect, classify and track quiet warships and submarines. It is a game changer for the class,” added Ouellet.
That return also marked the resumption of Canadian submarine operations following a pause since 2018, when Windsor returned from a Mediterranean deployment.
Eleven additional personnel are embarked on board Victoria for the trials including submariners in training and Sea Training staff.
Personnel from the Fleet Maintenance Facility (FMF) Cape Breton staff were embarked to conduct specific equipment trials. After conducting trials at sea and damage control exercises, Victoria returned alongside to address some issues discovered before continuing with the dive portion of the program.
At-sea trials provide an opportunity to test most major mechanical and combat systems including but not limited to propulsion, steering, sonars, and periscopes. It is also an occasion to re-familiarize the crew with working in a submarine environment as not all evolutions can be simulated alongside or in the trainers.
Victoria also is scheduled to conduct a deep dive to ensure the submarine is watertight and confirm all of its on-board systems are operational at its maximum allowable depth.
The Force Commander also congratulated the crew of Victoria, military and civilian workers from FMF Cape Breton, the Formation Technical Authority, Babcock Canada, Seaspan Victoria Ship Yards, and the Government of Canada’s Director General Maritime Equipment Program for preparing Victoria for its return to sea.
“It is also important to recognize HMCS Chicoutimi and her crew who played a critical role in supporting Victoria, especially towards the end of the repair work period when the Victoria crew was required to commence its modified quarantine,” added Capt(N) Ouellet.
Those directly involved in the sea trials have been adhering to a COVID-19 quarantine protocol with strict control of who can embark the submarine. It involves in-home quarantine for seven days prior to embarking and COVID-19 testing.
“Returning a submarine to sea is always challenging; however, the COVID-19 pandemic added an additional level of complexity to that process which we had never experienced before,” said Ouellet.
Following completion of the sea trials, the next focus for Victoria will be to train new submariners while contributing to continental defense. With two thirds of the weapon systems removed on purchase, this remains to be seen what this entails.
The next major milestone for the Canadian Submarine Force will occur in the coming months with the anticipated return to sea of HMCS Windsor on the East Coast.
US Navy photo of HMCS Victoria at nearby Bangor, Washington in 2011.