The refit of Canada’s secondhand submarines is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.

However, it seems the East Coast is now only months away from having an operational submarine.

HMCS Windsor has been in refit since 2007 but Defence Minister Peter MacKay tells CTV News it completed a key dive, called a camber dive, on Nov. 7 and is now being readied for sea trials.

“The camber dive is a key milestone in the program to verify the submarine’s watertight integrity, its functionality,” explains MacKay. “All of these trials will continue through the winter.”

The dive takes place in a shallow, protected area in Halifax Harbour.

“It’s completing a series of tests now,” says MacKay. “We have had the crew training underway for some time. We hope to have it operational by next year.”

Retired Navy Cmdr. Ken Hansen says there is still a lot more work ahead before HMCS Windsor is operational.

“That could be many months yet, especially if everything goes as anticipated and they don’t run into any technical problems,” says Hansen.

However, they have run into problems with the submarine in the past, which is why it’s more than three years late getting out of refit.

Hansen emphasized the crew must be trained, tested and ready, as does the HMCS Windsor.

“You have to put all the people together to do what are called sea trials, and then work-ups, and you get the whole system working together as a team,” he says.

HMCS Windsor is scheduled to be operational in 2013, with the ability to fire torpedoes.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Rick Grant