Irving Shipbuilding Inc. has cut the first steel for the future HMCS Robert Hampton Gray to officially launch production of Canada’s sixth and final Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS) for the Royal Canadian Navy built under the National Strategy of shipbuilding.
Construction of Canada’s future combat fleet begins at Irving Shipbuilding’s Marine Fabricators plant in Dartmouth, where 32 people are involved in computerized plasma cutting and delivering 4,000 tonnes of steel each year in support of the AOPS program. The resulting 70,000 parts are manufactured in strategic order to meet the production schedule at Irving Shipbuilding’s Halifax shipyard, North America’s most modern and largest inland shipbuilding facility.
The steel weighs 3,734 kilograms (3.7 tonnes) and will be used in a combination of locations on the ship, including the initial pieces that will begin keel development. When completed, the future HMCS Robert Hampton Gray will be 103.6 meters long, 19 meters wide, displace 6,615 tons and consist of 440,000 parts. Each AOPS ship has more than 300 km of cables and more than 36 km of pipes.
To date, two AOPS have been delivered to the Royal Canadian Navy – HMCS Harry DeWolf and HMCS Margaret Brooke. The future HMCS Max Bernays (AOPS 3) is due for delivery next month. The future HMCS William Hall (AOPS 4) recently moved all mega blocks to land level and is undergoing final assembly for launch later this year. The future HMCS Frédérick Rolette (AOPS 5) officially laid the keel in June this year and construction of the bow, midship and stern Mega Blocks is underway.
The Halifax Shipyard will also build two AOPS variants for the Canadian Coast Guard, followed by 15 Canadian surface combatants for the Navy due to begin construction in 2024.
The sixth Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) Offshore and Arctic Patrol Ship (AOPS) is named in honor of Lieutenant (Lt) Robert Hampton Gray, a Canadian naval hero of the Second World War.
Lt Gray joined the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve in 1940 and served as a pilot in the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm. He embarked on Her Majesty’s Ship (HMS) Formidable with 1841 Squadron, joining the war in the Pacific as part of Operation Iceberg, the invasion of Okinawa, Japan in April 1945.
Lt Gray was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously for his courage and determination in carrying out daring air strikes against the Japanese destroyer His Imperial Japanese Majesty’s Ship (HIJMS) Amakusa.
On August 9, 1945, he led two flights of Corsair aircraft to attack warships in Onagawa Bay, Japan. He opened the attack run flying straight into concentrated anti-aircraft fire and was hit almost immediately.
With his plane on fire and a stray bomb, he continued the attack and dropped his remaining bomb on the escort ship HIJMS Amakusa, causing the ship to capsize and sink. His plane then crashed into the sea and his body was never found.
Lt Gray was known to his military colleagues as a brave leader with a brilliant flying spirit, who continued to inspire and motivate his crew after his unfortunate passing.
Lt Gray is the only RCN member to be awarded the Canadian Naval Victoria Cross in World War II.
Over the years, Lt Gray’s courage, service and sacrifice continue to be recognized in many ways. In 1946, the Geographical Survey of Canada named Gray’s Peak, a mountain in British Columbia’s Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park, after Lieutenant Gray and his brother John, who were also killed in the war.
In 1989, a memorial was erected to him at Onagawa Bay, the only memorial dedicated to a Foreign Service member on Japanese soil.
Andy Fillmore, MP for Halifax and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.
“The National Shipbuilding Strategy is creating jobs and economic activity across Canada, including locally in Halifax, where the number of businesses and workers benefiting from this program has increased significantly since 2015. As the sixth ship arctic and offshore patrol vessel to be added to the Navy’s Royal Canadian Fleet as part of the Strategy, cutting the first steel for the future HMCS Robert Hampton Gray is an important step in our work to equip our Navy with the ships it needs to protect Canadian interests.
Vice-Admiral Angus Topshee, Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy
“Today marks a momentous event in the life of a ship. We have reached a very important milestone with the start of production of Canada’s sixth and final offshore and Arctic patrol vessel, the future HMCS Robert Hampton Gray. Robert “Hammy” Gray was the recipient of Canada’s only Naval Victoria Cross in World War II, and his courage and determination will live on in the steel used to forge the latest and final addition to the Harry DeWolf class. arctic and offshore are an essential platform for our navy, they will ensure that we can patrol, secure and protect arctic waters for decades to come.
Ross Langley, Vice President – Irving Shipbuilding
“Today marks a historic milestone in the Arctic and Offshore Patrol Vessel (APEO) program as we cut steel on the sixth and final ship of class for the Royal Canadian Navy. I am proud of our 2,100 shipbuilders, who are committed to continuous improvement and to providing quality ships to those who bravely serve. Our membership has grown 65% since 2012. To date, we have recorded over $4.75 billion in spending commitments to over 325 organizations across Canada.
As we begin this final AOPS for the Navy, we are achieving a 50% reduction in the number of production hours required to build each ship. Today’s steel cutting takes place at our Marine Fabricators factory in Dartmouth. It gives me great pleasure to share that our workers at this facility have operated for 7 consecutive years without a lost time safety incident.
We look forward to delivering this sixth AOPS vessel to Canada in December 2025.”
Source: Irving Shipbuilding