After five years in the shop, the only submarine permanently stationed at CFB Esquimalt returned to sea over the weekend, the News has learned.
HMCS Victoria was tugged out of dry dock and parked alongside a dockyard jetty in Esquimalt Harbour Sunday night, according to sources.
It is a momentous occasion for Canada’s submarine program, making the HMCS Victoria the second sub to have sea-faring capabilities, however limited.
It’s second only to HMCS Corner Brook, which is expected to arrive in Victoria from CFB Halifax this summer to run patrols.
Sources reveal the Victoria-class boat was tugged out at the base dockyard when the tides were at their highest.
HMCS Victoria has been undergoing extensive maintenance, repairs and modernizing upgrades in the base dry dock for the past five years – about half its life as a Canadian submarine.
“Victoria is the first (Victoria-class) submarine we’ve ever done this level of maintenance on,” Cmdr. Christopher Earl, the navy’s technical authority on Canada’s submarines, said in a February interview.
He said he couldn’t estimate repair and upgrade costs at the time because work on the HMCS Victoria is ongoing.
Earlier this year the plan was to float the boat around the end of February and park it at a jetty to put it through another round of tests and evaluations, the sub’s captain, Cmdr. Christopher Ellis, told the News in January.
At the time, he said he hoped to take HMCS Victoria out to the Strait of Juan de Fuca in early July, the beginning of a six-month round of additional tests and trials. The goal was to have the sub become fully operational, possibly in December, Ellis said.
Once the vessel receives full clearance, it will become the first fully operational weapons-capable Victoria-class submarine on the West Coast.
The navy’s objective is to one day have three functioning submarines operating at the same time, with a fourth undergoing maintenance at Victoria Shipyards, said Earl.
“Every six to eight years any marine system you put in a marine environment has to be fixed or maintained,” he explained. “Our sub program is no different from any other submarine program in the world.”