[Gallery] HMCS Regina back in service after $70-million refit

HMCS Regina’s one-year, $70-million refit officially ended Friday when its crew filed back aboard the frigate during a ceremony at Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan was at the base to mark the milestone for Regina, the last of five West Coast frigates to be modernized and upgraded as part of a $4.3-billion federal program. The 12 Halifax-class frigates involved in the modernization effort are “the backbone of our naval fleet,” Sajjan said.

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Work on the last vessel, HMCS Toronto, is due for completion this summer.

“These multiple-purposes workhorses have served Canada on so many important naval missions throughout the years,” Sajjan said. “But as with all equipment, there’s a need to upgrade one’s tools when the task at hand becomes more challenging.

“The global-security environment today is more challenging and more complex than it was when we first built these frigates.”

All were commissioned between 1992 and 1996 and designed for use primarily in the open ocean.

Sajjan said maritime threats have since become more difficult to detect.

“Our enemies can move from the open ocean to the shores and beaches faster than ever before,” he said.

The modernized frigates can now meet threats from more manoeuvrable vessels, and boast better radar systems and missile technology.

“Once sea trials and crew training are complete, Regina will join the rest of our modernized fleet to deploy in operations and exercises around the world,” Sajjan said.

The success of the refit program has attracted interest from other countries, including New Zealand, he said, with that country’s Defence Ministry hiring Canadian companies for a systems upgrade on a pair of ships.

Rear Admiral Gilles Couturier, commander of Maritime Forces Pacific, said he is happy that Regina has returned to duty.

“I am very proud here to welcome back Regina to the nest,” he said. “That will allow the Royal Canadian Navy to continue to deliver on its core missions.”

The five West Coast-based ships have been worked on at Seaspan’s Victoria Shipyards since 2008, creating jobs for more than 450 people.

Seaspan chief executive Jonathan Whitworth praised the work of the employees and their successful completion of the task on time and on budget.

“They did this working shoulder to shoulder with our partners at Lockheed Martin Canada, as well as those in the Royal Canadian Navy,” Whitworth said.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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