Amphibious Assault Ship Project
The Amphibious Assault Ship Project is a proposed procurement project by the Government of Canada for the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). However, no such project has been announced by the Canadian Government and cost challenges with other naval procurement projects under the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy had led to no movement on the idea.
This idea came about as part of the development of the Joint Support Ship Project of the Royal Canadian Navy and the need to improve the strategic sealift and amphibious assault capability of the Canadian Forces. Many of the capabilities required for strategic sealift were to be included in the Joint Support Ship Project, however, a dedicated amphibious assault ship was favoured by some, such as then Chief of the Defence Staff Rick Hillier.
By Late 2008, the project appeared to have been placed on hold, if not cancelled. In 2012 the Canadian Forces announced that they continue to regret not purchasing the landing ship Largs Bay. By 2013 the project received a green light for the design and contractor selection phase. The Thales (DCNS) Mistral-class amphibious assault ship design was chosen. In mid-2014, DCNS & SNC Lavalin offered three ships for CAD$2.6 Billion (2 Billion euro). SNC Lavalin will construct the vessel, while DCNS will design it and STX France will consolidate the hull for arctic operations. The Royal Canadian Navy also trained with the French Navy on a Thales built amphibious assault ship.
In 2005 Chief of Defence Staff, General Rick Hillier and Director of Maritime Requirements, Captain (N) Peter Ellis told the Standing Committee on National Defence in the House of Commons that the Canadian Forces required strategic sealift capacity for operations in the 21st century. The Minister of National Defence at that time, David Pratt, was directly involved in several major procurement projects totaling $7.0 billion including the Joint Support Ship Project and what became the Amphibious Assault Ship Project, declaring that in the next decade the Canadian Forces must expect to engage in the sort of operations it has experienced over the past decade.
According to the Direction générale de l'Armement (DGA), as well as the French newspaper La Tribune, the Royal Canadian Navy had shown "strong interest" in purchasing two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships from France. A Mistral-class ship can carry a significantly large military force with equipment and vehicles in "fighting order", enabling the Canadian Forces to face armed opposition ashore.
As conceived, the Amphibious Assault Ship Project envisioned a ship that could carry personnel and equipment that could rapidly disembark in waves using landing craft and/or helicopters such as the CH-47 Chinook. The ship would be able to disembark personnel and equipment, and support to them in the face of armed opposition. The warship could also be used in support of humanitarian operations since it would have a large hospital on board designed for treating combat casualties. The ship will be able to carry a battalion-size able to conduct noncombatant evacuation operation around the world.
The Canadian Alliance Party had issued a call for procuring four "support / amphibious ships, at least one dedicated helicopter / light carrier". First considered in the year 2000, whether the Amphibious Assault Ship Project ever made it to the design stage is still unclear. The Royal Canadian Military Institute had proposed to obtain four ships similar to the British Bay-class landing ship dock.
As with any amphibious assault ship, a possible Canadian amphibious assault ship would be expected to carry a number of transport helicopters as well as aircraft for possible offensive and defensive roles. The staff of the Canadian Forces had requested that the ship be capable of carrying a minimum of six attack helicopters along with seventeen medium helicopters or 12 heavy-lift helicopters. In 2003, Major General (ret.) Lewis MacKenzie declared that Canada must consider buying the aircraft carrier-capable version of the F-35 Lightning II
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