The current core strength of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) surface fleet is the Halifax-class multi-role frigate. This is a group of combatants numbering twelve-strong from an order originating in 1977. Initially, some twenty of the type were to be taken on but delays (the first contract was not awarded until June of 1983) and cost issues eventually saw just the dozen vessels completed and commissioned. All maintain an active presence in the modern Canadian fleet.
The class was constructed in two ordered batches, each numbering six ships. Construction was split between Saint John Shipbuilding Ltd, Paramax Electronics (to become Loral Canada), and Marine Industries (to become MIL-Davie).
HMCS Halifax (FFH-330) became the lead ship of the new class. She was built by Saint John Shipbuilding Ltd of Saint John, New Brunswick and saw her keel laid down on March 19th, 1987. The warship was launched on April 30th, 1988 and formally commissioned on June 29th, 1992 - named after the capital of the province of Nova Scotia. She remains in active service as of this writing (June 2018) and fights under the motto of "Sior Gaisgiel" (translating to "Ever Brave" or "Bravery Endures"). When introduced into service, she was given the prior "Atlantic 1942-1945" and "Arabian Sea" battle honors earned by HMCS Halifax (K237), a Flower-class corvette warship seeing service in World War 2 (1939-1945).
Once-built, HMCS Halifax marked the first Canadian warship to be constructed since 1971.
Halifax was designed to undertake various at-sea roles though her primary role was defined as "Patrol Frigate". As such, her armament suite is just a varied to tackle whatever need the RCN may have (offensive, defensive, deterrence). Primary weapons include 1 x 57mm Bofors Mk 2 turreted deck gun (over the forecastle), 16 x Evolved Sea Sparrow (ESP) medium-range surface-to-air missiles (retrofitted post-2004 and succeeding the 16 x RIM-7P Sea Sparrow fits in Mk 48 octuple launchers), and 8 x RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship/surface-to-surface missiles. There are also 24 x Honeywell Mk 46 torpedoes carried and close-in defense is through 1 x 20mm Phalanx CIWS (fitted over the helicopter hangar) and 6 x 12.7mm heavy machine guns.
Key to the design of the Halifax-class was support of a modest air wing for over-the-horizon and submarine-hunting work. As such, a helicopter pad with full service hangar facilities is fitted over the stern, offering unfettered approach angles to the ship from the rear and sides. A single Sikorsky CH-124 "Sea King" navy helicopter is carried. This helicopter is equipped with Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) equipment including a towed array. Aboard is a crew of 225 which includes the air wing.
Internally, HMCS Halifax is powered by 2 x General Electric LM2500 gas turbines of 47,500 horsepower mated to a single SEMT-Pielstick diesel engine offering an additional 8,800 horsepower while driving 2 x Shafts under stern. The gas turbines are "raft-mounted" so as to add an inherent stealth feature via noise reduction/control - though this had originally proven to not be the case with the vessel operating at full speed/power. Remedies were enacted during trials to ensure the warship become one of the quietest of its type anywhere in the world. Stability was also addressed due to results captured in testing of the ship in various sea states.
A Royal de Schelde transmission system is featured as are 2 x Escher Wyss controllable-pitch propeller units for fine maneuvering. There are also 4 x AEG Telefunken generators outputting 850kW of power.
With this propulsion scheme, the Halifax is capable of ocean-going speeds reaching 30 knots and can range out to 9,500 nautical miles.
Structural dimensions include an overall length of 400 feet, a beam of 54 feet, and a draught of 23 feet.
HMCS Halifax's onboard systems and capabilities were modernized during the 2000 under the "FELEX" program ("Frigate Equipment Life EXtension"). In 2002 the Westronic 14 optronic fire-control system was installed. As mentioned above, the Evolved Sea Sparrow weapon system also replaced the original Sea Sparrow system and the introduction of the Sikorsky CH-148 "Cyclone" helicopter replaced support for the CH-124 models. Countermeasures, sensors, and processing systems were also revised for the better to keep Halifax a viable platform for the foreseeable future.
Halifax was taken into service in June of 1991 and sea trials followed in the next year. Commissioned in 1992, her first war-related assignment was during the Yugoslavian conflict as she relieved HMCS Iroquois in April of 1994 which was committed to a blockading action at the time. NATO exercises then followed in 1995. She deployed to the Adriatic region for March of 1996 and undertook another NATO exercise before searching for survivors of SwissAir Flight 111 (the crash had no survivors). Following the World Trade Center attacks on September 11th, 2001, she was sent to the Indian Ocean to support the American initiative against the Taliban/Al Qaeda. She returned to home waters in February of 2002.
In 2010, she departed to Haitian waters to support the humanitarian effort following the January 2010 earthquake that left the island devastated. In September of 2010, she was given another modernization. For September of 2015, she took part in a new NATO exercise and, around this point, she had already trialed her new Cyclone helicopters. A year-long refit then followed in 2016 before Halifax was placed back into service, this coming in September of 2017.
There are active plans to replace the Halifax-class of frigates in the RCN in the coming years.