Action '73—Canadian Maritime Forces—Aircraft, Ships, and Submarines
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 1 Mar 1973, p. 261-276
MacGillivray, Cdr. D.N., Pickering, Lt.-Col. A., and Wood, Cdr. J.C., Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
Addresses and audio-visual presentation. Introduction by Lt.-Col. Pickering: Canada is a Maritime nation. Current problems facing Canada. Maritime Command one of six within the Canadian Armed Forces with headquarters in Halifax. Commander McGillivray describes the surface operations. Lt.-Col. Pickering reviews air oprations, and Commander Wood details submarine operations. All reviews include current issues, problems, and need for support for each operation. Lt.-Col. Pickering concludes with a summary of responsibilities and the need for continued support.
Date of Original
1 Mar 1973
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The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
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Full Text
MARCH 1, 1972
Action '73--Canadian Maritime Forces--Aircraft, Ships, and Submarines
CHAIRMAN The President, Joseph H. Potts


On behalf of The Empire Club and the Toronto Branch of the Naval Officers Associations of Canada, I am delighted to welcome our guests today, Col. Pickering and Commanders MacGillivray and Wood.

The Empire Club has been privileged in the past to hear addresses from at least six Ministers of National Defence--including Sir Sam Hughes, Ralph Campney, Brook Claxton, Paul Hellyer, George Pearkes and Donald MacDonald; from several Admirals of the Fleetincluding Earl Jellicoe and Sir Roger Keys; from numerous Generalsincluding Burns, Foulkes and Simonds and from Air Marshals such as Billy Bishop.

This, however, is the first occasion when we have had the pleasure of an audio visual presentation from a three man team of officers each of whom is a specialist in his field and is either in command or has had command of operational units and which presentation was initiated, organized and developed by the National Committee of a civilian organization, The Naval Officers Associations of Canada.

NOAC for short is a fraternity of over 2,000 former Naval Officers who are members of 19 active Branches across Canada, and Toronto Branch of NOAC is co-sponsor of today's presentation.

The programme deals with operations of Maritime Command. The Command is the "unification" grouping of those of our armed forces that were formerly called the Royal Canadian Navy including its Fleet Air Arm, and the Coastal Command of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

The team leader is Lieut. Colonel A1 Pickering. Colonel Pickering has been Base Operations Officer at the largest Maritime Command air facility, CFB Greenwood since June 1972. From 1969 to 1972 he commanded 404 Squadron, one of the Command's Argus-equipped Long Range Maritime Patrol squadrons based in Greenwood.

Prior to his current appointment as Commanding Officer of HMCS Iroquois, Commander Doch MacGillivray was employed in National Defence Headquarters on the staff of the Project Manager DDH 280. Iroquois was commissioned at Sorel, Quebec on July 29, 1972 and arrived in her home port of Halifax on August 15, 1972.

Since August of 1972 Commander Jim Wood has been Commander of the First Canadian Submarine Squadron based in Halifax. His previous posting was in National Defence Headquarters where he served on the staff of the Director of Equipment and Requirements Maritime as the submarine adviser.

Permit me to repeat the following lines written by Lieut. Commander William Strange, R. C. N. V. R. who addressed the Club in 1942.

"This is the job of the Navy- To keep the sea-lanes clear, That the ships may ply 'Neath a cloudless sky, Forgetting the shades of fear; That the trade which is your life, and my life, May move, as the Lord ordained On the waters' face, From place to place, Unhampered and unrestrained.
This is the job of the Navy--To guard the edge of the land, To the water to go And encounter the foeBy sea to make the stand, That the sleep of the child may be dreamless, And the mother's be deep and sound, For the certain fact That no alien act Shall disturb our country's ground.
This is the job of the Navy--To dare the raging gale, To challenge the might Of the storm's height, And to follow the raider's trail. To hold to the great tradition Of the men who made us free, To sail in the wake Of Nelson, and Drake, On the restless, heaving sea."

Ladies and gentlemen--Now--"Action '73--Canadian Maritime Forces--Aircraft, Ships, and Submarines".


