Joint Support Ships

The two Protecteur-class Joint Support Ships (JSS) will replace the Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN’s) Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment vessels, and eventually be commissioned under the same names Protecteur and Preserver. The new ships will provide core replenishment, limited sealift capabilities, and support to operations ashore. The JSS will be one of the first of the RCN’s ships to be built by one of the competitively selected Canadian shipyards, as part of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy.

The JSS are a critical component for achieving success in both international and domestic CAF missions, as detailed in Canada’s Defence Policy – Strong, Secure, Engaged. The ships constitute a vital and strategic national asset. The presence of replenishment ships increases the range and endurance of a Naval Task Group, permitting it to remain at sea for significant periods of time without returning to shore for replenishment.

Ship Capabilities

The JSS project will procure two ships that are purpose-built to provide the RCN with a critical sustainment and re-supply capability. Additionally, the ships will provide a sealift capability, support helicopter maintenance and operations, and be equipped with modern medical and dental care facilities, including an operating room.

The ships will have storage for up to 64 20-foot sea containers (TEUs). TEUs can be used to store food, water, vehicles, and other specialized equipment to support land or sea-based operations, including humanitarian aid or disaster relief. Additionally, these containers can house special mission fit cargo, such as mobile hospitals and portable communication centers, which could be offloaded or airlifted ashore. Joint Support Ships will also employ a modular pontoon system called the sea-to-shore connector which will allow for the transferring of at least 50 tonnes of material, including people, vehicles, and supplies ashore, or be modified to create temporary jetties in locations that could not ordinarily support a ship.

The Joint Support Ships’ survivability and self-defence capabilities will allow them to carry out their critical sustainment functions in high-threat environments, including as an integrated part of any Canadian, American, NATO, or Allied task group. Joint Support Ships will also have the ability to embark a Joint Staff, and be employed as a Command ship within a Task Group.

The ships’ self-defence capabilities will include a Combat Management System, Naval Remote Weapon Systems, Close-In Weapon Systems, heavy machine guns, surveillance capabilities (3D air surveillance radar), Tactical Data Link Networks, and an electronic warfare suite. The ships will also be equipped with systems to detect and protect against Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear threats.

The JSS will replace the core capabilities of the Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment ships, including: provision of fuel, ammunition, spare parts, food, water, and other supplies; repair facilities and expertise to keep helicopters and other equipment functioning; and provide self-defence functions.

Construction

In December 2016, Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards Co. Ltd was awarded the JSS Design and Production Engineering contract to bring the JSS design to production readiness to enable the start of ship construction.

An Initial Design Review was completed in 2017, and early construction began in June 2018. The first JSS is expected to be delivered to the RCN by the shipyard in 2023.

Following the delivery of the JSS by Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards Co. Ltd, the Royal Canadian Navy will conduct a series of trials to confirm that the ship meets the criteria for Initial Operational Capability and subsequently to enable Full Operational Capability.