HMCS Harry DeWolf Class Vessels: Canada’s Instrument for Arctic Control

By July 1, 2015 Uncategorized No Comments

^ NoCGV Svalbard: Model for HMCS Harry DeWolf Vessels (Source:

Controversy & Efficacy

Fortune favors the brave and so does history. Of the infinite that have thrived and perished on God’s green earth, only the bravest, wisest, strongest, and the most just have left their prints on the sands of time. Vice-Admiral Harry DeWolf was one such formidable being.

Under his stewardship, the HMCS Haida became known as ‘the Fightingest Ship in the Canadian Navy’ when during the course of the Second World War she sunk an astounding fourteen enemy ships. Not for nothing has the Royal Canadian Navy named an entire class of offshore patrol vessels after him.

Based on the Norwegian Coast Guard Vessel NoCGV Svalbard of the Svalbard Class, the Harry DeWolf Class vessels, also known as Arctic Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS), possess the Polar Class 5 (PC-5) classification. The project is a part of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy that boost Canada’s naval presence in the resource-rich north.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Arctic holds 30% of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 15% oil. Canada, United States, Russia, Norway, and Denmark are therefore competing for maximum chunks of the Arctic.

Halifax Shipyards will lead the $3.2billion (3.5billion Canadian Dollars) AOPS project while Lockheed Martin will install onboard combat systems. They will start building the five ships in September 2015 and deliver the flagship vessel, HMCS Harry DeWolf, by 2018. By 2022, they will deliver the last ship.

As is usually the case, the project has generated its quantum of controversy. The PC-5 classification lends the vessels only with limited icebreaking capacity, something that makes experts describe them as ‘slush breakers’. What remains to be seen is if the vessels make a genuine impact.

Better Late Than Never?

‘Painfully Protracted’ best describes the AOPS story. Back in 1985, then Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney announced the Polar 8 Project to strengthen patrolling in the Canadian Arctic archipelago. Financial constraints forced project cancellation in 1990. The AOPS is apparently a diluted substitute for Polar 8.

HMCS Harry DeWolf Vessel (Source:

HMCS Harry DeWolf Vessel

In 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced plans to acquire three to four icebreakers to step up patrolling in the Northwest Passage, particularly in the Canadian Arctic archipelago. In 2007, the government announced its intention to procure six to eight patrol vessels of ice class PC-5.

By 2010, the AOPS was bundled with many other federal ship acquisition projects and placed under the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy. In December 2014, the number of ships was scaled down from ‘six to eight’ to five. The contract was finally announced in January 2015 and the start of construction was declared in June 2015.

First three vessels in this class are:

  • HMCS Harry DeWolf
  • HMCS Margaret Brooke after navy nursing nurse Margaret Brooke for her heroic deeds during the sinking of the passenger ferry SS Caribou in the Second World War
  • HMCS Max Bernays after Chief Petty Officer Max Bernays for his valorous actions during the sinking of the German submarine U-201 while serving aboard HMCS Assiniboine in World War II

Technical & Other Details

BMT Fleet Technology and STX Canada Marine designed the vessels. Economic constraints forced them to modify initial designs and utilize a conventional bow-first mechanism for heavy and light icebreaking.

Original design involved:

  • conventional icebreaking bow for cruising that proceeded backwards for ice-breaking
  • ice-breaking-compatible stern with azimuth thrusters for propulsion and for breaking through ice

Comparison of Technical Data of HMCS Harry DeWolf Ships with Polar 8 Vessels:

Kemplon - Graph - Table  Features

  • Retractable Active Fin Stabilizers retracted for transit in ice, deployed to lower roll in open seas
  • Integrated Bridge Navigation System for machinery, navigation, and damage control
  • Bow Thrusters enable berthing and maneuvering without using tugboats
  • Remote Controlled 25mm BAE Mk 38 Gun
Polar 8 Class Vessel(Source:

Polar 8 Class Vessel(Source:

  • Multi-Purpose Rescue Boats 8.5m long with top speed of 35+ knots for rescues, boarding, and personnel transfers
  • Multiple Payload Options viz. underwater survey equipment, containers, or landing vessels. The vessel has a 20-ton Crane for self loading and unloading
  • Enclosed Focsle / Cable Deck shields the workspace and machinery from the punishing Arctic conditions
  • Vehicle Bay houses ATVs, pickup trucks, and snowmobiles for rapid operations over ice and land


The 21st century oil and gas rush in the bone-chilling cold of the Arctic promises to be more intense than the gold rushes of the 19th century. HMCS Harry DeWolf Class vessels are just another link in this cutthroat rivalry.To know more of icebreakers and other kinds of vessels, visit our blog. And if you want to actually build or repair ships, contact Kemplon Engineering for sterling marine fabrication services, marine pipe fitting, and large scale custom metal fabrication.