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Canadian Patrol Frigate Project

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The Canadian Patrol Frigate Project (CPFP) was a procurement project undertaken by the Department of National Defence beginning in 1975 to find a replacement for the Mackenzie Annapolis, Restigouche, and St. Laurent-class destroyers.

In 1983, the federal government approved the budget for the design and construction of the first batch of six new frigates. To reflect the changing long term strategy of Maritime Command during the 1980s and 1990s, the Halifax-class frigates was designed to be more of a general purpose warship with particular focus on anti-submarine capabilities.

The design of the Halifax-class patrol frigates reflected many advances in ship construction, such as a move to a prefabricated unit construction method, where the ship is assembled from prefabricated units in a dry-dock instead of the traditional keel-laying. Furthermore, the design of Halifax-class frigates incorporated many new technical improvements. For example, these vessels were the first in the world to be equipped with the Integrated Machinery Control System (IMCS), which allows for a very high degree of computer control for the machinery plant.

Detailed design work for the CPFP began in 1985 after the original 6-vessel contract was awarded to Saint John Shipbuilding Ltd. (SJSL). The Department of National Defence requested that SJSL construct 3 vessels and sub-contract 3 vessels to MIL-Davie Shipbuilding. The CPFP was awarded to SJSL despite the fact that there were arguably more qualified overseas shipyards capable of performing the work.

A design was shown off by the forces, a 5,000-ton frigate which had quite a loadout. The original design had been finished in early 1985, but the Forces had spent most of the previous year fine-tuning it. The Commons, which was a big supporter of its being built to a Canadian design and using many Canadian components, approved the first four units on July 10, 1986, with all three parties in Parliament supporting the idea on various grounds.

On March 19th 1987, HMCS Halifax, the first ship of the Patrol Frigate project, was laid down at MIL Davie shipyard in Lauzon, Quebec, with no small amount of fanfare. It was hoped that the new frigates would allow the retirement of Canada's 1950s era frigates which they had in significant numbers. The Patrol frigate design was itself plenty impressive, though two important design changes happened fairly early on - four 8-cell Mk.48 VLS systems were installed instead of just two, and the original 57mm gun was found to be inadequate for attacking many of its intended targets. The original upgrade plan was for the OTO Melara 76mm unit, but as the frigate was being built his was changed again, this time to the Mk.45 Mod 2 5"/54-caliber lightweight naval gun used by the Ontario-class destroyers.

In 1988, the first Halifax-class frigate rolled out of dry dock at MIL-Davie and headed into intensive training. This was watched closely by the Americans and others, who found the design's characteristics quite impressive. Far from a single-role ASW design some had figured it would be, the design, with its Harpoon AShM missiles, Sea Sparrow SAMs and other systems, was a real multi-role platform, and a big step up from the destroyer escorts it was going to replace.

The Halifax-class frigate, despite being an all-new design, was being found to be a very satisfactory vessel indeed. It boasted lower radar and thermal signatures and was a better seaboat than its predecessors, and possessed much more armament, and to the surprise of most, even came in under its projected $275 million CAD cost. Impressed by the results and ready to move with the project, the Canadian Forces commissioned HMCS Halifax in her namesake city on August 3, 1989. Halifax joined its first battle group six days later, when she sailed out with Eagle on a North Atlantic deployment. The second, third and fourth vessels of the class - Vancouver, Ville de Quebec and Toronto - were by the year under construction.

The second of the Halifax-class frigates, HMCS Vancouver (FFH 331) was launched on December 10, 1990, though it still needed fitting out. But as the class was quite effective at its job, the government in November 1990 made the decision to build two more of the Halifax class frigates, Regina and Calgary. The success of the Navy during the Gulf War would ensure that the full fleet of Halifax-class vessels was built.

On April 27 1991, the Canadian government announced that as part of the 1991 White Defence Paper, a further eight Halifax-class frigates would be constructed for the Canadian forces.

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