An Overview of the Design of the MCDV

Tags:  papers 
Author: Tony Thatcher
Published: May 9th 2017
Updated: 4 years ago


J.A. Thatcher


A Project Definition (PD) Request for Proposal (RFP) was released to industry 15 August 1988. Bids were received from five bidders: Canadian Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd (CSE), Fenco Engineers Inc., MSEI Naval Systems Inc., Saint John Shipyard Ltd., and Versatile Shipyard Ltd. Two bidders, Canadian Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd and Fenco Engineers Inc., were awarded contracts for $4.5M (1988 dollars) for a competitive one year Project Definition. The two contracts were awarded 7 July 1989 with the aim to provide an implementation proposal and offer meeting the technical requirements for $550M. (Note: Fenco received a total of $5.2M by the end of the project definition phase as it was asked to explore certain options such as: the cost of building the MCDVs in 2, 3 or 4 shipyards; and to estimate the cost of CSE building all vessels.) (As an aside the Technical Statement of Requirement (TSOR) released by the government for the MCDV was 3” thick; the resulting proposal and implementation contract was 5 feet thick.)

During the Project Definition the Fenco Team put together a proposal consisting of various reports and drawings. The design of the ship, mission equipment and payloads were researched, trade-offs were made and final proposal written. A Preliminary Project Review was conducted with the government in February 1990 and the proposal was submitted 9 July 1990. It is estimated that the Team actually spent more than double the government paid (thought to be approximately $10M+) or more than 75 person years of effort on Project Definition. Between July and December 1990 a number of clarification issues were raised by the government team of 250 people who were reviewing the proposals.

In October 1991 DND/DSS announced that Fenco was the winner and the time between then and the award of the implementation contract on 15 May 1992 was spent adjusting the proposal and contract negotiations with both the government and Fenco’s four first tier subcontractors.

Achievement of Requirements Within the Price Ceiling. In developing the Project Definition approach, Fenco determined that a number of issues were critical in meeting the aim of the MCDV project such as the propulsion and manoeuvring design, the training plan, the solution to the route survey requirements and the need to be capable of changing the ship’s missions within 12 hours. In view of the cost constraints only the essential requirements of the TSOR were addressed.

From the outset, the numerous requirements of this project exceeded the firm price ceiling that had been established. As a result, Fenco took the approach that the ship components, which could be added at a later date, would be provided for in the design (fit-for-but-not-with such as a bow thruster). Items that could be procured later would be offered as options. Also the payload concept was adopted where the sweep deck was designed to accommodate various payloads in standard 20 foot ISO containers which could be installed and removed within a 12 hour period. All ships were equipped to meet the coastal surveillance mission and they met other missions by adding the payloads when required. In this way the payloads could be shared throughout the fleet and additional payloads could be purchased later. Also a full degaussing (DG) capability was only fitted in three ships, although the cables were fitted in all vessels. Controls and power supplies for the other DG units could be added later at the Navy’s discretion.

As another cost saving measure, the navy agreed to delete two costly capabilities it considered would have minimum impact; an autonomous mine hunting system and the nuclear, biological, chemical warfare protection system.

Innovative ways of optimising the design had to be found such as those described as follows. A double chine hull form was chosen over a round bilge form as it was expected to be cheaper to build and would allow better control of adjacent units and blocks. The navy was convinced to reduce shock requirement to the point that Lloyd’s Register of shipping commercial grade steel and hull stiffeners could be used. The justification was that the use of an Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to identify mines, which was being supplied as one of the payloads, would allow the ship to stay further away from a possible mine explosion.

The size of the vessel was severely constrained to keep costs down. The result was that headroom and equipment space was limited in some places and increased design effort had to be expended. The navy’s desired fully integrated platform control system similar to the CPF and TRUMP was reduced in scope. Similarly the desired command and control system and mine warfare control system was tailored by using commercial off the shelf (COTS) equipment and some limited special development. The communications requirement was cut back from a destroyer fit, but remained highly effective.

Electromagnetic compatibility was reduced from a Mil Spec requirement to a commercial spec and the results were highly successful. The Fenco Team developed a safety/human engineering program based on a modified/reduced Mil Spec process. The military software standards for developing software were tailored to allow the integration of commercial software.

To prevent problems with the ship construction schedule (and increased costs) delivery of the payloads which had to be developed were not linked to the ship schedule. This approach paid dividends as delivery of the route survey payload was later than planned.

To avoid the design review process from unduly delaying the contractor’s schedule the contractor delivered extensive design documentation one month in advance of the design reviews. This allowed the Navy to provide detailed questions one week prior to a review. The reviews then concentrated on the questions rather than presenting the design. This was detailed in the project Review Plan put together during the Project Definition Phase. With regard to test and trials, much thought was also put in during Project Definition to reduce actual testing time. A detailed Test and Trials Plan was developed that emphasized that, as much as possible, requirements were to be verified before the ship’s harbour and sea trials. This resulted in an accelerated up acceptance process.

