What Worries the NORTHCOM/NORAD COMMANDER? What Worries PM Trudeau’s Government about Continental Defence? Note UPDATE

Trick question. That government doesn’t give a flying beaver’s fart. In any event it’s not just about air defence in (mostly) the Arctic anymore, Americans and Canadians.

Further to this post,

Here’s Looking at NORAD/NORTHCOM’s Way Ahead, or, Deterrence and Punishment

if Russian-launched air cruise missiles (ALCMs) targeted against North American can be launched from beyond NORAD radar coverage, and beyond the defensive cover of USAF and RCAF fighters, how useful will be NORAD’s fighter forces? If they can’t get the archers can they then destroy their arrows en route? Seems, er, problematic in terms of numbers of ALCMS coming. Target point defence, both with more fighters and SAMs one answer? Also vs sea-launched cruise missiles (SLCMs). US could try, Canada most unlikely.

Now from a story at Defense News:

NORTHCOM needs better sensors to protect against Russian submarine, missile threat [note NORAD not in the headline]

By Megan Eckstein

The upcoming budget request could include investments in maritime domain awareness close to home, with improved sensors to detect Russian naval threats to the homeland.

Commander of U.S. Northern Command Gen. Glen VanHerck told the House Armed Services Committee the technologies the U.S. needs to bolster its homeland defense against Russian submarines and missiles are currently available and in use by other countries around the world — meaning the Defense Department could move out quickly on buying and fielding them…

“The AS-23a air-launched cruise missile, for instance, features an extended range that enables Russian bombers flying well outside NORAD radar coverage — and in some cases from inside Russian airspace — to threaten targets throughout North America [emphasis added]. This capability challenges my ability to detect an attack and mount an effective defense. In the maritime domain, Russia has fielded the first two of their nine planned Severodvinsk-class guided missile submarines, which are designed to deploy undetected within cruise missile range of our coastlines to threaten critical infrastructure during an escalating crisis. This challenge will be compounded in the next few years as the Russian Navy adds the Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile to the Severodvinsk’s arsenal,” his written testimony continues.

During the hearing, Rep. Joe Courtney, the Democrat from Connecticut who chairs HASC’s seapower and projection forces committee, asked about two solutions VanHerck mentioned in the written testimony: an Integrated Undersea Surveillance System and an Over-the-Horizon Radar system…

VanHerck said modernizing and expanding the Integrated Undersea Surveillance System would be a collaboration between the U.S. Navy and partners such as Canada to “track and maintain awareness of submarine positions around the globe. [It’s] a very challenging environment in the central Atlantic, when they get on the mid-Atlantic ridge, to be able to track them — so to be able to hold them accountable, if you will, before they become a threat is important.”..

“I need improved domain awareness to increase warning time and provide leaders at all levels with as many options as possible to deter or defend against an attack. Global all-domain awareness will generate a significant deterrent effect by making it clear that we can see potential aggressors wherever they are, which inherently casts doubt on their ability to achieve their objectives,” he wrote…

On the Over-the-Horizon Radar system, VanHerck said this system would look out about 4,000 miles in the maritime, air and space domains. Traditional radar systems are limited by the curvature of Earth, and this new system would give significantly better early warning capability compared to existing systems.

“OTHR is a proven technology that will provide persistent surveillance of the distant northern approaches to the United States and mitigate the limitations of the Cold War-era North Warning System, while contributing to broader domain awareness challenges including space domain awareness. The ability to detect air-breathing and spaceborne threats in the approaches to Canada and the United States will be significantly enhanced by fielding OTHR as soon as possible,” he wrote in his testimony.

VanHerck said the radar is “something we can move out on relatively quickly, as well as undersea surveillance,” given that the technology already exists and is in use by other nations…

Russia has the capability today to hold targets in the United States and Canada at risk with long-range air- and submarine-launched conventional cruise missiles. These highly precise and stealthy systems highlight the need for policy determinations regarding what must be defended along with continued demonstrations of resiliency and hardening [emphasis added, that point defence],” he wrote.

