rendering of a Canadian warship sailing through the water
A rendering of of the future Canadian Surface Combatant

Canada began construction of its future surface combatant, which has been named the River class destroyer. Canada plans to buy 15 warships, which will be variants of the Type 26 frigate from BAE Systems.

Destroyers are larger and more heavily armed than frigates, but the lines of warship definitions can often be blurred. The Type 26 is a large frigate, and Canada plans to outfit the ships with advanced sensors and weapons to serve as multipurpose platforms. As such, the Royal Canadian Navy has designated them destroyers. The ships are replacing Halifax class frigates and the now-decommissioned Iroquois class destroyers.

A press release of the construction start reads: “As a powerful and multi-functional ship, the River-class warship is by definition a destroyer: a fast, maneuverable, anti-aircraft and anti-submarine long-endurance warship, which can escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy, or carrier battle group and defend them against a wide range of general threats.”

On June 28, the government announced the start of production of a test module, which will be used to test and improve construction processes for the new warships. Portions of the ship design are still being worked on, and full-rate production won’t begin until 2025. Delivery of the first ship, HMCS Fraser, is expected to occur in the early 2030s, barring construction delays. The RCN intends to take delivery of the final ship by 2050.

The program has faced significant cost growth since its inception. The Department of National Defence says the fleet will cost CAD56-60 billion ($49.9 billion-$43.8 billion) before taxes, but a 2022 report from the government’s Parliamentary Budget Officer said program costs had increased to CAD84.5 billion ($61.7 billion). That report also said life-cycle costs would total CAD306 billion through 2081. Those figures are much higher than original program estimates.