The Kingston class consists of 12 coastal defence vessels operated by the Royal Canadian Navy. The class is the name for the Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel Project (MCDV). These multi-role vessels were built and launched from the mid- to late-1990s and are crewed by a combination of Naval Reserve and Regular Force personnel. The main mission of the vessels is to train reservists, coastal patrol, minesweeping, law enforcement, pollution surveillance and search and rescue duties. The multi-purpose nature of the vessels led to their mixed construction between commercial and naval standards. The Kingston class is split between the east and west coasts of Canada and regularly deploy overseas to West Africa, Europe, Central America and the Caribbean.
The Kingston class was the result of the Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel Project (MCDV) in the late 1980s. The project came about due to four influences, along with restrictions. The vessels in use by the Canadian Forces Naval Reserve were ageing and needed replacement. At the time, the Maritime Command was using old Mackenzie-class destroyers, Bay-class minesweepers and Porte-class gate vessels to train reservists, with the vast majority of the ships having begun service in the 1950s and early 1960s. The navy lacked a mine warfare capability. Furthermore, the new Halifax-class frigates were not capable of inshore and restricted area patrol and finally, the government sought to keep the shipbuilding efforts ongoing, as the frigate program was already well underway.
The MCDV project was also the culmination of a series of political promises offered by then Minister of National Defence Gilles Lamontagne. The government sought to move the National Reserve Headquarters from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Quebec City, Quebec as part of their effort to increase French representation in the armed forces. The move was to provide a site where French-Canadians could live and work in their native language. Lamontagne faced opposition within the Forces due to Quebec City being far from the existing naval bases and the waters around it freezing during winter months. Lamontagne promised to replace the ships for naval reserve training in order to move the project forward. The program began in the 1987 National Defence White Paper under the concept of "Total Force". This was intended to mask reductions in the regular force by increasing the capabilities of the reserve forces. This led the navy to add minesweeping and coastal patrol duties to the reserve force's list of duties.
There were five main criteria for the design. The ships had to be built in Canada, they had to be inexpensive to build, they had to be operable by naval reservists, the design had to have role flexibility included, and they had to be inexpensive to operate. This was exemplified by the Royal Navy's River-class minesweeper which was operated by the Royal Navy Reserve. The design originally called for steel-hulled mine countermeasures vessels and training ships. The Kingston class were built to commercial standards to reduce costs with the exception of stability, maneuverability and the magazines which were constructed to naval standards. Their mixed construction is visible in their two square, separated funnels which were cheaper to manufacture, their poor seakeeping and large radar signature. The vessels were re-designated MCDV from MM (General Mine Warfare Vessel) when two follow-on programmes of purely minesweeper/hunters were cancelled, denoting their mixed duties.
The ships have a standard displacement of 772 tonnes (760 long tons) light and 979 t (964 long tons) fully loaded. During sea trials, the vessels were found to be top heavy and a further 9 t (8.9 long tons) of permanent ballast was added. The Kingston class measure 55.31 metres (181 ft 6 in) long overall and 49 m (160 ft 9 in) between perpendiculars with a beam of 11.3 m (37 ft 1 in) and a draught of 3.42 m (11 ft 3 in). The vessels have a maximum crew of 47, with crew sizes changing depending on the vessel's task. The crew is a mix of reservists and regular force personnel, with the regular force personnel assigned to engine room and electronics tasks. The Kingston class are equipped with Kelvin Hughes Nucleus S-band surface search radar.
The Kingston class use an electric drive system that is powered by four Wärtsilä UD 23V12 diesel engines which are coupled to four Jeumont ANR 53-50-4 alternators, creating 715 kilowatts each. Two Jeumont C1 560 L electric motors provide power to the two LIPS FS-100 Z-drive azimuth thrusters which are fitted with fixed-pitch reversing propellers. In total the system creates 3,064 shaft horsepower (2,285 kW) and a maximum speed of 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph). When minesweeping, the vessels have a maximum speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). The Kingston class have a range of 5,000 nautical miles (9,300 km; 5,800 mi) at 8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph) and have an endurance of 18 days.
The Kingston class were initially armed with a single Bofors 40-millimetre (1.6 in)/60 calibre Mk 1N/1 anti-aircraft gun mounted in a Mk 5C Boffin mount and two single 12.7 mm (0.50 in) Browning M2 machine guns. The Bofors guns were refurbished World War II models that had been previously used by the Canadian Army for air defence in Europe. The Bofors gun was mounted on the forecastle deck until their removal in 2014. The machine guns are mounted on either side at the front of the bridge deck. The 40 mm guns were used as monuments after being dismounted. In October 2006, Maritime Command experimented with mounting a remote controlled heavy machine gun station, the OTO Melara 12.7 mm RCHMG, in place of the 40 mm Bofors cannon aboard Summerside. The Nanuk .50 calibre RCWS from Rheinmetall was trialled as a replacement aboard HMCS Goose Bay in 2018. All twelve ships have degaussing coil arrays fitted, but only the first three ships have the control system, with it situated between the two funnels.
On the aft sweep deck, there are three positions that can receive a variety of mission payloads in the form of 6.1-metre (20 ft) ISO containers. The Royal Canadian Navy has a limited number of each mission payload;
Furthermore, the vessels have additional systems not in an ISO container format that can be fitted, including;
The modules are split between the naval bases on each coast. The Trailblazer module is based at CFB Esquimalt, there are two route survey modules per coast, and the two minesweeping modules are located at CFB Halifax. In November 2009, the Boeing Insitu ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle was successfully trialled aboard a Kingston-class vessel.
The Royal Canadian Navy discarded a $100-million mid-life refit plan for the twelve vessels in this class. It was intended to retain the "mid-lifed" vessels through 2045–2055. While the RCN concluded that the money would be better spent in acquiring a new platform, the Liberal Government's 2017 defence policy statement, Strong, Secure and Engaged, did not reference replacing these vessels. The RCN review listed low speed and small size as reasons for the MCDV being inadequate for patrol duties (both are factors of the original specification). Notwithstanding the success of the ships in their deployment, critics suggest that patrol and training were tacked onto the mine-countermeasures role and that the platform lacks serious armament for a sovereignty enforcement role.
In October 2011, L-3 MAPPS was awarded a contract to supply degaussing systems for the Kingston-class ships. The advanced degaussing systems were to be delivered and supported locally in collaboration with SAM Electronics. In November 2012 MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates was awarded a two-year $13.4 million contract to repair and upgrade the deployable sonar systems.
In 2018 the Royal Canadian Navy acquired the UAV AeroVironment Puma II AE with Mantis i45 Sensor for use on the Kingston class.
In May 1992, a $CAN650 million contract was awarded to Halifax Shipyards of Halifax, Nova Scotia to construct twelve ships of the class. The vessels would be tasked with coastal patrol, minesweeping, law enforcement, pollution surveillance and search and rescue duties. Steel cutting for the first ship begin in December 1993 and by July 1999, all twelve Kingston-class ships would be in service. The ships are evenly distributed between the east and west coasts. One vessel on each coast is maintained for rapid deployment: this responsibility is rotated amongst the ships. The Kingston-class ships deploy regularly as part of Operation Caribbe in the Caribbean Sea and the Central American Pacific coast. The ships also deploy to the Arctic as part of Operation Nanook, and in naval exercises off the west coast of Africa and in the Baltic Sea among others. On 13 May 2010, it was announced that six of the twelve MCDVs would be placed in extended readiness due to lack of funds and the inability of the naval reserve to provide sufficient personnel to man the ships. However, on 14 May that order was rescinded.
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