Defence Minister Anita Anand will make a major announcement on continental defence Monday, her office says, as military watchers look for signs of how Ottawa will spend billions of dollars it set aside in the latest budget.
Months ago, Ms. Anand promised she would soon unveil a “robust package to modernize NORAD” – a revamp that the United States has been seeking for years to address more complex missile threats to North America.
A major component of upgrading the North American Aerospace Defence Command is replacing the soon-to-be obsolete North Warning System, a joint U.S. and Canadian radar system that includes dozens of sites from Yukon to Labrador. Its job is to detect airborne threats: originally long-range bombers. The price has been estimated at more than $11-billion and it’s expected that Canada would have to bear at least 40 per cent.
University of Calgary Arctic expert Rob Huebert said he expects Ms. Anand will unveil money to begin updating the North Warning System.
In a speech last month, Ms. Anand listed four priorities for continental defence spending: replacing the North Warning System with more advanced solutions, such as next-generation over-the-horizon radar systems. This technology has the ability to detect targets at very long ranges and is being developed by Canada’s Department of National Defence.
She also talked about investing in increased capabilities to deter and defeat aerospace threats.
In the April budget, the Liberals announced $6.1-billion over five years to be spend on unspecified military priorities including continental defence.
Ms. Anand’s Monday announcement, to be held at CFB Trenton, will be taking place as Canada prepares to head to NATO meetings this month. Canada has come under pressure from allies, the U.S. in particular, to raise its military spending to the equivalent of 2 per cent of annual economic output.
Right now, spending 1.33 per cent of Gross Domestic Product on defence, Canada is near the back of the NATO pack in its proportion of military spending, along with Slovenia, Belgium, Spain and Luxembourg.
In May, U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan called Canada a freeloader on defence during congressional hearings, “And it’s getting a little tiring,” Mr. Sullivan said.
Last August, the Canadian and U.S. governments said that they intended to proceed with “co-ordinated investments” that bolster their ability to protect North America from “a greater and more complex conventional missile threat” and talked of building a network of American and Canadian sensors installed everywhere from the seabed to satellites in 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 the power of conventional missiles has made them an increasingly important tool to deter threats or project power without resorting to nuclear weapons.
The announcement last August represented a deepening of Canada-U.S. collaboration in protecting North America from missile threats. It set out priorities for the future of NORAD, 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.”
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