The Royal Canadian Navy‘s Halifax-class frigate HMCS Montréal has been selected for the X-Ship programme, which aims to advance novel naval concepts in the fields of warship deployment, crewing and sustainment.

Under the five year programme, the X-Ship will be utilised to conduct experiments which will focus on human factors such as crew size variations and the effect on crew rest and performance, as well as other operational trials.

The course of the programme will also encompass operational and technical type trials, including structural health monitoring, environmental effects on the ship, and information systems trials.

“Providing a platform to advance innovative efforts is a tremendous win in the eyes of force developers and our operational community.”

According to New Capability Introduction Detachment in Esquimalt senior staff officer operations lieutenant-commander Lorraine Sammut, the experimental ship aims at supporting the future classes of ships such as the Canadian surface combatant and joint support ship.

Sammut said: "One of the challenges we face is forecasting the level of human effort required to conduct a certain task, given that future ships will have increased levels of automation.

"To forecast the baseline, the navy, in partnership with Defence Research and Development Canada, uses a crew modelling prediction software and inputs what we already know to be true."

According to Sammut, the gradual transition towards increased automation across a variety of systems in the naval fleet reduces the requirement of crew and calls for a decrease in the crewsize and requires recruiting specialised teams suited to specific missions.

During the programme, the crewing configuration is said to vary and will depend on the experiment.

X-Ship will be manned by the Canadian Armed Forces personnel and will board the usual Halifax-class frigates crew while not being active in the experiments.

Sammut added: "Providing a platform to advance innovative efforts is a tremendous win in the eyes of force developers and our operational community.

"Likewise, and on the heels of our successful modernisation of the Halifax Class, it allows the RCN to align itself with those successful advances made by our allied partners."

However, the X-ship will continue to fulfil its regular role which include scheduled engineering repair, docking work periods, fleet training exercises and support to the new shipborne Cyclone helicopter.

Image: A Cyclone helicopter prepares to land on the flight deck of HMCS Montréal. Photo: courtesy of Royal Canadian Navy.