In looking at the Map of Canada and being absorbed by the size of the land mass, most Canadians rarely reflect on the geographic and economic effects of the three oceans and the St. Lawrence/Great Lakes System that account for more than two-thirds of our border. We are truly a maritime nation. We have the longest national coastline on this planet: 18,000 miles, equivalent to three-quarters of the circumference of the earth at the equator. With Canada's sustained drive for more exports to foreign markets beyond our continent, Canada as a trading nation is increasingly dependent on the sea.

One-third of our total exports by dollar value travel by sea. Surveillance of our fishing areas is a major requirement and there is a world-wide increase of ships at sea because of increasing numbers and because containerization has reduced in-port time for many others.

One aspect that should scare the hell out of us as Canadians is the increased number of ships involved in groundings, collisions and other natural and man-made hazards of the sea. The rate of world maritime disasters is alarming when one realizes that 377 merchant ships were lost or disappeared in 1971. More than one per day. There are literally hundreds of sinkings that are not reported by our news media. Apart from the appalling loss of life and property that is inherent in these maritime disasters, one must also consider their environmental effect on the world's oceans. Unless checked, contamination from bunker oil and other toxic cargoes must ultimately affect the fisheries and other ecological aspects of the oceans and their coasts.

Maritime command is one of six commands within the Canadian Armed Forces and our commander with headquarters in Halifax is directly responsible to the Chief of Defence Staff in Ottawa. Our command carries the total responsibility for surveillance of our vast ocean areas not only from an ecological point of view but also in ensuring that Canada is prepared for military operations on, over and under our maritime areas. This is a tall order which keeps our meager resources stretched to the limit.

Our presentation today is in three parts: Ships, Aircraft and Submarines. To start off, Commander McGillivray will describe our surface operations.


Ladies and gentlemen-The surface fleet operates from two bases-Halifax and Esquimalt. At the present time the fleet consists of three operational support ships, 24 destroyers ranging from the St. Laurent Class to the ultra modern new DDH 280 Class, all Canadian built, and numerous smaller warships and auxiliary vessels, utilized in training and support. As you can see the destroyer is the workhorse of this fleet. As with any navy at any given time, between 20 and 30% of our ships are under repair or refit at any one time. Ladies and gentlemen, the sea is cruel.

You will recall from the previous introduction slide the immense ocean areas within Canadian jurisdiction. The Defense responsibilities of the Maritime Command are diverse and exceedingly broad, especially in geographic terms. It is impressive to note that the total National responsibility to the continental shelf is 3,000,000 square miles, represented on the slide in orange, and that international responsibility brings the total to almost five million square miles. It is obvious that our small surface fleet must be deployed in an efficient manner on an around-the-clock basis, often as not in miserable weather conditions.

Internationally, Canadian Maritime surface forces are committed to NATO. At the present time, we have several ships on task with the NATO Naval Squadron in Europe and we participate annually each quarter in a variety of Operational NATO and Pacific Rim exercises and Commonwealth exercises.

Notwithstanding our primary commitment to the maintenance of peace and security, these forces are committed to a variety of peacetime roles. Among these are: surveillance, search and rescue, replenishment and support of remote areas, support of peacekeeping forces (and this slide is a picture of HMCS Terranova presently off the Vietnam waters), the patrol of pollution and fishing control zones, and other tasks which pertain to Canadian sovereignty and interests.

It should be remembered that warships are basically designed to fight-anti-submarine warfare, defense of shipping, support of land forces, self defense against air and subsurface attack are all basic capabilities designed into our destroyers--yet these features are fully compatible with the requirements for peacetime operations previously mentioned. The flexibility, endurance and rapid response of our surface units equip them admirably for the task of protecting Canada's sovereignty and interests, and while doing so they are, in turn, sharpening the skills which would be required in the event of an outbreak of hostilities.

There have been many firsts in the Canadian Maritime Forces, and we can often amaze our allies--and others--with a new development.

