Cross-section of a Victoria class submarine. (DND)

The Canadian Victoria Class Submarines

HMCS/M Victoria's ship's badge

On Monday 6 April 1998 Canada announced that the navy would acquire four used Upholder submarines from Britain to replace the three Oberon class boats. The Honourable Art Eggleton, Minister of National Defence said, "These submarines are a great purchase for Canada, giving our navy a vital capability at a fraction of what it would otherwise cost."

The newly-named Victoria class submarines displace 2455 tonnes submerged, can dive to 750 feet and have a range of 8300 nautical miles, which can be increased. Their submerged endurance is 45% more than the old Oberons with their high capacity batteries providing 80 hours at 4 knots or short sprints in excess of 20 knots. Designed to take an air-independent power plug aft of the control room, the navy hoped to fit a fuel cell (probably from Ballard Power Systems of Vancouver) during the first refit to enable them to operate under the ice. After some modification the new submarines carry the Mark 48 torpedoes presently in the Canadian inventory and sport the Canadian towed array sonar. Our navy chose to retain the relatively new fire control system in the O boats that the submariners prefer.


HMCS Corner Brook off Baffin (DND HS2007-G025-006).

The overall acquisition value of the four Victoria class boats was $750 million, about a quarter of the cost if Canada built new boats. However the navy devised a way to "pay" for the the new class using little or no taxpayers' money. The eight year lease-to-own payments of $610 million was offset by the payments that Britain would have made for the use of training facilities at three Canadian bases, as well as monies recovered by paying-off five ships and avoiding a costly Oberon refit. The reactivation and Canadianization package was estimated at $140 million, $100 million of which was to be spent in Atlantic Canada. The submarine acquisition ensured the retention of 200 jobs for thirty more years and added $150 million in industrial benefits.

The four new boats "will re-establish a permanent submarine presence off the Pacific coast after a twenty-five year absence," Minister Eggleton added the day he told Canadians of the acquisition.

The long awaited arrival of HMS/Ms Unseen, Ursula, Unicorn, and Upholder that began in 2000, rejuvenated the Canadian Submarine Service not a moment too soon, but became bogged down with delays and a major catastrophe. The submarines are HMCS Victoria (SSK 876)​, Windsor (SSK 877)​, Chicoutimi (SSK 879)​, and Corner Brook (SSK 878)​.

​The acqusition story is told in Deeply Canadian; more details about the boats' operations are in the second edition of Through a Canadian Periscope.

Periscope on a Victoria class submarine (DND BR816-194)
HMCS Windsor, Dec 2015 (Photo: DND)
To see a short video onboard click here
And inside the trainer, go here