HMCS Windsor prepares for return to sea

HMCS Windsor was taken out of the submarine shed at D294 and lowered into Halifax Harbour on Aug. 7.

HMCS Windsor was taken out of the submarine shed at D294 and lowered into Halifax Harbour on Aug. 7.

Ryan Melanson
Trident Newspaper

Excitement is building among HMCS Windsor personnel as the submarine wraps up the last phase of its Transitional Docking Work Period (TDWP) and gets set to sail for the first time since 2018.

“The closer we get to it, the more and more excited my crew and I are becoming. Being alongside isn’t ideal for any sailor, so we’re all chomping at the bit to get back to sea,” said LCdr Drew Matheson, Windsor’s Commanding Officer.

Windsor entered the submarine shed at HMC Dockyard  in Halifax in October 2018 to begin its Transitional Docking Work Period (TDWP), undergoing deep maintenance work along with modernization upgrades over the last two years.

The TWDP’s purpose is to set the Victoria-class sub on its new operational cycle, which is planned to be nine years of service followed by three years of maintenance, a change from the previous six year/two year cycle. In order for that to happen, Windsor was required to go “back up on the blocks,” as LCdr Matheson describes it.

The two-pronged TDWP approach involved work on key pieces of maintenance to fix up the wear and tear from a busy sailing period from 2014 to 2018. That period saw Windsor deployed to Europe multiple times, with participation in exercises Joint Warrior and Trident Juncture. The sub also spent more than three months operating in the Mediterranean in 2018, a first for the Victoria-class fleet.

On top of the maintenance and repairs, the boat also underwent capability upgrades, receiving the new state-of-the-art BQQ-10 sonar, as well as an overhaul to its weapons systems. Windsor will now be armed with the Mk 48 MOD 7AT torpedo, an upgrade from the previous Mk 48 MOD 4M.

“In order to employ that, we had to make significant upgrades to our weapons capability through our torpedo handling system, our weapons discharge system, and our fire control system,” LCdr Matheson said.

Like most other Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Armed Forces units, Windsor experienced a work stoppage in the spring when the country locked down to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. But despite a two-month interruption, work on the TWDP stayed ahead of schedule, and the boat was taken from the submarine shed and lowered back into Halifax Harbour in early August, earlier than expected. LCdr Matheson said dedicated work from FMF Cape Scott personnel, as well as his own sailors, was key to making that happen.

Workers from FMF Cape Scott are still on board now that Windsor is back in the water, finishing up the final pieces of maintenance while the crew begins powering up their main systems and beginning alongside trials.

“They’ve put it all back together, and now we have to prove that it works. When you’re adding new capabilities on board, that always comes with heavy trials and testing to make sure we have full acceptance of the system,” said LCdr Matheson. “If everything goes smoothly, we’ll camber dive the boat to prove its watertight integrity alongside, and then we’ll proceed to sea.”

LCdr Matheson also thanked Formation Safety for their support since Windsor went back into the water, and said that team has been on board extensively making sure the most up-to-date COVID-19 policies are being followed in accordance with the Commander Canadian Submarine Force’s goal to provide a safe work environment for anyone who boards a Victoria-class submarine.

Looking ahead, the sub will enter its tiered-readiness program at sea after proving its dive integrity, bringing both Windsor and its crew back into fighting shape. Beyond that, Canadian submarine movements are classified, but LCdr Matheson said his crew is looking forward to conducting their business at sea with a modernized and operationally available platform.

“The Defence Policy directs us to modernize the Victoria-class Submarine and to operate them at home and abroad, supporting Canada’s national interest and its international commitments. That’s what we intend to do.”


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