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Harry DeWolf-class arctic patrol ships of Canadian Navy to monitor and secure Arctic sovereignty

According to news published by the Canadian Navy on February 12, 2021, the new Harry DeWolf-class Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) of the Canadian Navy will provide the capacity needed to monitor the country’s sovereignty and security, economic and environmental concerns in the Arctic Region.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 The Canadian Navy HMCS HARRY DEWOLF conducts landing craft operations in the Bedford Basin during sea trials on October 19, 2020. (Picture source Canadian Navy)

This cutting edge ship – the first of which was delivered to the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) in July 2020 – will be a critical part of increasing Canadian presence in the Arctic. Canada’s coastline is the longest in the world, with the Arctic comprising 70 percent of its 243,000 km.

Although the RCN has deployed ships to the Arctic for years, conventional warships do not typically have ice-breaking hulls, leaving much of the region inaccessible as thick ice can damage hulls and sink ships.

But that is all about to change as the RCN brings the new Harry DeWolf class online. These new ships can breakthrough new and first-year ice and have anti-icing features to protect equipment and personnel in the Arctic environment – a particularly important capability as Arctic waterways continue to open up.

Able to remain at sea for longer periods of time, the AOPS can carry large water and fuel reserves, and additional rations and supplies. Once reaching its full operational capability, the ship will soon also be able to carry a helicopter and air detachment, increasing its range in an area where fuelling and resupply facilities are limited or non-existent.

The AOPS will participate in Arctic missions like Operation NANOOK that allow sailors to practice the skillsets required to operate in the challenging northern environment, improve coordination with Indigenous and Northern partners, and respond effectively to safety and security issues. The ship will conduct underwater surveys using side-scan sonar to help build a more accurate underwater map for the safe transit of vessels in the North.

The Harry DeWolf-class is an offshore patrol vessel in service with the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) built by the Government of Canada Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS) procurement project. The first Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS), Harry DeWolf, was delivered to the Government of Canada on July 31, 2020, in Halifax. Three additional ships are currently in production, with delivery of the second ship expected in 2021, and construction of the fifth ship expected to begin in 2021.

The Harry DeWolf-class has a length of 103.6 m, a beam of 19 m, and a displacement of 6,615 tons. She is powered by ‎two 4.5 megawatts (MW) main propulsion (induction) motors and four 3.6 mega volt-ampere (MVA) generators. The stern (rear) of the ship is able to accommodate multiple payload options such as shipping containers, underwater survey equipment, or landing craft. The ship is also equipped with a 20-tonne crane, providing self-load and unload capability.

The Harry DeWolf-class is armed with 25mm Mk 38 machine gun system that features a highly accurate gun targeting and surveillance system, as well as two 12.7mm heavy machine guns. The onboard weapons can be employed to support domestic law enforcement roles. The system has been modified for protection against arctic conditions.