IV. Delivering on this Vision: The Right Capabilities for Canada

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Sailor 1st Class Andrew Henderson prepares the Landing Craft vessel to be craned into the water in order to take members of HMCS Harry Dewolf ashore in Pond Inlet, Nunavut during Operation NANOOK on 11 September 2023.

Ultimately, the mission of the Canadian Armed Forces is to defend Canada and advance the safety, security and prosperity of Canadians when and wherever required. The outcome of this defence policy will be a Canadian Armed Forces equipped with the tools to do the hard work that is required to defend Canada and Canadians.

Further investments in our military will enable the Canadian Armed Forces to respond to a rapidly changing climate and its impact on Canada's Arctic, brazen challenges to global stability, and accelerating technological innovation.

Responding to changes in the world around us, Canada will invest in the Canadian Armed Forces to:

  • Ensure Canada has the force size and composition, design, equipment and infrastructure in the right place and the right time to contribute to a range of military operations, from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to high-intensity conventional warfare;
  • Protect and promote Canadian interests around the world, particularly in domestic and continental defence, the Arctic and North, the Euro-Atlantic region, and the Indo-Pacific region;
  • Prepare to undertake operations at the size and speed required in a crisis, and to sustain these operations for their duration;
  • Maintain Reserve Forces that provide depth at tactical, operational, and strategic levels; and
  • Enhance leadership and operational effectiveness by being inclusive and reflecting Canada's unique, diverse, and multicultural society.
A view from above of HMCS MARGARET BROOKE taken from Danish helicopter Westland Lynx MK 90B, N-978 during Operation NANOOK north of Newfoundland and Labrador Canada - Atlantic Ocean, August 6th, 2022

Following a detailed analysis of our military needs, Canada is choosing to invest in the right capabilities for our current and future needs. These capabilities are focused first and foremost on ensuring that Canada has the ability to protect its Arctic and North and assert our sovereignty. These capabilities will support the Canadian Armed Forces in defending Canada's coastline, detecting and defeating maritime and airborne threats, deterring threats to North America, and deploying military force into our Arctic more persistently. Ultimately, these investments underpin the protection of Canada's sovereignty in a more volatile, contested security environment.

Defending Canada

The Canadian Armed Forces' most important role is defending Canada and Canadians.

Our military must be capable of undertaking a wide range of missions, including asserting Canadian sovereignty, conducting search and rescue, and assisting civil authorities when required. The Canadian Armed Forces also needs increased capacity to monitor our vast land mass, airspace and maritime areas, defend against threats to Canada as they arise, and be able to deploy quickly and efficiently across the country, especially in remote environments like our Arctic and North, or to assist Canadians facing wildfires, floods, or other climate-related disasters.

To address new threats through, to and in the Arctic and North, we will prioritize detecting and understanding threats across all military domains, increasing our military's presence, mobility and responsiveness in the Arctic, and robustly responding to threats when and where they materialize. This will also help address challenges to the safety and security of Indigenous and northern communities.

We will make investments to ensure that Canada remains well-defended. Collectively, these capabilities will address our biggest challenges in the Arctic and North—they will provide a broader footprint and prepositioned supplies and equipment in the region, much better eyes and ears in space, in the air, on the ground and underwater, striking power to deter threats far from our shores, and the ability to get to and deal with incidents faster.

We will broaden our ability to monitor our approaches and detect and deter threats before they reach Canada, and to share that information securely with our allies.

We commit to vastly improving the Canadian Armed Forces' ability to surveil and control our underwater and maritime approaches. We will explore options for renewing and expanding our submarine fleet to enable the Royal Canadian Navy to project a persistent deterrent on all three coasts, with under-ice capable, conventionally powered submarines. Submarines allow Canada to covertly detect and deter maritime threats, control our maritime approaches, and project power and striking capability further from our shores, at a time when Russian submarines are probing widely across the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific Oceans and China is rapidly expanding its underwater fleet.

To track and evaluate underwater threats along all three coasts, we will acquire specialized maritime sensors. These sensors can be rapidly deployed on the Harry DeWolf-class Arctic and Offshore Patrol Vessels to conduct ocean surveillance. They will be used to monitor Canada's maritime approaches, including in the Arctic and North, and will be a critical component of the Canadian Armed Forces ' ability to defend Canada from a growing range and sophistication of underwater threats including vessel-launched missiles, underwater systems, ships and submarines.