By offering a complete program within the firm price ceiling of $450 million in 1988 dollars, Fenco committed to deliver the following:

  • a program within budget and schedule;
  • 12 ships of the same class that can be reconfigured for a variety of missions by the use of containerized payloads;
  • a design to operate with a crew of 24 for coastal surveillance missions with accommodation for up to 37 for minewarfare or training missions;
  • a design that stresses safety, reliability and ease of operation:
  • a design which allows for additional capabilities in future;
  • an extremely reliable, safe and versatile diesel electric propulsion system fitted with Z-Drives;
  • a total training package for the Naval Reserve;
  • 85% Canadian content;
  • widespread distribution of regional benefits;
  • a highly marketable Canadian Route Survey system; and
  • a proven Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) approach.

In order to meet the government objectives, Fenco decided to develop a program with high Canadian content and export potential which was balanced, cohesive, financially viable, and technically achievable with an acceptable degree of risk. As shown below all the ship design features, mission cababilities and operational performance, training and integrated logistics objectives of the program were met during Implementation.

Ship Design. The MCDV was a steel hulled vessel built to commercial standards with naval features such as hull shock resistance, damage control and compartment subdivision. Commercial standards in use by the Canadian Coast Guard and the Department of Fisheries and oceans were used extensively in the ship design.

The MCDV was 55 metres overall in length, with a beam of 11.3 metres and a draft of 3.4 metres. The vessel displaced 962 tonnes in the heavy load condition, has a range of 5000 nm at 8 knots, and a top speed of 15 knots (the desirable TSOR requirement of 18 knots was not offered due to cost considerations).

The MCDV propulsion system was diesel electric, consisting of four diesel alternators and two thyristor controlled Direct Current (DC) propulsion motors, each driving a fixed
pitch propeller in an azimuthinq thruster unit. This design provided a highly reliable and manoeuvrable ship. It could hover over a fixed point on the ocean bottom very effectively, turn within a diameter of approximately 140 metres at 15 knots, and crash stop from full speed in approximately 200 metres.

The propulsion system was also designed with maximum flexibility enabling the ship to carry out a wide range of missions including:

  • Long patrols at moderate and economic speed;
  • Mechanical minesweeping (single Oropesa, double Oropesa, or team sweep) at 8 to 10 knots; and
  • Accurate position keeping for mine countermeasures or other similar missions.

Being able to tow a double Oropesa sweep at about 8 to 10 knots required 4 engines.

The after deck of the ship was arranged to accommodate a wide variety of mine countermeasure payloads, route survey, minesweeping and minehunting, or other payloads as required. Deck fittings were supplied for three ISO 20 foot containers. The diesel electric power plant was to be capable of supplying large amounts of power for future payload developments. The after deck was serviced by a large hydraulic knuckle boom crane.

The ship was designed with habitability and mixed gender crew comfort in mind. Every crewmember was to share a cabin with no more than two other members of the ship’s company, and individual showers and toilets provided throughout the ship. A central galley/messing arrangement was also provided in order to feed all ranks efficiently. The Fenco design activity featured a sound safety/human engineering program.

Ship Construction. The MCDV was initially intended to be constructed in eight structural units and outfitted in three zones. During implementation this was changed to 15 structural units with a final assembly of three blocks and the deckhouse as described below. The assignment of units was carefully considered to maximize introduction of modularized equipment packages during the earliest stages of construction. Unit production allowed welding to be done downward which improved accuracy and probably productivity.

The zones, including their structural boundaries, provided an enclosed controlled area conducive to effective work practices. Outfitting was to begin upon the joining of the units forming a zone. The vessel was to be outfitted by zones based upon the nature of the outfitting work to be undertaken.

While the highly versatile electrical propulsion was an innovative technical feature, it simplified the shipbuilder’s task by eliminating the need for the rigorous alignment procedures associated with geared diesel propulsion drives.

Mission Capability and Operational Performance. The MCDV was designed to meet the stringent requirements of an 18-day mission in a typical Canadian operating area, and of deploying out of area for up to six months. The primary mission of the vessel, which was coastal surveillance, was given priority in many of the design features. For reasons of economical manning, and in order to conduct the maximum amount of training, the vessel had a large bridge with excellent all around visibility. All sensors required for routine operations were located on the bridge. The radar subsystem was one of high quality and included modern touch-screen displays. Redundancy in the bridge equipment enhanced ship safety and the standard commercial equipment is easy to operate, and can be supported anywhere in North America.

Other operational features of the MCDV included a highly accurate navigation system, which is necessary for route survey data base collection and reference; and a flexible and cost effective communications system, which met the requirements for secure operations. Initially the communications suite specified by the Navy was similar to the CPF capability, however this was ultimately reduced in scope.

As discussed earlier the payload concept was adopted to meet the ships’ various missions, namely coastal surveillance, route survey, bottom object inspection and minesweeping. The coastal surveillance mission required no special payload. Delivered as part of the program were four route survey payloads, one bottom object inspection vehicle (ROV), and two minesweeping payloads.

The route survey system, which was to be delivered, starting with the second ship, provided the Navy with a new capability to survey and classify objects on the seabed. It also provided 4 towed bodies (towfish) with very high resolution, multi-beam side scan sonars each with a launch and recovery system in a transportable container. The ships had three operations room displays and computer equipment to allow operators to view the sea bed in real time and to monitor the tactical situation. The route survey system was to be capable of performing at speeds of up to 10 knots with a resolution as high as 12 centimetres per pixel in any ocean of the world. Route survey coverage was to be up to six square kilometres per hour. To be able to locate mine-like objects to within 10 metres required a highly accurate acoustic positioning system and careful attention to error budgets between the navigation sensors and the Route Survey towfish. To obtain the required navigation accuracy two Global Positioning System (GPS) shore stations were delivered that transmitted local system errors to the ship so that they could be applied to the shipboard measurements to reduced the shipboard GPS errors. Also equipment for two shore based Route Survey Data Analysis facilities, one per coast, were provided for the navy to analyse the data obtained at sea in detail.

