NORAD overhaul will replace aging radar stations in Arctic Canada

Canadian and American military personnel operating out of CFB Goose Bay in Operation Noble Defender in March 2022. (Eilís Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

Canada will spend $4.9 billion over the next six years to modernize continental defence, Defence Minister Anita Anand said Monday.

Anand delivered the long-awaited announcement on the upgrade of NORAD at the Canadian military’s principal air base at Trenton, Ont.

The figure represents Canada’s share of the cost of overhauling the decades-old joint bi-national air defence command, which was originally designed to watch out for Soviet bombers. The project was not part of the Liberal government’s 2017 defence policy document.

The United States covers about 60 per cent of the bill for NORAD.

Chief of the Defence Staff Wayne Eyre looks on as Defence Minister Anita Anand addresses a press conference on April 25, 2022 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The nature of NORAD has changed in recent years as it has assumed additional responsibilities for monitoring sealane approaches to North America and guarding against cyberattacks.

The NORAD overhaul will include the replacement of the North Warning System, a chain of radar stations in the Far North. The system eventually will be replaced with two different types of radar systems — one northern, one polar — that have the ability to look over the horizon.

The overhaul also will deploy new satellites built to track moving targets on the ground and a top-secret series of remote sensors.

The new network will monitor not only the Arctic — NORAD’s traditional domain — but also Pacific and Atlantic approaches to the continent.

NORAD no match for new weapon technologies 

Military experts have long warned that NORAD’s current surveillance system is not built to track cruise missiles — weapons fired from submarines or from outside of North American airspace. It’s also not set up to deal with hypersonic missiles, which travel at many times the speed of sound.

Both weapons systems have featured prominently in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The threat environment has changed,” Anand said, answering a reporter’s question on Monday.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Arctic Security – Will Canada’s federal budget deliver for NORAD?, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: US military refuelling plane flies over Finland day after NATO announcement, The Independent Barents Observer

Greenland: Denmark, Faroe Islands agree to establish air surveillance radar to bolster gaps in Arctic surveillance, Eye on the Arctic

Iceland: Arctic security discussed at Reykjavik Northern Group meeting, Eye on the Arctic

NorwayDefence minister says Norway must get stronger in the North, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Abandoned military airport in Arctic Russia will be reconstructed, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden:  Finland will not go into NATO without Sweden, president says, says PM, Radio Sweden

United States: U.S. Army poised to revamp Alaska forces to prep for Arctic fight, The Associated Press

Murray Brewster, CBC News

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