Dwindling Canadian navy on brink of crisis, unprepared to meet future challenges
Dwindling Canadian navy on brink of crisis, unprepared to meet future challenges

The commander of the Royal Canadian Navy is warning that serious challenges threaten to derail its readiness commitments in 2024 and beyond.

Vice-Admiral Angus Topshee, the Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN) commander blamed severe personnel shortages and aging equipment in a YouTube video on Monday

“The RCN faces some very serious challenges right now that could mean we fail to meet our force posture and readiness commitments in 2024 and beyond,” said Topshee.

The navy is grappling with significant staffing shortages, which Topshee said puts the RCN in a critical state. Many occupations are experiencing staffing shortages at 20% and higher. 

The root of these challenges lies in a decade-long recruitment crisis. 

“Despite their very best efforts, CFRG [Canadian Forces Recruiting Group] has not delivered the required intake for the RCN for over ten years,” Topshee explained.

True North previously reported on the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) recruitment shortage. A briefing note obtained by Blacklock’s Reporter showed that the government’s plan was to boost recruitment by lowering standards and promoting diversity over merit.

Communications between the Department of National Defence and the CAF revealed a preoccupation with concepts like equity, critical race theory, and gender ideology. Despite woke ideology policy changes like gender-neutral uniforms and drag queen bingo, the recruitment numbers have continued to falter.

This shortfall has severely impacted the West Coast fleet, which the commander revealed to have a shortage of qualified technicians, constraining the navy’s ability to maintain and operate its ships.  

Another pressing issue is aging ships. The 1990s-era Halifax-class frigates, already at their 30-year life expectancy, are expected to remain the navy’s primary surface combatant for at least another 15 years. 

“We must therefore find a way to keep the Halifax class going until at least 2040,” Topshee asserted, highlighting the urgency of extending the vessels’ service life.

Given that all 12 are required to meet Canada’s commitments to NATO and the Indo-Pacific strategy, Topshee said this is a considerable challenge.

This shortage is not limited to the navy but extends to the air force and army, compounding the armed forces’ overall readiness issues. The RCN alone needs to enroll 1,200 new people each year to address its personnel problem, a target that seems increasingly elusive.

“The situation is serious, but our problems are not unique; I know that the air force and army are facing similar challenges,” Topshee said.

The YouTube video’s release follows closely on the heels of a Department of Defence Results Report, released a few weeks prior. The report casts a similarly bleak outlook over the entire Canadian Armed Forces.

The report said the military’s readiness has decreased over the last year, “aggravated by decreasing number of personnel and issues with equipment and vehicles.”

Only 51.2% of the maritime fleet was listed as “serviceable to meet training and readiness requirements.” Two years ago, this number was 94.1%.

The RCAF faces even more dire circumstances, with only 43.9% of its aircraft meeting serviceability requirements.

This decline in operational readiness has already led to missed opportunities in high-profile international engagements. 

The report suggests that the military is stretched so thin that it may soon be unable to manage basic domestic disaster responses effectively. 

“The growing demands for CAF responses challenged the already unstable foundation of operational readiness given personnel shortfalls, equipment deficiencies, and insufficient sustainment, including critical stores of ammunition,” reads the report.

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