To complement the route survey capability, a remotely operated vehicle equipped with sonar and television sensors was to be provided. It was to allow for verification of the nature of detected objects.

The MCDV was to be capable of team deep mechanical minesweeping, but for budgetary reasons, minesweeping equipment was originally not to be delivered with this proposal. The Navy had two sets of minesweeping gear in service on the MSAs well in advance of the delivery of the first MCDV; it was suggested these could be also used aboard the MCDVs.

Training. The training package for the Naval Reserve to man and operate the MCDV effectively was an integral part of Fenco’s program. The first four ships’ companies were to be trained by the Contractor. In parallel with the training of the first four ships’ companies, the training development team was to prepare a comprehensive package that will allow the Naval Reserve to continue steady state training in all aspects of operating the MCDV. The steady state training was to be conducted in Fleet School Quebec {CFFS(Q)}.

The third component of the training package, and the most important for the long term operational success of the MCDV project, was the development of a computer based training system which was to be delivered to every Naval Reserve Division and the CFFS(Q), a total of 25 locations. The computer based training was to allow each Naval Reserve Division to conduct refresher and regenerative training so that they could continue to man the MCDVs over their service life. All training was to be delivered both in English and French.

Integrated Logistics Support (ILS). The ILS program included the conduct of non-recurring logistics engineering activities, the development of equipment maintenance plans, provision of specified technical publications, the conduct of provisioning meetings, and the procurement of specified on-board first level supply. To provide a cost effective ILS approach the full ILS program was only applied to developmental equipment and a modified program applied to off-the-shelf equipment. A logistics support analysis (LSA), to define the support system criteria and requirements, would be done for newly developed/integrated equipment/systems or about 20% of the ship’s systems. The ILS program had to support the maintenance concept where the ship’s crew did very little maintenance (first line) since they were not trained for activities beyond this. The majority of the maintenance was to be second line and the program was designed to yield a cost-effective support package to be procured and put in place under a System Engineering Support Contract. This latter contract was to be divided into two phases and subjected to the normal government tendering process. The MCDV was to have a 99% reliability target of “getting home”, 60% reliability target of completing the design missions (e.g. Coastal Surveillance, Route Survey, Minesweeping, Mine Inspection). In all, the target availability was 65%.

The Evaluation. The Fenco proposal was rated as the best proposal and was seen to meet the requirement overall with suitable flexibility and growth potential. The government was concerned over the limited number of mission systems, some platform engineering/performance limitations and some developmental risk for the Route Survey system.

Negotiated Changes to the Proposal. Sometime before the Implementation Contract was awarded a number of changes were negotiated to the proposal. For instance two new minesweeping payloads were specified by PMO MCDV, which were not in the original proposal. During the Implementation Contract a number of further changes were made. These included changing the delivery schedule by removing the one-year gap between the first ship and the second ship, changing the ship build zoning concept, producing nine of the bow sections at East Isle Shipyard in PEI. Also MDA chose to develop a directly-towed towfish for the Route Survey system was developed rather than a two-part tow originally proposed. The procurement of spares was also removed from the contract, as was translation of the handbooks into French. The government did these separately.

Adding the minesweeping payloads late in the preliminary design raised concerns by the ship’s designers that the payloads would be too heavy and the tow loads too great to meet the minesweeping speed/operational performance and ship weight/stability requirements of the contract. In the end adding the payloads resulted in design issue #2, discussed below.

Changes to the ship delivery schedule and the ship’s blocks/zone construction method appeared to have had no adverse effects. Concern was initially raised by the Auditor General in their draft report of 1998 that removing the one-year period between first and second ships would mean that problems in the first of class would be repeated in follow-on ships. It was successfully argued by Fenco, and essentially proven by experience, that the kind of problems the lead vessel HMCS KINGSTON experienced took longer than a year to solve and correct. The problems associated with retrofit were less than the benefits of the new schedule, which allowed procurement to be done in bulk such that the equipment was the same in all ships and that the shipyard work force and production line was streamlined.

Production of latter 9 bow sections in the East Isle Shipyard started in late 1995 and resulted in a $2M+ regional benefit for PEI. No problems were later encountered in joining the bows to the other adjoining blocks in HDIL. A fire in the East Isle Shipyard in 1996 damaged the material for several bow sections, however the bows were still delivered on time and this did not delay the ship delivery schedule.

MDA chose AlliedSignal Ocean Systems as their Route Survey subcontractor. AlliedSignal had proposed a route survey system for the US Navy, but the contract went to Raytheon. MCDV gave them a chance to develop their proposed design for MCDV. This consisted of a single part tow utilizing a towfish that controlled itself in all dimensions and a launching system with motion compensation. While the added complexity of the control aspects allowed the extremely high survey performance requirements to be met, it added appreciably to the development schedule and cost. This extra cost was absorbed entirely by AlliedSignal (taken over by L3 Communications by then), MDA and Fenco MacLaren.


