Nova Scotia

Military to build $65M facility at Hartlen Point to test new warship systems

A $65-million facility to test new warships systems will be the only one of its kind in Canada, say military officials.

Centre will be the only one of its kind in Canada, military officials say

The view from Hartlen Point, a piece of land owned by the Canadian Department of National Defence, looking toward Eastern Passage with downtown Halifax on the horizon. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

What do you do when you want to test your new warship's systems, but the ship hasn't been built?  You install the systems on land.

The military plans to build a $64-million facility on the shores of Hartlen Point, N.S. The site is a small Halifax-area peninsula already owned by the Department of National Defence.

The new facility will be used to test the combat, navigation and communication systems for the upcoming Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) ships. 

The final design of those ships has not been confirmed, but they will be heavier and longer than the Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships that have come off the assembly line at the Irving Shipbuilding yard in Halifax. 

Location of Hartlen Point, the future site of a warship systems testing facility. (Google Maps)

Funding for the testing site has already been included as part of the multibillion-dollar federal shipbuilding procurement process.

Why not wait until the boats are built? 

The new facility will act as a type of simulator — for crew members certainly, but mainly for the ship's systems themselves.

"Due to the complexity of the CSC combat systems, these systems must be integrated and commissioned to ensure the systems function correctly before they're installed on the ships," said an emailed statement from the Department of National Defence.

A rendering of the Type 26, one of the ship designs the government is considering for the Canadian Surface Combatant project. (Department of National Defence)

"As there are no existing facilities capable of supporting this type of testing for CSC in Canada, we will deliver a new, land-based testing facility to house, test, and evaluate the combat systems of an operational ship as part of the CSC's rigorous tests and trials program," the statement continued.

Location meets many requirements, military says

Building the test facility at this spot has its benefits, military officials say.

The land is already owned by the military, the site meets security requirements and there is lots of space available for buildings and equipment.

Hartlen Point also has a unique feature. It "allows 130-degree live transmission of emitters out over the ocean, which is essential for the CSC testing requirements," said an emailed statement from the Department of National Defence.

A map modified with yellow lines to show the 130-degree range of Hartlen Point's direct access to open ocean to test emitter systems such as RADAR or communications networks. (Google Maps)

Part of the testing process will be to assess how new systems get along with the older ones on current ships. Equally important, it will assess how well the systems will work with ships belonging to Canada's allies.

Placing the testing centre close to the coast could, in theory, allow Canadian or allied ships to sail past and perform drills to check those new systems.

A sign posted alongside a walking path on Hartlen Point. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

As for environmental concerns, the government put out a general notice of its plans earlier this year, and solicited feedback from the public.

The government has published a document online seeking contractors to help design the facility. Once the blueprints are drawn up, construction could begin in 2023. 


Brett Ruskin


Brett Ruskin is a reporter and videojournalist covering everything from local breaking news to national issues. He's based in Halifax.