Canada now has the most modern destroyers in the world. The DDH 280 Class destroyers were designed and built in Canada. Three are now in service with the Maritime Command and the fourth will join this spring. These ships exemplify the features of flexibility, endurance and rapid response. They are the largest most complex destroyer type ever built in this country, unique in many ways, notably in propulsion and power, the combination of armaments and the Command and Control System.

From the propulsion point of view the DDH 280 is not unlike a large jet aircraft in that she is powered by four gas turbine engines. Moreover the Captain can control course and speed from the bridge by the use of a direct throttle control system. This all gas turbine system embodies the features of rapid deployment, ease of maintenance and cruising endurance, and is unique among the world's navies.

Canada pioneered and remains pre-eminent in operating large helicopters from destroyers. The DDH 280 introduces another first-the capability to operate two Seaking helicopters. This is achieved by using a double hangar for storage and maintenance and a dual version of the Canadian invention known as BEARTRAP--a device which controls the landing sequence and facilitates operating these large, ten-ton helicopters in heavy weather conditions.

The helicopter is used extensively in anti-submarine warfare work and for search and rescue, and it dramatically increases the ships' surveillance capability.

The 280 Class possess a potent punch in offensive and defensive weapon systems. The rapid fire gun, which incidentally can fire up to 42 rounds of 5" ammunition per minute, can be employed against both surface and air targets and in support of land forces through bombardment. The Canadian Sea Sparrow missile system provides self defense against hostile aircraft and anti-ship guided missiles.

Anti-submarine weapon systems are embodied in both ship and helicopter launched homing torpedoes, and an ASW mortar. The latter being a sophisticated grandchild of the World War II depth charge.

The ships sensor systems include extensive electronic detection devices, radars, and the new sonar. This latter system including variable depth sonar-a device towed astern of the ship at selectable depths which enables us to overcome the age-old problem of detecting submarines which are hiding beneath the water temperature layer and to do this you would have to double the range. This development has been copied by every major navy in the world.

You will by now recognize the main features inherent in the DDH 280 combat systems-rapid response. This is a vital consideration in an era when warning time is measured in seconds as opposed to minutes and where attacking weapons exceed the speed of sound. Rapid response is achieved by the unique, Canadian-designed Command and Control system, which through the use of a third generation digital computer and display, integrates the ship's weapon and sensor subsystems. This integration of all ship systems is the key to rapid response--represented in this next slide by communications and command and control at the hub. Let me emphasize one point-this computerized system does not make decisions for the Captain. It does, however, eliminate the time consuming tasks involved in receiving, sorting, correlating and plotting information and performing mathematical functions and threat analysis and presents alternatives for command decision within seconds.

Ladies and gentlemen, time does not permit me to discuss other advances made in the DDH 280 Class, such as noise reduction, better habitability, damage control and ability to operate in nuclear fallout. Suffice to say significant progress has been made in all of these areas.

As a concluding thought let me say that these ships represent a Canadian creation in which to take pride of achievement and to give confidence in our abilities.

It takes a variety of ships, aircraft and submarines to make a truly effective team-Colonel Pickering will now continue with a brief on air operations.


As already mentioned, Maritime Command is responsible for a very large area around Canada. When large areas must be covered frequently, aircraft are the obvious answer. The aircraft will detect, photograph and report in the case of commercial or unusual activities, or follow and report naval ships and submarines which may be found in our areas of interest.

To conduct this aerial surveillance, we have a total of 32 Argus aircraft: 18 based at Greenwood, N.S., 8 at Summerside, P.E.I. and 6 at Comox, B.C., and 33 Tracker aircraft at Shearwater, N.S. for short range patrols. The Argus is a complex weapon system filled with electronic equipment for detecting and tracking submarines and armed with homing torpedoes and depth bombs. It has a crew of fifteen-three pilots, four navigators, six observers, two flight engineers. Of the 32 Argus, approximately half are available for operations on any given day, the remainder being on overhauls, inspection or unserviceable for engine or detection system problems. And a similar ratio applies to the trackers.