The MCDV contract was awarded by the government to Fenco on 15 May 1992 and simultaneously subcontracts were awarded by Fenco to its first tier subcontractors.
Except for GMI, the ship design agent, none of the second tier subcontractors/vendors had been preselected. The DND program cost for MCDV was about $750M (budget year dollars). The value of the Fenco contract was about $470M (1991 dollars), base price, or about $650M (current year dollars), final total project cost. The value of the major Fenco subcontracts was approximately: HDIL - $374M, MDA - $76M, TCSC - $64M, Eduplus - $31M (current year dollars) with the remainder being the Fenco portion.

As prime contractor, Fenco acted as Project Manager and accepted total system responsibility to engineer, procure, construct and deliver twelve fully supported MCDVs. As such, the government chose to award the contract to a company with no vested interests in the shipbuilding industry.

The Engineering Process.
The Engineering Process on the MCDV project followed a normal project methodology progressing from project definition to preliminary engineering, detailed engineering and production followed by acceptance and handover to PMO MCDV. Fenco’s approach to engineering was based on a structured approach to design work with a well defined list of deliverables that were assessed both internally and by outside agencies, including PMO MCDV, for technical adequacy and progress prior to the formal design reviews.

The MCDV project at Contract award was at an agreed functional baseline, in that the performance and technical requirements were specified, except for software (Mine Warfare Control System and Exterior Communications System). The design was progressed and System Design Reviews (SDR) and Software Specification Reviews (SSR) were duly conducted by April 1993.

The Ship’s Preliminary Design Review (PDR) was held in June 1993 to verify that the drawings, plans, reports and specifications had been developed sufficiently to demonstrate the preliminary design for all aspects of the ship and its systems prior to ordering long lead equipment items. At this point the baseline status was changed from Functional to Allocated.

The Ship’s Critical Design Review (CDR) was held in December 1993 to show that the drawings, plans, reports and specifications had been developed sufficiently to demonstrate completion of the detailed design. At this point an Allocated Baseline had been achieved allowing ship construction and equipment procurement/integration to commence and/or software to be developed. Generally this was achieved although PMO MCDV had reservations as described below in Design Issue #1. The payloads and MWCS CDRs were held separately at later dates.

Functional and Physical Configuration Audits were held for all appropriate systems after test and trials prior to acceptance.

Ship Design Activity.

A month after contract award HDIL (later HSL) awarded GMI a contract for about $10M (Sep 90 dollars) for the detailed design of the MCDV. Over approximately a two-year period from June 1992 until about June 1994 they conducted about 125 personyears (PY) of work, of which about 50 personyears was engineering drafting work (Estimated from the period 1 and 2 Industrial and Regional Benefit (IRB) reports submitted to PMO MCDV). GMI’s responsibility included developing the MCDV detailed design, the placement and management of HDIL’s lower tier subcontracts, preparing documents and publications associated with the design and integrating the combat and armament system into the MCDV. Specifically they did: Project Management, System Engineering, MCDV & Payload Integration, Requisitions and Purchase Orders, Quality Assurance, Integrated Logistics Support, Contracting. This effort was exclusive to that engineering effort that could be attributed to a particular system, which was covered under MCDV’s Combat Systems, Armament, Payloads and Shore Systems. This work was done by TCSC and MDA.

Under Project Management GMI did Data Management, Configuration Management, set up a Quality Assurance Management System, established a Project Management Control System, did financial management, and prepared management reports.

Under System Engineering GMI performed human engineering, safety engineering, weight control, launching calculations, accumulated ship data, completed reliability analysis, prepared the data for the non-operational Bridge mockup and the stimulated Machinery Control Console mockup, prepared Operations Stations Book for machinery control, assisted in test, trials and acceptance planning, arranged for carrying out of the resistance, propulsion and seakeeping testing and participated in technical reviews. GMI supported HDIL at the Ship Preliminary Design Review in June 1993 and Ship Critical Design Review in December 1993 and subsequently dealt with the design actions that resulted from them.

For detailed design GMI’s work elements were; hull structure, propulsion system and platform control, ship service electrical plant, auxiliary systems, outfit and furnishings, armament (ship interface only), combat systems (ship interface only), degaussing system and ship integration including those systems and payloads for which TCSC and MDA had responsibility. GMI produced procurement specifications, construction drawings, arrangement drawings, compartment layouts, structural drawings, production drawings, installation control drawings, piping drawings, cabling drawings, foundation & seating calculations and drawings. GMI undertook an ILS program for the equipment procured by HDIL although Fenco did most of the ILS work in the end.


During the planning stage the schedule was made up of a series of successive activities leading to the completion of a portion of the ship. These activities were subsequently broken down into work packages. A work package is a block of work, which is generated by the Planning Department for issue to production as the authorization to do the work. The first objective of work packages is to break down an activity into measurable components to facilitate the control of labour and thus production. The second object is to facilitate the calculation of the percentage completions of work in hand and by extension, the percentage completion of the whole vessel.

The shipyard used a computerized Workpackaging System for the issue and control of work packages. The packages were compiled by the Planners according to the lead trade.

