Waiting to see the Unseen

Forgive people for not waiting with bated breath for the re-launch of the HMCS Victoria.

Canada’s first operational submarine in more than a decade is expected to finally take to the waters this spring and begin active deployment sometime this year.

Even non-military buffs have to be impressed by the technological marvel represented by state-of-the-art submarines. The trouble is, we’re still not sure what to make of this vessel.

HMCS Victoria began life in Britain as the HMS Unseen in Birkenhead in 1987, the same year Canadians were being introduced to the dollar coin that would come to be known as the loonie.

Britain gave up on this class of submarine shortly after the Cold War ended.

In 1998 Canada made a $750 million deal with the U.K. to lease-to-purchase the four Upholder vessels, renaming them as Victoria class. They were considered among the stealthiest submarines in the world.

Powered by a diesel-electric engine and outfitted with anechoic tiles, the boats are deserving of their motto “Expect no warning.”

Originally, HMCS Victoria was expected to be serving off the coast of Esquimalt relatively soon after arriving in Halifax in 2000.

Victoria did end up sailing to the West Coast in 2003, after undergoing repairs in Halifax to fix a dent in its hull and other systemic defects.

At the time, there was much written about how the Victoria was the first submarine to patrol Canada’s West Coast since the HMCS Rainbow was decommissioned in 1974. The enthusiasm didn’t last long though as the submarine was hung up in dry dock and quickly faded from the public’s eye.

Now we’re hearing that the repairs and modernization will be completed within months. Once again, military buffs are anxious to take pride in a thoroughly rebuilt old boat.

We do hope they’re not disappointed, but, based solely on the ever-expanding history of HMCS Victoria’s planned deployments, we’ll believe it when we see it.

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