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Canada's rusty warship

The Royal Canadian Navy has lost the use of another one of its air defence destroyers after rust was found in the hull, leaving the fleet further diminished as more than a dozen other vessels undergo regular maintenance, modernization and repairs.

HMCS Iroquois was tied up in Halifax sometime in mid-April after corrosion was detected in a machinery space in the warship that has also been plagued by structural cracks.

Cmdr. Jay Harwood says the vessel is undergoing an assessment to determine if it needs repairs, what that might cost and whether fixing the 42-year-old ship might prove too expensive before it is due to be decommissioned in the next few years.

"We recognize the need to assess what we're seeing here and make a well-founded engineering judgment," Harwood, who oversees the fleet's engineering state, said Wednesday in an interview.

"There were some areas of concern identified with respect to her structure and right now we're just assessing the overall state of her structure to confirm that she's safe to continue operations at sea."

Harwood would not specify where the corrosion was found or reveal how extensive it is, saying only that it is in the interior and that a navy dive team had inspected the vessel's underside to make sure it hadn't permeated the hull.

This latest setback removes a vital asset from the fleet and reduces certain critical capabilities, says defence analyst Martin Shadwick.

The destroyers serve as command and control vessels, but are also the only naval ships that have long-range air defence missile systems, he said.

With HMCS Iroquois indefinitely out of commission and its sister ship, HMCS Algonquin, undergoing repairs from an accident in February, the navy has only one destroyer at the ready.

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