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OUR NAVY: IT'S NO LONGER A JOKE 

Well gals, you won't have to worry about hubby putting to sea in a cramped submarine chocked full of the opposite sex. Subs are exempt. But wait! What subs. Not those 20 year old "O" boats which have apparently begun to leak? Get serious. At the present rate of fleet replacement, our sailors _ male or female _ may soon be landlocked. The sands of time have eroded the fleet and the clock is ticking its last few tocks on at least 16 vessels of our ancient combatant navy. 

The 6 St. Laurent-class, 4 Restigouche-class, 4 Mackenzie-class and the 2 Annapolis-class vessels are all either at or approaching the three-century mark and there is little hope of relief. Isn't it startling to learn that the foremost question on the minds of some Canadians is whether a mixed compliment of males and females should crew these unreliable old steam driven tubs? How are you at the oars m'am? For a maritime nation such as Canada, the current state of our naval fleet is nothing short of embarrassing. Its bad enough to hear the laughter of foreign friends as they study the enervated prow of one of our rusting old destroyers but you should hear the guffaws when they learn that we shall crew them with our wives and daughters. That's all well and good for a modern high-technology navy. Women should fit well. But we are talking about rusted old crates that should be either carved up or sunk not sent back to sea with new stores of nail polish and panty hose. Where did that copy of the White Paper go? 

This navy is heading for big trouble. The City-class is late, the Tribal-class update is behind schedule and a plan to acquire a small batch of submarines has fallen prey to a few media types and the peaceniks, none of whom can pronounce nuclear (nuke-you-lar?) correctly. Maritime Command blames the government, the government blames the opposition, the opposition hides its own atrocious plans and the people scratch their heads. Did they say $8 billion dollars? Was that this year or next? Why? Our good buddy Mr. First Secretary Gorbachev has doffed his "Evil-Empire" black robe and donned a cheap white suit spun from the stuff that Public Relations agencies just love to froth about in their marketing proposals and has convinced the peoples of the western world that he is a sweet lovable guy whose colossal military modernization plan is all part of detente. Meanwhile CSIS just nailed another of his spies on the East Coast of Canada and the U.S. is still reeling from the deleterious effects of the Walker spy ring. Soviet industry continues to crank out silent killers _ both SSK's and SSN's _ at the humble rate of 7-10 per year. And their insidious transfer of tactical submersibles into strategic monsters using ominous new sub-launched cruise missiles has gone virtually unnoticed. 

There are at least 3 Yankee-class Soviet subs off our coast today. Do you know which one carries the new SS-N-25 which is capable of turning Montreal into a wasteland? Soviet military planners are likely roaring with laughter every time the Strategic Arms Limitation Agreement is mentioned. We have a real problem in Canada and our NATO pals have the right to worry about us. Even our industrialists are lost for an answer. Last week the maritime sailors convention in Montreal was attended by nearly 800 woeful, belly-aching shipbuilders and associates who couldn't find two good words for the state of the nation from their perspective. 

That approach sells nothing. And now ex-UN Ambassador Stephen Lewis has joined the peaceniks for a jab at CASAP. Even the media was bored. Well Mr. McKnight, perhaps you should now explain to Canadians that a nuclear power plant is no more than a hot thing that boils water to make steam to drive a generator; that the word is pronounced nuke-lee-are; and that we are heading into the real cost-analysis phase _ the project definition phase _ for the first vessel acquisition which could be the lead-off to a batch of twelve over a couple of decades. Whether it's one, five or twelve, the subs will be late like everything else. But better late than never. Let's just get the show on the road and wake Canadians up to the fact that the state of their navy is no longer a joke. Micheal J. O'Brien