Maintaining HMCS Ottawa’s big gun no small feat

HMCS Ottawa Bofors 57mm

A worker from FMF Cape Breton helps lower the Bofors 57mm gun into place on HMCS Ottawa’s fo’c’sle with the assistance of a mobile crane. The ship repair facility had just completed maintenance work on the weaponry as part of the Ottawa’s Intermediate Work Period. Photo credit HMCS Ottawa

Peter Mallett 
Staff Writer

A few weeks ago, B jetty in HMC Dockyard was a hub of activity as Fleet Maintenance Facility Cape Breton (FMFCB) staff and HMCS Ottawa sailors returned the ship’s Bofors 57mm rapid-fire gun to its place on the fo’c’sle.

The gun was removed 14 months earlier as part of the ship’s routine five-year Tiered Readiness Program. This routine maintenance is done on the frigates to check them over, from bow to stern, and make required corrective and preventative repairs. 

“Although Ottawa still has a lot of work to complete for its Intermediate Docking Period, the installation of the gun is seen as a major milestone in any extended work period,” says MS Erik Sukstorf, Ottawa’s Weapons Engineering Armament. “A lot would consider it the point in which we become a warship again.”

He is the point person responsible for coordinating and overseeing the work on the weapon systems.

Fourteen FMFCB shops and a team of sailors worked together to remove the gun, transport it to the Surface Weapons Shop, and then return it to the ship once the work was complete. 

The weapons shop unbolted the gun from the deck with help from Fire Control in preparation for the crane operator and riggers to hoist it up and place it on a truck bed.     

Tim Christy, FMFCB Work Centre Supervisor for Surface Weapons Shop (162A), says his shop normally performs one install and removal of a 57mm gun every 12 to 14 months for each of the Esquimalt-based frigates. The process involves a complete disassembly of the gun from top to bottom.

“Everything is stripped and repainted, with the expertise of several other shops, including welding when needed,” he says “Once the gun is assembled, it is rigorously tested to confirm the smooth operation of its hydraulics, mechanical, and electrical components.”

The refurbished gun was then trucked back to the jetty and hoisted on board, bolted into place, and re-wired.

After the Intermediate Docking Period is complete, the gun will be tested during sea trials.

Following successful testing, FMF Engineering will sign off on the job, says Christy.

Routine inspections are still required by FMF Weapons Technician staff every six months or once a threshold of specific rounds fired has been reached. Inspections are necessary to monitor barrel and breech condition and wear, as with associated moving parts for any unusual wear, including any cracks in the gun components that are not visible to the naked eye. This will continue for five years until the overhaul process is completed again.

“There is a sense of pride with what our team has accomplished and something everyone at FMF can be proud of,” says Christy. “We don’t get out very often to assist in the firing of the guns, so after a big job like this it has become the norm that no news is good news after they trial the gun.”

Another finishing touch yet to be completed for the 57mm gun is affixing new art work, which will be performed at a later date by FMF’s Paint and Graphics Shop.

The 14 FMFCB shops involved in getting Ottawa’s 57mm gun into shape were: 162A Mechanical, 163 Fire Control, 142 Quality Control, 234B and 211 Engineering, 125 Chemical Cleaners, 143 NDT, 164 Machine Shop, 111 Labourers, 122 Shipwrights, 113 Welding, 112 Boiler Shop, 124 Riggers and Crane, plus 123 Paint and Graphics.

The docking period for Ottawa is expected to conclude in April.

About the Bofors 57mm Gun

The Bofors 57mm rapid-fire gun is primarily used for defence of the ship, but can also be used to fire upon surface targets and shore targets. It fires various types of ammunition including, but not limited to, High Capacity Extended Range used for surface and Pre-fragmented High Explosive for anti-aircraft purposes.


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