Our ocean patrols are conducted to gather intelligence, as well as monitor shipping and fishing. We must know how a potential enemy conducts his normal operations with his ships and submarines, so we can tell when he starts something unusual. For example, the first time Soviet naval ships sailed through our area enroute to Cuba, there was some excitement! Of course, we are also interested in what our friends are doing in our waters.

Our squadrons are involved in regular ocean patrols in one area and they are deployed to Iceland, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the Azores in support of NATO. They also participate in NATO and Canadian/US exercises, flying from our own bases or from those of our allies.

With respect to non-military activities, approximately 1,000 trawlers operate off our east coast in summer but only 150 are Canadian. Naturally the numbers are slightly lower in winter. In 1971 our patrols reported 75 suspected fishing and territorial violations, and 32 oil pollution violations off the east coast. And we have just been advised that the captain and owners of a foreign ship were found guilty of pollution in international waters based on photographs and evidence submitted by an Argus crew two years ago. The law is slow, but we are getting results.

Now let me turn to the north. We have often been asked: "Why do you patrol the Arctic? With all the ice and snow, there cannot be much activity in such a large area." It is true to say that there is relatively little activity but Canadians must know what is happening in the north. For example, the USS Skate appeared at the North Pole in 1959, a Royal Navy nuclear submarine Dreadnaught was there in 1969, and I would be surprised if there haven't been others. In 1969, the Manhattan made its voyage across the north, accompanied by one of our icebreakers. Drilling rigs and camps are appearing in the Arctic as exploration for oil and minerals expands in that area. If we are to maintain our sovereignty, we must see and be seen, and remain in control. Search and rescue is another job we perform.

As a result of having an Argus in Frobisher Bay after a northern patrol last fall, we were able to respond immediately when word was received that a civilian aircraft was missing. The aircraft was found within two hours and a helicopter was directed to the crash site to pick up the survivors.

Here are a few typical northern patrols, each lasting from 15 to 18 hours and covering about 3500 nautical miles:

Starting from Greenwood or Summerside, a coastal patrol is conducted along the Labrador coast, followed by surveillance of a Soviet fishing fleet off Baffin Island with a landing at Frobisher Bay. This flight covers Ellesmere Island, while this one goes to Yellowknife before a return flight over the Mid-Arctic to home base; the crew is away for five to seven days on this type of patrol. As you can see, similar flights are conducted in the western Arctic. Our limited resources and other commitments allow us to conduct only four patrol series such as this per month.

Now let me discuss some of the problems we face.

First, our surface ships are thin-skinned and because of ice conditions, cannot operate above 60° North Latitude for much of a year. When you think about it, 60° North touches the south tip of Greenland in the Atlantic, and in the west is the boundary between the provinces and our Northern Territories, not really very far north. Until we receive some ice-capable ships we must rely on aircraft in the Arctic. Unfortunately, a lack of suitable airfields hampers our Arctic operations. Very few fields are suitable for use by the Argus which requires a paved runway approximately 7000 feet long, extra high octane fuel, accommodations for 25 men, including ground crew, and a heated hangar for winter operations. Although it isn't perfect, Frobisher Bay is our only year-round operating base in the north. Yellowknife may be used in the summer, but because it does not have a hangar, Edmonton or Cold Lake must be used in the winter and this results in a very long trip before we get to our actual patrol area. Inuvik does not have our gasoline and its runway is too short, and Resolute Bay has a gravel runway. The Americans have year-round airfields at Thule and Sondestrom in Greenland and Point Barrow in Alaska, but to use those fields hardly seems to serve the interests of Canadian sovereignty. We desperately need an airfield with adequate facilities in the central Arctic. Resolute Bay could meet the requirements if the runway was paved and fuel and a hangar provided.

As with everyone else, our basic problem is the Arctic winter. On the ground it is cold, dark and usually windy. In the air the same problems exist with darkness being paramount. Half of the Arctic terrain is extremely mountainous and the main means of detection is visual, so darkness has a more significant effect on northern operations than those conducted farther south. Fog and low clouds make our task difficult. Presem radars cannot be reliably used to differentiate between sea, ice, coastlines or mountains so winter operations besides having about them an element of risk are not completely productive.

