Nova Scotia

HMCS Windsor submarine back in Halifax after battery malfunction

HMCS Windsor, the East Coast's only submarine, is docked in Halifax Harbour for month-long repairs and maintenance after a battery cell overheated at sea, Maritime Forces Atlantic says.

Crew saw 'a little bit of smoke,' but found no evidence of fire, Maritime Forces Atlantic says

Submarine HMCS Windsor had an issue with its stern battery when heading toward Halifax. (Submitted by Maritime Forces Atlantic)

HMCS Windsor, the East Coast's only submarine, is docked in Halifax Harbour for month-long repairs and maintenance after a battery cell overheated at sea, Maritime Forces Atlantic says.

The submarine, which arrived Thursday afternoon, was delayed returning to its home base by several weeks. 

On Feb. 15, the submarine was off the coast of the U.S. eastern seaboard when its crew noticed "a little bit of smoke," Maritime Forces Atlantic spokesperson Lt. Len Hickey said Friday.

A battery cell had overheated and affected neighbouring cells in the stern, he said. The issue was isolated, and the crew found no "evidence of fire."

"Being a machine, these are things...not expected, but you have to be prepared to react," Hickey said.

"Even when you have a preventative maintenance schedule and plan, you can't necessarily predict these things."

Rear Admiral John Newton greeted submariners when HMCS Windsor returned from a 101 day NATO mission in December. (Paul Emile d'Entremont/Radio Canada)

Docked more than a week

To propel the vessel, the submarine has a battery in the front and the stern, each with more than 100 individual cells.

The submarine, crewed by 60 sailors, had been on its way back to Halifax after an exercise with NATO allies and the U.S. Navy. 

The battery cell issue prompted Rear Admiral John Newton to order the vessel be rerouted to a military base at Norfolk, Va., to further investigate the problem, Hickey said. 

It was docked there more than a week.

Submarine HMCS Windsor was returning from a deployment with NATO allies when a battery cell malfunctioned. (Submitted by Maritime Forces Atlantic)

Arrived on its own power

A team of Halifax engineers and other fleet maintenance experts flew to Virginia to investigate, and found overheating was the issue, Hickey said. The military previously said the battery leaked some discharge and called it a "minor mechanical incident at sea."

Hickey couldn't say what the team did, except that the submarine was safe enough to make it back to Halifax under its own power. 

The submarine's arrival Thursday afternoon was announced a day later on Twitter.

HMCS Windsor, the only submarine on the East Coast, has a history of mechanical problems. (Molly Segal/CBC)

Docked at least a month

For at least the next month, the submarine will be docked for scheduled maintenance, repairs and further investigation into the battery cells, Hickey said. 

The submarine's batteries typically last between five and six-and-a-half years. The ones on the Windsor are five years old, and were scheduled to be replaced this fall. That timeline may be moved up, depending on what the investigating team decides, Hickey said. 

Hickey could not say how much the battery issue has or will cost.

HMCS Windsor has had problems before, with the federal government spending more than $226 million to repair, refit and maintain the submarine in recent years.

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