“Here at home, our Arctic sovereignty is increasingly being challenged by Russia and China,” says Canada's Minister of Defense Bill Blair. He announces that an updated Canadian defense policy will be launched in the coming months.
“Here at home, our Arctic sovereignty is being increasingly challenged by Russia and China,” says Canadian Defense Minister Bill Blair (Liberal Party) in a speech at the Halifax International Security Forum last weekend.
“Just nine months ago, NORAD played a key role when a Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon violated the sovereignty of Canada and the United States – reminding us of NORAD’s centrality to the security of our peoples,” Blair continues.
Canada has begun a major modernization of its capabilities in NORAD – the joint US-Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command. This is charged with the missions of aerospace warning, aerospace control and maritime warning for North America.
Among other things, the country will develop a new Arctic radar system with improved threat detection and acquire 88 new F-35 fighter jets. The investment framework for the NORAD upgrade is 38.6 billion Canadian dollars over the next 20 years.
Now more is in progress as the defense policy is to be updated, says the minister.
“To modernize the Canadian Armed Forces, we’re also continuing to implement our 2017 defense policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, which increases our defense spending by over seventy percent.”
“But we know that we need to do more, because the world has changed since 2017. That’s why we are moving forward with a Defence Policy Update. We’ve been engaging with Canadians, industry and you, our allies and partners to make sure that we get this right. And we look forward to releasing the update in the coming months.”
Blair gives some hints about what will be emphasized in the updated defense policy.
“We’re focused on capabilities that bring value to Canadians, and to our key Alliances. For example – we know that long-range precision strike capabilities are essential to NATO. We know that underwater surveillance capabilities, and Arctic defense infrastructure, matter to NORAD. And we know that tactical aviation capabilities are essential in responding to emergencies here at home.”
“Although we are already investing in major new military capabilities in all domains – additional investments are needed. We know that we need resources to put behind our aspirations,” the MoD emphasizes.
In his speech, Blair also turns his gaze to Europe.
“Even though we are across the Atlantic, we are under no illusions: Europe’s security is our security too. And given the threats we currently face, we believe that NATO is more important than ever.”
Expansion of navy fleet
In addition to the modernization of NORAD, a significant upgrade of the Canadian navy is also taking place, including with a view to Arctic activities.
“This morning, I visited shipbuilders at Irving’s Halifax Shipyard. Halifax shipbuilders have already built and delivered four new Arctic and Offshore Patrol ships to the Navy – and two more are under construction,” says Blair.
These are ice-capable ships of the Harry DeWolf class. Among other things, they are tasked with strengthening the navy’s presence and ability to carry out surveillance operations throughout Canada’s waters, including in the Arctic.
At the shipyard in Halifax, a new major project for the navy is also underway.
“They’ll soon begin construction on the first of fifteen new warships for the Royal Canadian Navy, through the Canadian Surface Combatant project – the largest shipbuilding initiative in Canada since World War Two,” the MoD says.
Blair also announces 188 million Canadian dollars to the construction of a new training centre at the military base in Halifax.
“The Centre will provide Canadian Armed Forces members with expertise in above-water, underwater, and maritime air warfighting, so that they are ready to sail on our incoming fleet.”