HSL (GMI) was responsible for the preparation of all production drawings and interface information associated with Payloads required for ship construction and outfitting. Also GMI prepared drawings necessary to support the ships after acceptance (as- fitted and systems drawings).

Tier 1 Subcontractors were responsible for the provision of all data of the physical and functional characteristics of the systems and equipments for which they had procurement responsibility.

Production Drawings were developed for the production of the MCDVs. Drawings recommended for in-service support of the ships, “Ship Drawings” consisted of both “as fitted” and “system drawings”.

Production Drawings include all drawings produced by HSL for ship production. A subset of Production Drawings was the workstation sketches. These sketches formed part of the work package. Workstation sketches supported the information already contained in the Production Drawings through the use of a more practical format for use in production workstations.

Ship Drawings were produced by GMI for in-service support including as-fitted drawings for each ship showing the “as built” condition. System drawings showed schematically how components were interconnected within systems.

As the drawings were completed by GMI they were forwarded to Lloyd’s Register of Shipping (LRS), Fenco and PMO MCDV for review and comment. LRS determined if they met their Rules, and if so stamped the drawing approved. Fenco reviewed the drawings to ensure they were consistent with the contract requirements.

Certain drawings, including all those approved by LRS, were used by the Prime Contractor to control the configuration of configured items. These drawings were placed under the Prime Contractor’s configuration control.

HDIL employed more than 2000 personyears of effort in the construction of the MCDVs. This did not include the design effort by GMI.

Equipment Design and Combat System Integration Design

TCSC was responsible for the integration of the interior and exterior communications systems, above-water sensors, and the complete navigation system. Thomson Systems was also responsible for the minesweeping payloads and for the ammunition stowage arrangements associated with the government-furnished 40 mm gun system and other armament. Specifically for their equipment TCSC did Project Management, System Engineering, minesweeping payload design and integration, equipment procurement, Quality Assurance and Integrated Logistics Support.

It is noted that TCSC had to provide a cost-effective, technically superior navigation system to support the route survey role, which requires extremely precise positioning. In view of the fact that these vessels will be supported by industry and have frequent crew turnover, TCSC had to pay special attention to the reliability of the mission support systems. TCSC was required to optimize performance/cost trade-offs, maximize the use of off-the-shelf commercial equipment within the project cost constraints.

Under Project Management TCSC did Data Management, Configuration Management, set up a Quality Assurance Management System, established a Project Management Control System, did financial management, and prepared management reports.

Under System Engineering TCSC did human engineering, safety engineering, weight control, accumulated equipment data, performed reliability analysis, prepared the data for the Communications Control Room mockup and the ship’s mast mockup, prepared the Operations Stations Book, assisted in test, trials and acceptance activity, and participated in technical reviews. TCSC conducted Preliminary Design Reviews for Exterior communications and minesweeping in early 1993 and Critical Design Reviews for all their equipment in December 1993. To support the design reviews a Combat System Design report was produced. TCSC designed developed and tested the software for the exterior communications control and monitoring system and the message processing system.

To support GMI’s detailed design effort TCSC produced physical and electronic interface control documents for their equipment, block diagrams, cable connection diagrams, cable termination diagrams, safety analysis and human engineering data. Additionally equipment drawings, project deliverables, handbooks were generated. It is estimated from the submitted IRB reports that TCSC put more than 157 personyears of effort in total for design, implementation, procurement, etc during the project, of which 50 personyears of effort went into the detailed design between contract award and the completion of their critical design reviews.

TCSC originally expected to purchase the minesweeping equipment from BAJ in the UK (similar to systems the Canadian Navy was then using on the two MSAs), however later decided to procure the US Navy system, which would be built by Indal Technologies Inc. The deployed equipment was manufacture-to-print from USN supplied drawings. The winch was a modified design based on the Single Ship Deep Sweep (SSDS) system that Indal was producing at the time for the USN.

TCSC worked with the following major subcontractors:

  • Indal Technologies Inc, Mississauga, Ont. – Minesweeping payload

MDA was responsible for developing the Integrated Survey and Inspection System (ISIS). The entire ISIS system was composed of four integrated subsystems:

  • Shipboard Mine Warfare Control System (MWCS)
  • Shore-based Route Survey Data Analysis Facilities (RSDAFs) (2)
  • Route Survey Payloads (4)
  • Route Survey Inspection Payload (remotely operated underwater vehicle)(1)

Specifically for their equipment MDA did Project Management, System Engineering, payload design and integration, equipment procurement, Quality Assurance, Integrated Logistics Support. For the MWCS and RSDAF, MDA designed, developed and tested much of the required software. The software was partly developed by MDA and partly COTS.

Under System Engineering MDA did human engineering, safety engineering, weight control, accumulated equipment data, did reliability analysis, prepared the data for the operational Operations Room mockup, prepared input to the Operations Stations Book, assisted in test, trials and acceptance activity, and participated in technical reviews. MDA conducted Preliminary Design Reviews for the Route Survey payload in September 1993 and Critical Design Reviews for the MWCS (1994), the two payloads and the RSDAF during 1994/1995. To support the design reviews a Combat System Design report was produced.

To support GMI’s detailed design effort MDA produced physical and electronic interface control documents for their equipment, block and cable connection diagrams, cable termination specifications, safety analysis and human engineering data. Additionally equipment drawings, project deliverables and handbooks were generated.

