Canada, US to talk Canada’s NORAD next-gen air weapons systems

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Continuous discussions on the revamp of Canada’s North American Aerospace Defense Command [NORAD] between Canada and the US are set to resume on May 13. On this day and the subsequent one, May 14, in Washington, Bill Blair, the Defense Minister of Canada, has lined up several meetings. Of these, the most significant is expected to be his meeting with the United States Defense Secretary, Lloyd J. Austin III. 

Photo credit: Wikipedia

According to the Canadian Ministry of Defense, Blair will make a statement to the Atlantic Council while in Washington. Interestingly, not just official diplomats, but significant players in the realm of US cybersecurity and the defense industry are also set to make their appearance at this event. 

NORAD is a significant priority for Canada, representing the largest defense investment in nearly four decades, costing an impressive $38.6 billion. Given the massive scale and intricate design of this project, it’s estimated that NORAD’s complete overhaul will be a long-drawn effort spanning approximately two decades.

Photo credit: RCAF

The Canadian government has initiated an expansive two-decade transformation plan for all NORAD units under their control. This is not limited to an overhaul of command and control systems but also extends to the integration of futuristic sensors. The revamped Canadian division of NORAD will boast new, state-of-the-art air-to-air weaponry, witness upgrades to existing infrastructure and support facilities, and experience a significant investment in scientific and technological breakthroughs. 

Elaborating further, the ambitious project includes the development of a new early warning radar system capable of identifying potential dangers over the Arctic Circle. It also features the introduction of a technologically advanced space surveillance system, the incorporation of cutting-edge air-to-air missiles, and the addition of air-to-air refueling vehicles into the fleet. 

Canada utilizes the CF-18 Hornet fighter aircraft as a cornerstone for NORAD operations. Serving multiple roles, these aircraft come armed with a wide spectrum of air-to-air and air-to-ground weaponry, including the AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles, and the AIM-120 AMRAAM medium-range air-to-air missiles.

Photo credit: USAF Sgt. Carlos Ferran

Additionally, Canada leverages the capabilities of the Multi-Mission Effects Vehicle [MMEV], which serves as a ground-based air defense unit. The MMEV comes equipped with a hybrid mix of short-range air defense and anti-tank-guided missiles. This versatile system is engineered to engage diverse targets, spanning from aircraft and helicopters to unmanned aerial vehicles. 

Finally, a significant Canadian contribution to NORAD’s defense strategy lies within the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System [BMEWS]. This specialized radar system is specifically designed to detect inbound ballistic missiles. Although BMEWS isn’t a weapon system per se, its role in providing early warning signals is crucial to the mitigation and response of potential missile attacks. 

The fascinating part is that the quantum leap towards modernizing Canada’s NORAD units is already well underway. For instance, Canada has already embraced the future with the successful implementation of a trailblazing cloud-based command and control software integrator [CBC2] at the start of this year.

Underlining this cutting-edge technology advance, Major General Ian Huddleston, the Chief Commander of the Canadian NORAD Region, emphasized that this innovative progress would arm Canadian operators with the latest tools necessary for maintaining comprehensive situational awareness on the battlefield while enhancing NORAD’s quick response to imminent threats. “We are all eagerly looking forward to the introduction of this tech advancement, promising to take a considerable leap forward,” expressed Major General Huddleston. 

CBC2 is designed with multiple strategically relevant data streams, along with artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities. These features give decision-makers a broader understanding of the situation. This data is analyzed by the platform to produce potential courses of action, aiding leaders in making more effective and timely decisions that improve operational outcomes. 

The North American Aerospace Defense Command, also known as NORAD, is a joint venture between the United States and Canada. Its responsibilities include providing aerospace warnings, upholding air sovereignty, and protecting Northern America. It was established during the Cold War with the purpose of monitoring and responding to potential air threats against North America.

NORAD employs a myriad of advanced systems designed to identify and counteract various threats. These range from early warning systems that utilize radar and satellite technology for threat detection, to command and control systems used for coordinating responses. It’s important not to overlook communication systems, which facilitate an unimpeded flow of information between organizational sections. 

Photo by Jim Saunders

The agency has specialized software for handling the immense volume of data collected from sensors. This includes software for identifying and monitoring possible threats, decision-support software for data-informed command decisions, and simulation software for training exercises and war games. 

To deflect incoming threats, NORAD is armed with an array of air-to-air missiles. These range from short-range AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, ideal for close combat scenarios, to medium-range AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles capable of engaging targets beyond visual range. When long-range capability is required, the AIM-54 Phoenix comes into play, with its ability to engage multiple targets at substantial distances simultaneously.

The catalyst for Canada’s decision to overhaul its NORAD lies in what they’ve identified as “a notably evolving global security landscape.” This transformation has primarily been illustrated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Meanwhile, the escalating impacts of climate change, along with the advancement of innovative weaponry technologies, like hypersonic weapons and state-of-the-art cruise missiles, also play significant roles.

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