The Canadian Patrol Frigate Project (CPFP) was a procurement project undertaken by the Department of National Defence beginning in 1975 to find a replacement for the Mackenzie-class, Annapolis-class, Restigouche-class, and St. Laurent-class destroyers.
In 1983, the federal government approved the budget for the design and construction of the first batch of six new frigates. To reflect the changing long term strategy of Maritime Command during the 1980s and 1990s, the Halifax-class frigates was designed to be more of a general purpose warship with particular focus on anti-submarine capabilities.
The design of the Halifax class frigates reflected many advances in ship construction, such as a move to a prefabricated unit construction method, where the ship is assembled from prefabricated units in a drydock instead of the traditional keel-laying. Furthermore, the design of Halifax class frigates incorporated many new technical improvements. For example, these vessels were the first in the world to be equipped with the Integrated Machinery Control System(IMCS), which allows for a very high degree of computer control for the machinery plant.
Detailed design work for the CPFP began in 1985 after the original 6-vessel contract was awarded to Saint John Shipbuilding Ltd. (SJSL). The Department of National Defence requested that SJSL construct 3 vessels and sub-contract 3 vessels to MIL-Davie Shipbuilding. The CPFP was awarded to SJSL despite the fact that there were arguably more qualified overseas shipyards capable of performing the work. This was attributed to the Government of Canada's desire for the CPFP to provide industrial and economic benefits to Canada's shipbuilding industry.
The end of the Cold War before the completion of the CPFP meant that these vessels' abilities against submarines were less valuable than when they were designed. However, they have proved versatile in multiple mission roles and have recently formed an important part of Canada's contribution to anti-terrorism operations.
The CPFP seemed to be too big for SJSL from the outset. Delays on the lead ship HMCS Halifax (FFH 330) immediately set in, and it soon became clear that the original deadlines were not going to be met. In response to this, SJSL proposed to build more sections of the ship individually before sending them to its drydock in Saint John; consequently, SJSL owner Irving Shipbuilding purchased several smaller shipyards in eastern Canada for constructing CPFP modules, with final assembly to take place in Saint John. This modular construction solution reduced costs and led to a higher-quality vessel; however, the amount of engineering required increased drastically, and this was used to justify moving the delivery dates of Halifax and her sister ship, HMCS Vancouver (FFH 331), further back. Following the construction assembly improvements and Irving Shipbuilding's investments in acquiring other properties for the project, the Department of National Defence awarded a further 6 vessels exclusively to SJSL in 1988.
Improvements for MARCOM
The CPFP evolved into the Halifax-class frigate. The launch of the lead vessel HMCS Halifax (FFH 330) in 1988 is credited with providing a new energy to Maritime Command (MARCOM) which was burdened with an antiquated fleet. MARCOM's older vessels were sometimes not seaworthy and only the Iroquois class destroyers were up to any kind of modern standard.
Despite some initial growing pains common to any new class of warships, the Halifax class was a potent modern naval platform and established itself as one of the world's premier warships of its type. These vessels were larger than most frigates and despite being initially conceived for anti-submarine warfare, evolved into MARCOM's premiere workhorse for multiple mission roles. Just as importantly, the commissioning of the Halifax relieved pressure on the Iroquois class, which MARCOM modernized under the Tribal Update and Modernization Project (TRUMP) to become anti-aircraft destroyers.
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