In addition to fielding the sensor systems and sharing the collected data globally, to “successfully deter aggression and defend the homeland, we must be able to detect and track the submarines, aircraft, and surface ships that carry weapons systems capable of striking the homeland before they depart from their home stations. We also need to improve our capability to defeat those launch platforms before they are within range of their targets.”

Meanwhile PM Trudeau’s government does not want to face paying serious loonies (those are Canadian dollars) to modernize the increasingly obsolescent radar North Warning System–and the US is getting publicly bothered, see this post last December: “NORAD Commander puts Hypersonic and North Warning System Cats amongst Trudeau Government’s Pigeons“. In any event I have no confidence that his ministers and most of our senior public servants have any real grasp of the matters now involved with the defence of this continent and the Revolution in NORAD Affairs taking place in the US.

It’s not all about how much money a Canadian government is willing to spend on the North Warning System/NORAD; it’s about what strategy for NORAD/NORTHCOM the US will decide upon and whether Canada agrees (willingly?) to be a full participant therein.

Very relevant posts:

US NORTHCOM Thinking pre-emptively vs Russian Cruise Missiles, Leaving NORAD a Backwater?

NORAD Chief Wants Defence (of what sort?) “Left of Launch” Focus, Russian Cruise Missiles (air- and sub-launched) Big Threat

“Left of launch” means acting (in one fashion or another, kinetic or otherwise (e.g. cyber), preemptively before an actual attack starts. What does our government think of NORAD’s being involved/associated with such an approach? Again, have they even thought much? At all? PM Trudeau’s government should be asked to clarify its views on the way ahead for continental defence and not answer just with vapid, blah blah talking points.

Surely real attention must be paid at last now in light of Bad Vlad Putin’s nuclear noises relating to his brutal war on Ukraine?

UPDATE: Let’s see how much funding, how far the government is willing to go beyond North Warning System upgrading toward other aspects of continental defence that US is planning. And ballistic missile defense? Defense vs sub-launched cruise missiles (with real public emphasis on RCN’s ASW role?). Defence vs cruise missiles that get past the High North?

I’d love to be pleasantly surprised and so I’m sure would be Pentagon and Biden administration (see this post: “NORAD Commander puts Hypersonic and North Warning System Cats amongst Trudeau Government’s Pigeons“):

Canada to unveil ‘robust package’ to modernize NORAD continental defence, Defence Minister Anita Anand says

Steven Chase Senior parliamentary reporter

Robert Fife Ottawa Bureau Chief

Defence Minister Anita Anand says the Canadian government will soon unveil a significant spending plan to help modernize continental defences under NORAD, a revamp the United States has been seeking for years.

“Make no mistake: Canada will be at the table in the short term with a robust package to modernize NORAD – a system that has kept Canadians and Americans safe for over sixty years,” Ms. Anand told an Ottawa defence conference.

Her commitment at the Ottawa Conference on Security and Defence [organized by Conference of Defence Associations and CDA Institute] Friday [March 11] comes just days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government would consider boosting defence spending in the wake of Russia’s military assault on Ukraine.

*Opinion: Canada may finally have the political will to strengthen our depleted defence capacity

A major component of upgrading North American Aerospace Defence Command is replacing the aging North Warning System, a chain of radar sites that provide surveillance against aerial incursions, which is expected to cost more than $10-billion.

Ms. Anand declined to clarify whether this would include Canada joining the U.S. ballistic missile defence system [emphasis added] when asked by an audience member.

In 2005 former prime minister Paul Martin’s Liberal government rejected joining American missile defence.

“I cannot give away the plans to modernize NORAD in their intricacies at this time but I will assure you we are fully cognizant of the various threats that our current system allows to be present and we are working very hard on bringing forward a robust package of new technologies in the short term,” the minister told the conference.

