The first Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS) for the Royal Canadian Navy, Harry DeWolf, was delivered to the Government of Canada on 31 July 2020.
The vessel is also the first warship to be delivered as part of Canada’s National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS), with a number of ships to come that will form part of the Royal Canadian Navy’s future fleet.
The first of the new class was delivered somewhat behind the original schedule for the introduction of the vessels. Plans to build up to eight AOPS were first announced in July 2007. HMCS Harry DeWolf was launched on 15 September 2018. Sea trials were due to begin in 2019, with the vessel scheduled – at the time – to be turned over to the Royal Canadian Navy in summer 2019.
Three additional ships of the same type as Harry DeWolf are currently under construction, with delivery of the second ship expected in 2021, and construction of the fifth ship expected to begin in 2021. At the time of writing it was not clear when construction of the sixth AOPS for the Royal Canadian Navy is due to begin.
Two more modified AOPS – which were recently the subject of a C$58 million (US$44 million) contract with Irving for engineering design work to ensure that the vessels meet regulatory and operational requirements – are to be built for the Canadian Coast Guard, following a May 2020 announcement by the federal government.
The project is intended to deliver vessels capable of conducting armed seaborne surveillance of Canada’s waters, including the Arctic. The AOPS will have a number of capabilities that will allow the ships to assist the Royal Canadian Navy in carrying out missions but will be lightly armed. The vessels will be capable of performing independent open ocean patrols on the east and west Arctic during the navigable season and have been designed to a Polar Class 5 international ice classification standard which will allow for operations in first-year ice up to 1m in thickness.
AOPS vessels will have the capability to manoeuvre in ice, however, they will not provide icebreaking services to other vessels. They will be able to sustain operations for up to four months and have a range of at least 6,800nm at 14knots with sufficient command, control and communication capability to exchange real-time information with the Canadian armed forces maritime security operations centres.