We have a problem with reliable long range communications that must be solved.

Aerial navigation is a problem. We fly in an area where the magnetic compass cannot be used; in fact, we often fly north of the North Magnetic Pole which happens to be west of Resolute Bay. We will have better navigation systems in our new aircraft, but we must make do with older and less accurate systems in the meantime.

The picture I have painted is not too bleak. There is no question we have problems, but with your support we will overcome them. A central airfield in the Arctic and a new aircraft will eliminate many of our difficulties. In the meantime, the air and ground crews continue to do their best. We bow to no one!

And now, Commander Wood will present the submarine picture.


Ladies and gentlemen, you may be surprised to learn that there are 839 submarines in service in the collective navies of the world today. Of this total, 218 are nuclear powered. The 70% of our planet that is covered in water is accessible to most of these submarines. The only exception being those areas of heavy ice cover where only the nuclear submarine can proceed with impunity.

The nuclear submarine of today is a formidable warship. Submerged speeds as high as 30 knots in some cases. Submerged endurance up to several months. Diving depths well in excess of 1500 feet and weapons ranges measured in thousands of miles. Submarines with displacement of 8,000 tons are at sea today and submarines of up to 12,000 tons with diving depths of several thousand feet are on the drawing boards and will be at sea in the 1980's.

This quick sketch of the world submarine situation should give you a good appreciation of the sub-surface surveillance problem that faces the Maritime Command today. Non-friendly submarines, many of them modern missile-firing and nuclear powered, are patrolling at sea off our coasts at this moment. They were there yesterday and they will be there for many tomorrows. This picture of a Russian missile-firing submarine was taken off Halifax within the last few months when she rendezvoused with Russian surface ships. There is nothing in international or maritime law which prevents this as they are not violating our territorial waters. However, it is important that Canada knows where these submarines are, how many of them there are and what they are doing in our areas of maritime responsibility. It follows then that we must have the capability to detect and track submarines. This is one of the roles of the Maritime Command and it is in this area that our submarines play an important part. We do not possess a large submarine fleet by any standard-four submarines in all-three at Halifax and one at Esquimalt.

Our Halifax-based submarines are the British "O" Class and all were built in the late 1960's. They are 295 feet in length, 26 feet in beam and displace 2,100 tons. Their diving depth is in excess of 500 feet and they carry the latest electronic equipment and long range sonar. Each is fitted with 8 torpedo tubes--6 forward and 2 aft--all capable of firing the electric homing torpedoes which these submarines carry.

The "O" Class is, without question, the most effective diesel electric submarine in the world today. From the keel up they were built to incorporate the latest methods of noise reduction. The result has been that when operating submerged, these submarines are so quiet that even the most sensitive passive detection systems at sea today have great difficulty in locating one of these submarines. This silent running capability enables our submarine to be most effective in sub-surface surveillance. Passive sonar detections of other less quiet submarines can frequently be gained at very long ranges when the target submarine is not even aware that his presence has been discovered.

In addition to sub-surface surveillance, our submarines are frequently tasked to provide basic and advanced services for the training of our ship and aircraft crews-to act as target submarines if you will. For a new ship or aircraft crew these exercises usually start with the submarine at very shallow depth, on a steady course, and at slow speed. As the crews reach a worked-up state of proficiency, the submarine is virtually unrestricted and depths of several hundred feet, maximum speed and evasion are then permitted. Submariners enjoy these advanced training exercises as they give us the opportunity to exercise ourselves in the game of out-thinking the opposition. While there is rarely any consistent winner in these friendly clashes, we in the undersea world generally feel we still have the upper hand.

One other area where our submarines play an important role is in the surveillance of surface vessels in waters of national interest. It is very easy for a submarine to carry out close range periscope observations or photography of fishing or other commercial vessels without ever disclosing our presence. It is most likely that a foreign vessel will adhere to our fishing or pollution control laws when he sees that he is being observed by one of our ships or aircraft. However, when he thinks he is all alone on the open ocean, it may be surprising how little regard he may have for our laws. A submarine periscope photograph of an offending action is usually ample proof for the courts.

