Game changing mast installation underway on submarines

HMCS Corner Brook on Arctic patrol during Operation Nanook in 2007. Photo by Cplc Blake Rodgers

HMCS Corner Brook on Arctic patrol during Operation Nanook in 2007. Photo by Cplc Blake Rodgers

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

HMCS Corner Brook will become the first of the Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN) four Victoria-class submarines to be equipped with a new modern mast system.

The hunter-killer submarine is currently stationed in the purpose-built repair facility dock at Victoria Shipyards as workers from Babcock Canada install the L3 Calzoni Universal Modular Mast (UMM). The system, similar to the one fitted in U.S. Navy Virginia-class submarines was acquired under the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program.

Masts are vital to the functioning of any submarine. In Canada’s diesel-powered subs they provide air supply, communications, radar, and periscope capability.

Lieutenant-Commander Darryl Gervis, RCN Deputy Director Submarine Combat Systems, says the new technology puts Canada’s submarine program on a new course.

“This is a game changer,” said LCdr Gervis, referring to the current technological shortfall for Canadian subs, which is the lack of a reliable high-speed satellite data link.

“What the Universal Modular Mast [when coupled with the Protected Military Satellite Communication PMSC antenna] will do is provide near real-time high-speed [antenna] communications with the shore. This will allow for improved picture and video transmission, and quicker transmission of messages, and therefore reduce counter-detection opportunities as the submarine will spend less time with its mast out of the water.”

The new equipment will also include the ability to  “plug-and-play” a Communications Intercept Suite antenna that will provide the class that capability. This is because the Universal Modular Mast has two multi-purpose ports – like data ports on a computer. This will enable other antennas and intelligence-gathering equipment to be swapped in and out to better suit the needs of a specific deployment or changing technology.

Here in Esquimalt, Deputy Commander – Operations of Canadian Submarine Force, Commander Mike Mangin is encouraged by the upgrade and says the Universal Modular Mast with Protected Military Satellite Communication will bring Canadian submarine communications capabilities into the modern era.

“It improves the Victoria class as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform,” said Cdr Mangin. “It increases our utility so much, the upgrades to the comms fit that UMM enables could be compared to using an old dial up modem to one of today’s high-speed modems.”

Corner Brook travelled from its home port of Halifax for the contractor conducted extended docking work period and is expected to be completed in 2020. Work is expected to commence on the UMM install in HMCS Chicoutimi in 2019, with subsequent work to be performed on HMCS Victoria and HMCS Windsor.

The plan is to have all four submarines retrofitted with the new equipment by 2026.

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  1. SueD says:

    Glad to hear our subs are getting the attention they need to help in keeping us safe.

  2. This was a great article about the Canadian Navy Subs

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