Mark Collins – Canada and Missile Defence plus Russian Cruise Missile Threat

The conclusion of a November 14 presentation by CGAI Senior Analyst Dave Perry to the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence (the sort of serious discussion of broad defence issues we rarely see reflected in our media with their focus on procurement and scandal, real or potential):


With respect the Canada’s ability to counter possible air or space based threats to Canada, I think we do face some operational capability gaps.

Ballistic Missiles

Canada has no defence whatsoever against ballistic missiles. North Korea has been developing this technology for several years and is now working to launch these missiles from their submarines. While the United States has developed, a Ground Based, Mid-Course Defence against these missiles, and previously asked Canada to participate in that system, Canada declined to do so, and has subsequently never formally revisited that decision. This decision should be revisited. We should discuss the possibility of Canada joining Ballistic Missile Defence with the Americans, and if the terms are favourable, formally join.

Russian Air and Sea-Launched Cruise Missiles

The Russian military has significantly upgraded its air and naval forces in recent years and continues to do so. Over the last two years, the Russians have demonstrated this new equipment’s effectiveness as well as their willingness to use it to advance their own interests.

Russian forces successfully employed in Syria a new class of sophisticated conventional air and sea launched cruise missiles that have greatly enhanced range, are difficult to observe and are capable of precision targeting. Three aspects of this development are problematic. First, these weapons come in both nuclear and conventional variants. Second, they can be carried by Russian Long Range Patrol Aircraft and their newest and most capable submarines. Third, because of the increased distances at which these new missiles can successfully hit targets and their low observability characteristics, the current arrangements for defending North America, based on NORAD and the North Warning System, must be upgraded to counter them effectively [see “The Bear’s Bears: New NORAD Radars for Canadian North…“].

Because of this increased Russian activity around North America, we also need to enhance our ability to know what it happening in all three of our coastal approaches, and especially in the Canadian arctic. Since 2007 the Russians have conducted long range aviation patrols towards Canada’s Arctic airspace, and done so in ways that indicate an inclination on their part to link this activity to strategic confrontations with Canada elsewhere in the world. Similarly Russian submarine patrols in the Atlantic have recently reached levels not seen since the Cold War. We therefore need an expanded mix of air and space based Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance platforms [see “RADARSAT Constellation: New Canadian Satellites and Maritime, Arctic Surveillance, Part 2“].

As well, we need to maintain our ability to respond to aerial threats to North America. As Russia continues to modernize its air forces, this will require Canada to keep pace with improvements in Russian technology. As such, we need to move quickly to purchase a fleet of fighter aircraft capable of detecting the most modern Russian aircraft and sharing that information with the rest of the North American defence system [emphasis added, i.e. the F-35 which would be most compatible with the USAF]…

Very relevant:

NORAD and Russian Cruise Nukes: “de-escalation”?

US Worrying Seriously About Russian Cruise Missiles

NORAD Note: Russian Bomber (with cruise missiles) Strikes in Syria

USN “Admiral Warns: Russian Subs Waging Cold War-Style ‘Battle of the Atlantic’”–and RCN?

NORAD and Russian Cruise Nukes: “de-escalation”? Part 2

Canada Should Just Say “Yes” to Missile Defence, Cont’d (plus Russian cruise missile threat)

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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