James Fergusson, deputy director of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at the University of Manitoba, wrote in a January 2020 paper [see here] for the Macdonald-Laurier Institute think tank that the modernization price tag could be as much as $11-billion according one unofficial estimate. If the cost were split 60/40 with Canada taking the smaller share, that would mean as much as $4.4-billion for Canada [emphasis added].

Last August, on the eve of the 2021 federal election campaign, the Canadian and U.S. governments announced they intend to proceed with “co-ordinated investments” that bolster their ability to protect North America from “a greater and more complex conventional missile threat” including gear that watches for incoming threats from “the sea floor to outer space.”The risk that Canada and the U.S. have in mind is missile technology advancements in Russia and China that can send non-nuclear warheads far greater distances with far more accuracy. These include hypersonic missiles, which travel extremely fast and can dodge and weave during flight to avoid interception, as well as next-generation cruise missiles. This evolution in conventional missiles has made them an increasingly important tool to deter threats or project power without resorting to nuclear weapons.

An August 2021 statement, titled “Joint Statement on NORAD modernization,” set out priorities for the future of North American Aerospace Defense Command, the heart of the Canada-U.S. continental defence pact, saying the two countries must be able to “detect, identify [airborne] threats earlier and respond to them faster and more decisively.”

The statement said the North Warning System will be replaced with technology including “next-generation over-the-horizon radar systems,” which have the ability to detect targets at very long ranges. It also mentions building a network of American and Canadian sensors installed everywhere from the seabed to satellites in space…

Post on that statement:

Canada/US Statement on Way Forward for NORAD–Very Little There There

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

6 thoughts on “What Worries the NORTHCOM/NORAD COMMANDER? What Worries PM Trudeau’s Government about Continental Defence? Note UPDATE”

  1. And keep this in mind right now:

    June 2020 post on “escalate to de-escalate” doctrine:

    “Public Russian Nuclear Weapons Use Doctrine–Willing to go First if Necessary”

    Public Russian Nuclear Weapons Use Doctrine–Willing to go First if Necessary

    Mark Collins


  2. Can’t even spend what planned to:

    ‘…Trudeau government failed to meet its planned capital expenditures on the military every year since it announced them in 2017.

    The government has been backloading these expenditures (called “lapsed” spending) to the final years of its funding pledge ending in 2036-37 — meaning at least four elections from now.

    Giroux [independent, non-partisan, Parliamentary Budget Officer–sort of mini-Congressional Budget Office] warned this “increased spending in later years is subject to greater discounting from inflation and further compounded by expected increases in defence procurement inflation.”

    Because the Trudeau government has backloaded so many of its military capital projects to the latter years of his 2017 funding pledge — in 2027-28 annual spending will be $16.3 billion or 30% higher than originally budgeted — some may never see the light of day, or require more money to complete.’

    Mark Collins


  3. Speaking with NORTHCOM hat on, not NORAD one:

    Infrastructure is one area where VanHerck sees a need for investment, so the U.S. can continue to be a persistent presence in the region [Alaska].

    “We do need a presence, and fuel north of Dutch Harbor would do that, as would infrastructure and communications capabilities,” VanHerck said. “I look forward to working with the Canadians on their part of this. They need to be part of it as well, not only the Department of Defense, especially on the infrastructure piece.”..’

    Mark Collins


  4. Hmm–defence vs Russian subs cruise missiles to NORTHCOM, not NORAD:

    Gen. Glen VanHerck, the commander of U.S. NORTHCOM, is seeking $50.87 million for a cruise missile defense homeland kill chain demonstration, according to the list, obtained by Defense News.

    “The requested funds will enable a capability demonstration that integrates an elevated sensor into a Joint Tactical Integrated Fire Control architecture with fire control for a Navy long range surface to air interceptor,” the document reads.

    “Funding will support sensor procurement and integration into existing fire-control network/architecture, up to three one-week exercises for data collection and data evaluation, integration of a Navy long range surface to air interceptor and a live fire test/demonstration,” it continues…’

    Mark Collins


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