Further to this post,
two very senior Canadian officers just drew attention to the NORAD issue at the CDA Institute’s Annual Ottawa Conference on Security and Defence. What will Justin Trudeau’s government do? The generals must feel fairly frustrated to go so public:
The head of the Canadian military called out Russia and China on Wednesday [Feb. 4] for their “antagonistic actions” even as he revealed that work has begun on identifying the scope and price of upgrading North America’s defences, including the North American Aerospace Defence Command [text of his speech here].
Chief of the defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance would not provide a timeline or other details on upgrading Norad, but said they have to happen “relatively quickly” as the threat posed by Russia, China and others continues to grow.
Russia and China figured prominently during the first of an annual two-day defence conference organized by the Conference of Defence Associations Institute, in which numerous Canadian and allied military officers spoke before Vance provided the keynote speech.
…traditional military threats from Russia and others continue to not only exist but evolve, such as the development of new long-range, non-nuclear missiles that are difficult to detect [new cruise missiles, see the quote from the NORAD commander at the end of this post, and also hypersonics, see second “Comment”]. Hence the need to upgrade Norad.
The Norad system was originally built in the 1950s to spot Soviet nuclear missiles. The system was last upgraded in the 1980s, and officials have warned it cannot detect the new, long-range Russian weapons.
The Liberal government’s 2017 defence policy included plans to modernize Norad to defend against the threats of today and tomorrow [see after this quote], but talks with the U.S. have so far been minimal and no money has been set aside for what is expected to be a multibillion-dollar project…
Hours before Vance took to the stage, the Canadian deputy commander of Norad joined a growing chorus calling for the modernization of North American defensive systems even as he described Russia as the “greatest short-term threat” to the continent.
Lt.-Gen. Christopher Coates said a military attack by Russia is not likely in the immediate future, but it has been racing to develop a variety of non-nuclear weapons and find gaps in North America’s ability to defend against cyber, information and economic attacks.
Coates suggested Canada and the U.S. “kept our eye off the ball for a while” by not taking the threat posed by Russia seriously. The implication is that North America is now playing catch up.
While it will ultimately be up to the government to decide what Norad looks like in the future — and how much it will cost to get there — Coates said an update is required and that will cost money and effort [emphasis added].
“I think all Canadians should recognize the importance that that partnership brings to our defence and security and that we need to put a value on it,” he said.
“Of course, it’s not a blank cheque … But there’s something that’s required. There’s some level of modernization that I think would be necessary to ensure Norad does remain relevant, that we cause Russia and others, perhaps, to view North America as not a soft target.”
This is what the government’s 2017 policy paper, “Strong, Secure, Engaged” says about NORAD’s North Warning System (pp. 79-80 PDF):
Canada’s contributions to regional Arctic security form a core part of the Canada-United States defence relationship. Nowhere is this more apparent than in joint efforts to renew the North Warning System (NWS) and modernize elements of NORAD. As the security dynamics in the Arctic evolve, Canada and the United States will continue to work side by side to secure our shared northern air and maritime approaches…
109. Collaborate with the United States on the devel-opment of new technologies to improve Arctic surveillance and control, including the renewal of the North Warning System…
So when will serious negotiations with the US start? How much will the government be willing to commit? Consider this:
Federal government hasn’t budgeted for NWS modernization, professor says
In a scathing article published on Jan. 14, James Fergusson, a defence expert, says the federal government is dodging the need to replace the aging North Warning System, which is near the end of its lifespan.
“A failure on Canada’s part to move forward relatively quickly could prove disastrous,” said Fergusson, the deputy director of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at the University of Manitoba [see here].
He made his remarks in a commentary published by the Ottawa-based Macdonald-Laurier Institute, a think tank [text here]…
Fergusson said replacing the NWS is likely to cost roughly $11 billion, based on an unofficial estimate he’s seen.
That means, based on the current formula, that Canada’s share of the bill could amount to about $4.4 billion.
But at the same time, it appears as if the Department of National Defence has not provided for the replacement of the NWS in its spending plans for the future.
A DND document called the Defence Investment Plan lists projects like the Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships project and the troubled plan to replace Canada’s fleet of F-18 fighter jets.
But it contains no reference to the North Warning System.
“The government has apparently not budgeted for NWS modernization in either its 20-year Defence Investment Plan released in 2018 or the 2019 Update of the Defence Investment Plan,” Fergusson wrote.
“Yet NWS modernization is arguably the most immediate and pressing defence requirement for North American defence, and its final costs are likely to blow a hole in the investment plan.”..
Hmm. What must the US government think about our seriousness? Consider what the US Air Force general commanding NORAD recently said to the Senate Armed Services Committee:
The head of the North American Aerospace Defence Command underscored the need to modernize the aging early-warning system Thursday [Feb. 13], while cautioning that the United States and Canada have lost their long-standing military advantage in the Arctic to Russia [text of his testimony here].
…U.S. Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy said Russia has been steadily expanding its military presence in the North by upgrading its long-range bombers and developing new warships capable of carrying cruise missiles.
Those weapons as well as new land-based cruise missile launchers inside Russian territory pose a new and direct threat to North America because of their range and ability to operate in the Arctic [emphasis added], the Norad commander said, representing a significant change from previous decades.
“The Arctic is no longer a fortress wall and our oceans are no longer protective moats, they are now avenues of approach for advanced conventional weapons and the platforms that carry them,” O’Shaughnessy said…
It certainly seems our generals our singing from the same hymn book. Our government?
UPDATE: See first comment on what the government may actually be up to.