Halifax-class Modernization/ Frigate Life Extension (HCM/FELEX)


November 29, 2016 – Halifax, N.S. – Department of National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces

The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) is in the midst of its most intensive and comprehensive period of fleet renewal in its peacetime history, touching upon all elements of the fleet.

The 12 Halifax-class frigates, commissioned between 1992 and 1996, form the backbone of the RCN. The ships were originally designed for anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare, primarily in the open ocean.

The role of the Halifax-class frigate has changed. Current and evolving maritime threats are faster, stealthier, more maneuverable, and shifting from the open ocean to the littoral (near-shore) environment. The littoral environment poses challenges to sensors and weapons systems because of higher traffic density and proximity to shore-based threats. In addition, ships now face threats such as attacks from smaller, more maneuverable vessels that were not foreseen at the time of the ships’ design.

Innovations in procedures and tactics have enabled the frigates to operate effectively in the new threat environment, despite equipment limitations.

However, sensor and weapons enhancements are needed to increase the ships’ ability to deal with these new threats into the future.

The Halifax-class Modernization/Frigate Life Extension (HCM/FELEX) project includes both the modernization of the combat systems and a planned mid-life ship refit to ensure the frigates remain effective throughout their service life. This work has encompassed the modernization of the ships’ platform, including:

  • Systems upgrades;
  • Installation of new capabilities, such as enhanced radar, new electronic warfare system, upgraded communications; and
  • Missiles integrated into a new Combat Management System.

The modernization of Halifax-class frigates, along with Kingston-class Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels and Victoria-class submarines, will serve as a bridge to the future fleet. This current fleet will allow the RCN to continue to deliver on its core mission as directed by the Government of Canada until the arrival of the new Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) beginning with the delivery of the first ship in the mid-2020s.

Industrial cooperation and global export opportunities

The HCM/FELEX project is part of the Halifax-class Modernization (HCM) program. The HCM program includes more than 30 companies that worked closely with the Government of Canada to deliver a first-class capability, on time and on budget. This program has been a highly complex and collaborative effort between the Department of National Defence (DND), the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), and Canadian shipbuilding industry partners, and is delivering robust economic benefits to Canada.

Multiple competitive processes were put in place to select various contractors through open, fair, and transparent procurement processes for the complex work involved. In March, 2008, Irving Shipbuilding Inc.’s Halifax Shipyards on the East coast and Seapsan’s Victoria Shipyards on the West coast were selected to conduct the refit work on the fleet. In November, 2008, Lockheed Martin Canada was selected and awarded a contract for the Combat System Integration work. 

The modernized frigates will serve the RCN for years to come. The overall management and success of the program has proven to be a partnership model for future shipbuilding projects that has been recognized internationally. For example, DND assisted the New Zealand Ministry of Defence with their decision to upgrade the combat systems on their ANZAC-class ships.

DND provided valuable information to New Zealand on the Combat Management System installed as part the HCM/FELEX program and shared our modernization experiences to date. This global export opportunity is the result of the close collaboration between DND and industry.

Project breakdown

The Halifax-class Modernization/Frigate Life Extension project and other separately-funded projects within the overarching Halifax-class modernization (HCM) program bring enhanced capabilities to the ships, which are required to meet new threats and changing operating environments.

These include:

Halifax-class Modernization/Frigate Life Extension

  • A new Combat Management System;
  • New radar suite;
  • An Identification System. IFF Mode S/5 –Identification Friend or Foe Mode S/5;
  • Internal communications system upgrade;
  • Harpoon Missile system upgrade (surface-to-surface); and
  • New Electronic Warfare system.

Other HCM program projects

  • Long-range infrared search and track system (SIRIUS);
  • Modification to the BOFORS 57mm Naval Gun;
  • Evolved Seasparrow Missile;
  • New Missile Decoy Countermeasures System;
  • New Integrated Platform Management System; and
  • New Navigation Radars

HCM Program Cost Breakdown

Work Activity Company Approx. cost

Combat System Integration/In-Service Support

Lockheed Martin Canada

$2 billion

Mid-life refit/Shipyards

Irving Shipbuilding Inc.’s Halifax Shipyard /Seaspan’s Victoria Shipyards

$1.2 billion

Other Standalone Projects/Maintenance and Sustainment

Various contractors

$1.1 billion


$4.3 billion

Project milestones and operational achievements

Planning, preparation, and coordination of the HCM/FELEX project began in 2002. The first modernization refit began in September 2010, and the RCN began sending the modernized frigates on operational deployments in late 2014.

In 2015, two of the Navy’s modernized frigates (HMCS Fredericton and HMCS Winnipeg) were deployed on Operation REASSURANCE, Canada’s contribution to NATO-led assurance measures that promote security and stability in Central and Eastern Europe. Five modernized frigates also participated in successful exercises:

  • HMCS Winnipeg participatedin joint NATO training exercises that included Exercise NORTHERN COAST 2015 (September 14-25) and Exercise JOINT WARRIOR 2015 (October 3-15);
  • HMCS Winnipeg and HMCS Halifax participated on Exercise TRIDENT JUNCTURE 15 (October 21-November 6);
  • HMCS Montréal participated in a multinational exercise known as “At Sea Demonstration” 2015 (October-November) led by the Maritime Theater Missile Defence Forum; and
  • HMCS Vancouver, HMCS Calgary, HMCS Saskatoon, and HMCS Yellowknife participated in the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise, Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2016.

The HCM/FELEX project is delivering on schedule and under budget. Following acceptance of HMCS Toronto, sea trials are expected to be completed by January 2018 at which time the ship will be deployable and able to participate in exercises and operations.

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Email: mlo-blm@forces.gc.ca

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