Canada to Spend Billions on Modernizing Air Defense in the Arctic

US Air Force Stratotanker
A U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker provides refueling capabilities to Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18s while both units participate in a training exercise in the high Arctic. (Photo: U.S. Air Force / Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook).

Canada will invest almost five billion dollars over the next six years to modernize continental defense. "This is the most significant upgrade to NORAD from a Canadian perspective in almost four decades", the Canadian Defense Minister announces. 

Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand has announced major investments to modernize the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).

During a press briefing Monday, at the Trenton Air Base in Ontario, Anand unveiled Canadian government's plan to spend C$ 4.9 billion over the next six years in order to modernize continental defenses. 

"This is the most significant upgrade to NORAD from a Canadian perspective in almost four decades", she concluded.

Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand
Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand. (Photo: Government of Canada).

Long-term plan

NORAD, the joint US-Canadian defense organization, is charged with the missions of aerospace warning, aerospace control and maritime warning for North America.

"There is a pressing need to modernize Canada's NORAD capabilties", the Defense Minister said while pointing to new technologies like hypersonic weapons and advanced cruise missiles being developed by competitors.

As CBC reports, military experts have warned that NORAD's current surveillance system is not built to track weapons fired from submarines or from outside of North American airspace, nor to deal with hypersonic missiles.

Overall, the Canadian government has a longer-term plan to spend C$ 40 billion over the next 20 years to upgrade continental defense, Anand also announced.  

Surveillance in the Arctic

The plan will deliver state-of-the-art equipment for the Canadian Armed Forces and create significant opportunities for Canadian industries, she added. 

The Minister gave the press some insights into the planned investments for new capabilities to detect threats to North America, which she said will focus on five specific areas. 

Canada will, among others, in close coordination with the USA establish the foundation for a brand new northern approaches surveillance system to enhance surveillance and early warning threats to the continent.

Initiatives included in this is an Arctic over-the-horizon radar system will provide early warning radar coverage and threat tracking from the Canada-US border to the Arctic Circle. Moreover, a polar over-the-horizon radar system will provide early warning radar coverage, over and beyond the northernmost approaches to North America, including the Canadian Arctic archipelago. Additionaly, there is a new system called "Crossbow" that will be a network of sensors with classified capabilities distributed across Northern Canada as another layer of detection.

In 2021, US President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agreed to expand cooperation on continental defense in the Arctic, which includes modernizing NORAD. 

The latest strategy from NORAD and the U.S. Northern Command highlights the changing strategic environment in the Arctic. 

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