A new Simons Foundation paper by Centre for Security Governance Board Member Ernie Regehr focuses on Canada’s Arctic security requirements and its plans to acquire Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS). With a reported price tag of 8.6 billion CAN, including expected maintenance costs of 5.5 billion CAN over a 25 year period, these vessels represent a significant investment for Canada’s security sector. Many commentators have in turn criticized these ships for their insufficient ice breaking and weapon capabilities as well as limited range. In the words of one such critic, the AOPS “can’t break ice, can’t fight.”
In his Disarming Arctic Security briefing paper, Ernie Regehr explores some of the dilemmas involved with this particular procurement decision. In particular, he assesses whether these Arctic ships should be under military or civilian control and be used for combat or constabulary duties. His major findings include:
- The Canada-US tri-command arrangement for the Arctic acknowledges the constabulary rather than military nature of Arctic security, and recommends a focus on a “whole of government” approach to deal with “threats and hazards in the region.”
- The AOPS’ statement of requirements emphasises non-military and non-traditional security threats, including as illegal exploitation of natural resources, criminal activities like drug smuggling or human trafficking, piracy and terrorist threats to maritime vessels.
- AOPS would be better served in the Canadian Coast Guard, which is mandated to deal with such constabulary tasks.
- AOPS represents a hybrid design to meet both Arctic and offshore requirements, which have led to important capability trade-offs for both roles
- It might be prudent to revisit the operational requirements for these ships and to place greater (and more proper) emphasis on constabulary tasks.
The full publication can be accessed here.