It is estimated from the submitted IRB reports that MDA expended more than 290 personyears of effort in total for design, implementation, procurement, etc during the project, of which about 100 personyears of effort went into the detailed design between contract award and the completion of their critical design reviews.

Developing the Route Survey payload proved to be the most difficult. Meeting the specifications for the range and accuracy of the towfish sonar was very challenging as it needed extremely low electronic noise in the receivers and a highly sensitive and accurate sonar transducer arrays. There was a need to adhere to an extremely tight error budget from the navigation sensors through to the motion characteristics of the towfish. This was achieved and it resulted in a system whose performance (in accuracy/clarity of display of data and speed of survey) was considerably better than any other system worldwide. While MDA paid their Route Survey subcontractor AlliedSignal Ocean Systems about $2.8M in their subcontract, it is thought that the actual cost to produce the four payloads was more than $6M. The design of the towfish was based on an unsuccessful Ocean Systems proposal to the USN for a helicopter mine hunting sonar.

MDA worked with the following major subcontractors:

  • AlliedSignal Canada (Ocean Systems) Inc. Los Angeles CA. (sold to L-3 Communications Corp. in 1998) - Route Survey Payloads
  • C-Tech Ltd., Cornwall Ont. - Sonar Electronics and Beamformer Design
  • Digital Equipment of Canada (sold to Compaq in 1998, then to HP in 2002) – MWCS System Hardware
  • Offshore Systems Limited (OSL) Vancouver, BC - MWCS Tactical Console
  • International Submarine Engineering Ltd. Vancouver, BC – Mine Inspection Vehicle (ROV)


During the implementation phase for the engineering activity Fenco acted as integration managers, design reviewers/approvers, engineering change assessors/approvers, production overseers. Fenco conducted the design reviews and acted as the Test and Trials authority. Fenco also did the ILS analysis of much of the ship systems procured by HSL and produced most of the ship system level operating procedures. Fenco procured the Acoustic Positioning System from ORE International Ltd (ORE later became Accusonics, then ORE Offshore). Fenco employed more than 280 personyears during the project.

Design Issues

As one would expect there were a variety of implementation problems to deal with. The following notable design issues had to be resolved as the design and production of the first vessel progressed.

  1. There was criticism by Project Management Office (PMO) MCDV at the time of setting up the mockups and later at Critical Design Review that the design was not sufficiently mature in some areas. By CDR HSL was already confident enough to have already started producing composite drawings and unit drawings for production. All issues that were raised against the documentation and drawings at CDR were duly resolved.

  2. The design of the Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning (HVAC) system in the aft part of the vessel as shown at the Preliminary Design Review, penetrated watertight bulkheads below the V-lines, which was considered by PMO MCDV to compromise the vessel’s damage stability. To overcome this problem the ventilation ducting was brought up to the sweepdeck from the After Engine Room and then down to the Motor Room.

  3. PMO MCDV put forth the view sometime after Ship’s CDR that the vessel failed the naval two compartment flooding stability requirement by a few millimetres at the end of life (when the 90T through-life owner’s growth weight margin had been used) when the mechanical minesweeping payload was fitted and when all fuel tanks were full (within 2.5 hours of leaving harbour with full tanks) and that this should be corrected. All 126 other stability scenarios were met. There was a difference of opinion whether this really contravened the contract stability specification. Despite Fenco and HSL putting forth the argument that this scenario was an unlikely one, or that the flooding situation would not be a catastrophic one and offering several potential options, PMO MCDV insisted that suitable permanent ballast be installed in all vessels and relocating some equipment in some vessels. This problem was indicative of the difficulty in meeting all stability/design criteria in such a small vessel with heavy payloads

  4. The first vessel HMCS KINGSTON developed a small list sometime after launch when the systems were first run up. It was claimed that this was due to the fact that the weight of fluid in the piping systems has not been taken into account during the design. The situation was resolved by adding ballast. Initially the shipyard wanted to use water or concrete ballast but PMO MCDV insisted that steel ballast be used. It is believed that ballast left over from the CPF program was used. HMCS KINGSTON was delivered with water ballast and was later fitted with steel ballast.

  5. The upperdeck airborne noise survey highlighted a few areas that were slightly above the noise criteria particularly on the sweepdeck if the machinery space exhaust fans were run on high. Fenco and HSL put forth the argument that this would very rarely if anytime be necessary to keep the temperature in the required range; PMO MCDV took the view that the contract had not been met. This issue did not result in any design changes during the build program.

  6. There was a requirement to provide a limited number of soft patches to allow equipment to be removed from the ship. PMO MCDV felt that in too many cases it would be necessary to cut a hole in the hull and that there were too few suitably tested lifting lugs provided to remove equipment and that the contract had not been met. This issue did not result in any design changes during the build program.