In addition to training and surveillance in our home waters our submarines participate in almost all major NATO and naval exercises in the Atlantic. On these occasions, frequently in opposition to large task forces, Canadian sub-surface sailors prove themselves second to none. This periscope photograph of a USN carrier was recently taken from one of our submarines which had successfully evaded opposing surface ships and nuclear submarines to reach a point blank range for a simulated torpedo attack against this 60,000 ton monster.

Life in a submarine is not easy. It takes a great deal of motivation to volunteer for and serve in a submarine where crowded living conditions, pigmy-size bunks, complete lack of privacy, and long periods at sea are our normal fare. This is in sharp contrast to life in a destroyer. There is something about the life that grows on you. Whether one is providing training services, simulating an attack on a convoy, or searching for an unidentified and unfriendly submarine, there is a real feeling of contribution both to the Command and to the country. And this, in my opinion, is why people serve in submarines.

Ladies and gentlemen, this quick sketch of submarines in Canada is designed to tell you that our "O" Class are providing first class sub-surface surveillance capability in addition to providing realistic anti-submarine training for surface and air units. On the NATO side, our submarines have proven their worth! While our present strength is relatively small, we are confident about the future. We feel that new and better submarines are required in order to ensure a credible capability to utilize and supervise our Maritime areas of responsibility. Within the service we accept the challenge of serving underwater but we need support to ensure that we do receive the modern equipment we are going to need in the years ahead.


Ladies and gentlemen, you now have a capsule impression of the responsibilities and tasks of the Maritime Command and of the ships, submarines and aircraft that comprise the team. It should be obvious to all that we either meet Canada's commitments or by default our neighbour to the south will fill the breach with an inevitable adverse effect on Canadian sovereignty and our national pride.

At the present time we are meeting this task. Our forces though meager are modern and well equipped-our personnel efficient, well trained and dedicated to their task. However, equipment wears out or becomes obsolescent. 40% of our destroyers will reach the end of their useful life in the late '70s or early '80s. Our Argus and tracker patrol aircraft have already become obsolescent and will require replacement within the next five years and our existing submarines will require updating in order that they can meet their growing commitments.

The importance of the north, the increase in world shipping and sovereignty in general will play a major part in any replacement program for the Canadian Maritime forces. Our present forces provide a sound basis for future growth and we recognize the necessity to maintain and increase our effectiveness and versatility in the face of changing conditions.

Canada must stay in the forefront in matters involving the sea. We must protect what we consider to be ours. We must command respect at sea with the presence of a strong Maritime force. Canada's future as a Maritime nation is in our hands and yours. It is the responsibility of all Canadians. We will do our utmost to meet this challenge but we need the blessing and the firm support of the people of Canada.

Thank you for your attention.

Commander MacGillivray, Lieutenant-Colonel Pickering and Commander Wood were thanked on behalf of The Empire Club by Mr. Joseph Duffy, President of the Toronto Branch, N. A. O. C.


On behalf of The Empire Club and the Naval Officers Association, Toronto Branch, I would like to extend our thanks for your coming here today, the team, and giving us an excellent presentation. It certainly has provided us with a better understanding of your operations on, over and under the sea. Not only that but I think it also has provided us with a better appreciation of your needs and continuing needs of the Maritime forces in the days that lie ahead under changing conditions. I would also like to mention that this sort of information is far too little coming to Toronto and elsewhere in Canada. As a matter of fact, I believe there is an information gap. But today, I think you helped to bridge that gap and we are very grateful.

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Action '73—Canadian Maritime Forces—Aircraft, Ships, and Submarines

Addresses and audio-visual presentation. Introduction by Lt.-Col. Pickering: Canada is a Maritime nation. Current problems facing Canada. Maritime Command one of six within the Canadian Armed Forces with headquarters in Halifax. Commander McGillivray describes the surface operations. Lt.-Col. Pickering reviews air oprations, and Commander Wood details submarine operations. All reviews include current issues, problems, and need for support for each operation. Lt.-Col. Pickering concludes with a summary of responsibilities and the need for continued support.