HMS Victoria and her class of four saw a short shelf life in service with the Royal Navy, and doing much less now in Canadian hands.
Authored By: JR Potts, AUS 173d AB | Last Edited:
Credit: Starboard side view of the HMCS Victoria 876 attack submarine
The Upholder-class were the last class of diesel boats built for the Royal Navy for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they were cheaper to produce than their nuclear counterparts and, secondly, they were able to be constructed in a shorter period of time. The Royal Navy was in need of boats to protect the Greenland-Iceland - UK ocean gaps where Russian submarines would probe, trying to slip through into the greater Atlantic. The Upholder-class was commissioned starting in 1990 and ran through 1993 as the Cold War came to a close. The British government then came to the conclusion that they could not fund and maintain conventionally-powered submarines alongside nuclear boats. As such, the four Upholder-class subs were put into reserve status. In their short period of service, the class operated mostly in the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea and around UK waters.
This recall was not an easy decision due to the large amounts of money spent on the new class. The Upholder-class were the most sophisticated and modern diesel-electric-powered submarines ever built. Her hull design looked like a nuclear boat having a short and stout "tear-drop" design. The boat could accommodate a crew of 41 seamen and 7 officers. The design allowed living space for 5 additional crew members. This was a new concept and allowed for OPS mission specialists, training or non-military mission personnel to come aboard. The low number of crew members was due to the increased automation built into these new boats. The boats had three decks and the pressure hull was a single skin constructed of number 1 high-tensile steel covered in elastomeric tiles. Her sonar and radar were top-of-the-line rivaling even Her Majesty's nuclear submarines. For whatever reason, they were not fitted with the British developed pump-jet propulsion system that had been installed in all SSNs since the early 1980s. The choice was made to provide a conventional seven-bladed skewback propeller, this decision perhaps forced due to project cost overruns as additional monies were needed to correct the torpedo launching system. All of the boats needed to have their initial launch tubes replaced in dry dock.
The four Victoria- (formerly the UK Royal Navy's Upholder) class submarines were inevitably sold to the Canadian Maritime Force (CMF) and the first of class boat - HMCS Victoria - was delivered in May of 2000. In short order deliveries, HMCS Windsor and HMCS Corner Brook arrived in 2003 with HMCS Chicoutimi becoming the last to be delivered sometime in 2004. This scheduled delay was due to a substantial refit in preparation for the purchase. During the crossing from the UK a fire developed in the electrical system of the Chicoutimi and she had to be towed the rest of the way. The fire claimed the life of one of the crewmembers. Chicoutimi finally arrived in Halifax in 2005 and underwent a lengthy investigation into the cause of the fire. The Canadian Navy decided to place all of the other boats in reserve until the refit was completed for safety reasons. Continued problems plagued the class for the time being. The Chicoutimi repairs were pushed off until 2010 and are still expected to take two years to complete. The Victoria was returned to duty for a short period in the interim, however, Windsor and Corner Brook have spent long periods in dry dock.
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