  7. The choice of Wartsila/SACM diesels for the main propulsion was a point of contention initially as there was, reputedly, some political involvement in the choice. In the end the diesels were purchased as an integrated machinery package by HSL from Jeumont Industrie, France. While the diesels had been successfully operating in power generation applications, they had not been used in a marine environment. One difference in design philosophy is that the control systems for shore diesel systems try to ensure the equipment is saved when problems occur; whereas on shipboard systems the engines are allowed to be sacrificed to save the ship in emergency situations. To help convince PMO MCDV that the diesels would work out satisfactorily, they were given a ten year design warranty by Wartsila. A number of problems had to be solved before they were fully accepted by the navy. These included diesel control system instability, diesel/alternator coupling failures, subbase cracks. For IRB considerations a Canadian manufacturer was set up to produce the rubber inserts for the couplings. Poor quality rubber curing of the inserts resulted in coupling failures initially. One diesel block cracked in HMCS KINGSTON during the warranty period and had to be replaced, but no clear cause was found. Cracks appeared in some subbases and strengthening plates were added to try and resolve the problem. Generally steps were taken to resolve the problems and no significant design modifications resulted during the build program.

  8. In calculating the reliability of the electronic components of the Route Survey towfish the Bellcore standard was used by AlliedSignal rather than Military Handbook 217. The use of this handbook resulted in the Route Survey payload failing the mission reliability criteria by a small amount. The main concern was the reliability of the sonar processing cards designed and built by C-Tech. Fenco argued that the components of the towfish were made entirely from commercial parts that were too severely de-rated by Mil Handbook 217, which was felt to be obsolete and inappropriate. The Bellcore standard is understood to have been a commercial standard used by Bell in the USA and was felt by AlliedSignal to be a far more accurate reference for the electronic components of the towfish. PMO MCDV took the position that the Bellcore standard did not adequately account for the marine environment. Despite the evidence during development trials which showed that the cards did not fail PMO MCDV remained unconvinced. This issue did not result in any design changes.

  9. The 40 mm Bofor guns onboard MCDVs were to be used for exploding floating mines after they had been swept and for the ship’s sovereignty role. Of World War II vintage, they had seen service onboard the aircraft carrier HMCS BONAVENTURE and after that had been used as anti-aircraft armament around the airfield at CFB Lahr/CFB Baden, Germany. The guns may even have been fitted originally onboard the original St Laurent class destroyers in the mid fifties. When the bases closed they were repatriated to 202 Workshop in Montreal. The guns were refitted and modernized at the workshop prior to being installed onboard the MCDVs. Prior to their installation it was discovered by the PMO MCDV that the gun could not be lowered sufficiently in depression to get an adequate minimum range when firing dead ahead and at maximum depression the rounds may have hit the vessel’s bullring. The gun was government furnished equipment and no firing angles had been specified. The gun ring on which the gun was mounted had been manufactured by HSL according to government supplied drawings. The decision was made to raise the gun by adding a second gun ring on top of the first.

Ship Construction

The work of constructing the ship was broken down into Units, Modules, Zones, Blocks and Shipwide Systems. These products pass through stages of construction such as hotwork or welding and burning, and joining or fitting and welding of sub-units, units and blocks.

Units were interim products usually less than two tonnes. Zones were spaces (or surfaces) on board the vessel in which the work required to be completed is generally outfit installation. Zones were generally small enough to be manageable and to maintain work packages to a controllable size. There were 15 zones in an MCDV.

Minor Assemblies were built up by fitting and welding of individual pieces to produce interim products usually less than two tonnes. Sub-Unit and Unit Assembly then took place which consisted of the assembly of panels and minor assemblies to form sub-units and units. The size of a construction unit is determined by the lift capacity of assembly shop cranage, some 85 tons. Then came Pre-outfit I which included major piping installation, remaining outfit steel, module installation if possible, installation of large deckhead equipment and machinery space lighting, HVAC etc and major equipment load out. Block Assembly Activities included turning units into their upright position (if necessary) and join (fit and weld) to adjacent units within the block. Block Erection Activities were positioning blocks for join-up to adjacent block(s), join blocks and complete outfit in way of join-up. MCDV was composed of three blocks.

Units were built in the subassembly shop to enable integration of outfit and steelwork to be maximized. After Unit assembly and pre-outfit, Units were erected in the Block assembly area to form Blocks. The vessel was then moved to launchway for a period of 2 months between keel laying (block assembly) and launch.

Ship Launch and Final Outfit

A single launchway was utilized for MCDV production. Each vessel was moved outside the assembly shed and rotated on a Teflon pad to the launchway orientation. A new form of launch was used for the MCDVs. The sets of Hilman rollers were attached to the vessel and the vessel positioned on the two channel launchway, which ran into the water and provided the rolling surface for the guide rollers carrying the vessel. After the launch the rollers were retrieved, washed down and used for the next launch. A hydraulic arm fixed to the bow kept the ship in position until launch. Final outfit and set to work commenced as particular systems reached completion and was concentrated in the post-launch period. The Hilman roller launch procedure, although horizontally this time, was used for the Atlantic Eagle, which was the next vessel built by HSL after completion of the MCDVs.

An unfortunate incident occurred prior to the planned launch of the 7th vessel HMCS YELLOWKNIFE in May 1997. Twelve days before the event the vessel was being prepared in Halifax Shipyard and the hydraulic restraining system failed allowing the vessel to proceed down the slipway and partially into the water. Even though there were workers around and under the vessel there were no injuries. The vessel was pulled the rest of the way into the water by tugs. The vessel sustained had some water damage, which required several hundred thousand dollars to repair.

