The navy is docking half of its Kingston-class patrol vessels and reducing the capabilities of the other six ships because of a budget shortfall and a lack of sailors.

Three Kingston-class ships based in Halifax will be put in long-term storage, but there’s no word yet on which ones. Another three will be mothballed in Esquimalt, B.C. Several of the navy’s workhorses, the Halifax-class frigates, will be scaled back according to a letter written by Vice-Admiral Dean McFadden and leaked to Canwest News Service.

A navy spokesperson did not respond to requests from Metro for an interview Thursday.

Frigates HMCS St. John’s and HMCS Montreal, both based in Halifax, will be limited on their domestic and continental missions.

Combat systems on HMCS Toronto and the destroyer HMCS Athabaskan will be “minimally supported” for sensors and communications only. Two frigates based in Esquimalt will also be scaled back.

Halving the Kingston fleet is making a poor situation even worse, according to a Halifax military analyst.

“I think the navy was having problems anyway in finding crews to staff the Kingston-class coastal patrol vessels, which were hideous choices anyway,” said Dan Middlemiss, a Dalhousie University political science professor.

“Any fishing vessel could outrun them, but at least they could provide some surveillance and they were good for training.”

He is one of many who believe the Afghanistan mission is draining funds from other resources. And after the Afghanistan mission winds down next year, Middlemiss expects the army will be “sitting down” for a while and letting the navy fill in.

“Even for the high-end missions, they won’t be as capable so it’s a gamble.”

Reducing the capability of six of the 12 Halifax-class frigates, considered the primary weapon systems in the navy, will make it even more difficult. The frigates are also scheduled for refits, which will take them out of action for months at a time.

‘An embarrassment’
Peter Stoffer, MP for Sackville-Eastern Shore is calling the downsizing “an embarrassment.”

“It’s a kick in the teeth to the men and women in our navy,” Stoffer said in an interview from Ottawa Thursday.

“They’re not only going to affect the economy of our city as well as Esquimalt, but our security as well.

“We’ll have limited capability to participate in national and international operations.”

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