Test & Trials and Acceptance

The Test and Trials emphasized that, as much as possible, requirements were to be verified before the ship’s harbour and sea trials. Fenco took a very active planning role in this regard to avoid the recent experience of protracted CPF and TRUMP trials. The lead ship, HMCS KINGSTON had extra trials, which were not repeated in subsequent ships. Also, as many sea trials as possible, were done in the protected waters in Bedford Basin and the ships only went outside the harbour when necessary. Thus the sea trials were completed very efficiently within about a month for the first ship and in two weeks for all vessels after that.

The first three vessels underwent degaussing ranging in Bedford Basin. There was an expectation that they may have to undergo deperming as well, but this proved to be unnecessary. HSL had paid particular attention to ensuring the steel plate had been stored and erected in the appropriate orientation such that the ship’s signature could be adequately compensated by the ship’s Degaussing system.


The training program followed the Canadian Forces training system methodology. The Baseline Training Requirements Review (BTRR) 6 months after contract award set the scene. The training involved initial classroom training for four crews using the Coast Guard School facilities in Sydney NS, after which Fleet School Quebec took over. 225 hours of Computer Based Training (CBT) was delivered by computers and a wide area network (WAN) to 22 reserve units located across Canada. This training program is one of the largest of its type completed in the last decade in Canada, and over 4,000 personnel have been involved in the training. (CBT) courseware was developed for naval reserve personnel to individually learn such evolutions as entering and leaving harbour, refuelling, starting a main engine, etc. It was provided in both English and French. The training program progressed well, although some MCDV design changes details did not get transferred to the trainers in time to avoid some rework of the training material.

It is estimated from the submitted IRB reports that Tecsult Eduplus expended about 180 personyears of effort in the design and implementation of the training package.


Each vessel had a one year warranty period. There were a total of about 1600 warranty items raised for all twelve ships. Most incidents pertained to single vessels; however a few involved the class. The individual claims ranged from very minor, or less than $1,000 in value, to more than $50,000. All warranty matters were resolved satisfactorily except for the diesel subbase cracking problems, where the Navy decided to undertake a class repair itself.


Marine Builder’s Risk “B.55 Broad Form” insurance policy was secured to cover the vessel design and implementation. B.55 Marine Builder’s Risk coverage is very broad and covers such incidents as loss, damage, design errors, workmanship, and warranty claims. A total of about 3000 claims were submitted by the Fenco Team that were reimbursable under the project insurance. A judicial judgement was obtained in 1998 that ruled that PMO MCDV was liable for the insurance deductible amount for each valid insurance claim. Because of the number of claims and the length of time needed to process them, a global settlement of all outstanding insurance claims was reached in December 2002 amongst the parties.

Project Closure

The project was essentially complete by 31 March 2001 by which time all deliverables had been submitted and accepted by the Navy. All remaining contractual matters and outstanding insurance claims were settled under an agreement between all parties in December 2002 and the project was officially closed in April 2003. The Canadian government regarded the success of the MCDV build project as a major accomplishment. Much of this success was attributed to FMI’s arm’s length relationship with the shipbuilding industry. The seven-year fixed price contract was completed on schedule, incurred no cost overruns and achieved 85% Canadian content.

MCDV In-Service Support Contract

From the beginning of the MCDV program the Navy planned to contract out the in-service support of the vessels. The In-Service Support Contractor was to be responsible for the provision of engineering, maintenance, and life cycle management support of the vessels and the procurement of ILS resources (e.g., repairable, consumable supply and warehousing); it was to be done progressively with the delivery of each MCDV. Fenco won the initial contract in January 1996 at the time of acceptance of the first vessel HMCS KINGSTON and won the follow-on contract in July 2002.


  1. Fenco Engineers brochure circa 1991
  2. MCDV commissioning handouts circa 1995
  3. Fenco Engineers handout circa 1989
  4. Fenco Engineers Implementation Proposal Executive Summary 1990
  5. Naval Reserve Minecountermeasures Project Debrief 1990
  6. Halifax Shipyard brochure 1995
  7. IRB Final Report F-127-01 dated October 1999 and supporting info
  8. R.G. Mustard (offered suggestions after reviewing the manuscript 2004), MCDV Project Manager 1988 – 1999
  9. “The Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel Project from Project Definition to In-Service Support” by R.J. Rhodenizer, MCDV Integration Manager 1989 - 1995. A paper given to the International Naval Engineering Conference April 1996 (INEC 96)
  10. Various MCDV Contract Plans
  13. C.R. Rate (offered suggestions after reviewing the manuscript 2004), MCDV Director of Engineering 1992 – 1997
  14. Various contract deliverables and correspondence 1992 – 2003.
  15. Halifax Chronicle Herald news article 27 May 1997.
  16. CCP 00521 – Closure of the MCDV Contract.

About the Author - J.A. (Tony) Thatcher

  • Canadian Navy/Canadian Forces: 1964 – 1992 Various appointments including NDHQ, PMO CPF, PMO TRUMP
  • Fenco Engineers Inc. / Fenco MacLaren Inc. / SNC-Lavalin Defence Programs Inc.
    1992 - 1997 MCDV Combat Systems Manager
    1997 - 2001 MCDV Director of Engineering
    2001 - 2003 Project Manager MCDV
    2003 - present (2006) Project Manager Minor Warships & Auxiliary Vessels In-Service Support Contract