To enable the Canadian Armed Forces to deploy assets and transmit information from space-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance quickly and seamlessly, we will build a new satellite ground station in the Arctic. This ground station will improve our ability to detect, deter and respond to malign activities and to communicate those threats quickly with our most trusted partners.

We will expand our presence, with new capabilities for increased range, resilience and reach across large and remote areas.

Corporal Chris Duffney, an Airborne Electronic Sensor Operator, is hoisted from HMCS Ottawa’s embarked CH-148 Cyclone helicopter while conducting hoist training during Annual Exercise (AnnualEx) in the Sea of Japan on 11 November 2023.

To provide the Canadian Armed Forces with the speed and airlift capacity to assert Canada's sovereignty and respond to natural disasters and emergencies throughout the country, we will acquire a more modern, mobile and effective tactical helicopter capability. This capability may include a mix of crewed and uncrewed aircraft that will ensure Canada has modern aircraft to contribute to international operations with allies, including against threats from militaries with advanced capabilities.

We commit to improving the Canadian Armed Forces' mobility and presence on land in the Arctic and North. We will explore options to acquire new vehicles adapted to ice, snow and tundra. These versatile, all-terrain vehicles will be able to operate effectively in all Arctic terrains and climate conditions. These vehicles will allow the military to maintain awareness in remote regions and along Canada's entire coastline, and better respond to unauthorized activity.

We commit to extending the Canadian Armed Forces' reach in Arctic waters. We will explore options for enabling our Arctic and Offshore Patrol Vessels to embark and operate our maritime helicopters at sea. This will increase the Canadian Armed Forces' ability to assert Canada's sovereignty in the Arctic and North, conduct surveillance, reconnaissance, and search and rescue, and be better prepared to respond to the growing range and sophistication of maritime threats.

To increase the Canadian Armed Forces' presence and responsiveness across the Arctic and the North, we will establish northern operational support hubs. These hubs, consisting of airstrips, logistics facilities and equipment and stockpiles of spare parts, will enable the military to better assert Canadian sovereignty by establishing a greater year-round military presence across the Arctic. They will increase military responsiveness and the ability to address challenges in remote northern regions on shorter notice and for longer periods, when required. These hubs will present significant opportunities to establish multi-purpose infrastructure that serve the Canadian Armed Forces, other federal partners, territorial governments, Indigenous partners, and northern communities, wherever possible. Throughout the design and implementation process we will engage Indigenous Peoples and northern communities, in line with the principle of "nothing about us, without us" in the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework.

Two CF-18 Hornets from 401 Tactical Fighter Squadron in Cold Lake, Alberta, approach a CC-150 Polaris Airbus from 437 Transport Squadron in Trenton, Ontario to conduct air-to-air refueling operations over the Canadian Arctic during the NORAD Exercise AMALGAM DART 21-2, on March 23, 2021.

To support the required tempo of training, operations and day-to-day military activities, we will invest in current and new Defence infrastructure from coast to coast to coast. This involves ongoing asset maintenance and repair, and other improvements to military facilities, such as piers and runways. Defence's assets will also be well-maintained, digitally equipped, and carbon neutral. Renewing our infrastructure will be crucial to supporting operational and organizational effectiveness and contributing to our military readiness and resilience to the effects of climate change.

We will maximize Canada's effectiveness in cyberspace.

To improve the Canadian Armed Forces' ability to conduct cyber operations, we will establish a Canadian Armed Forces Cyber Command. We will also stand up a joint Canadian cyber operations capability with the Communications Security Establishment, integrating the unique strengths of each organization into a unified team that will conduct active cyber operations in support of Canadian interests. This will enable the military to generate and employ cyber forces and other specialized capabilities on short notice and contribute to advancing Canadian interests and protecting Canadian, Allied and partner militaries at home and abroad. Canadian Armed Forces military cyber operations are approved by the Government on a mission-by-mission basis, in line with the use of all other military assets.

Defending North America

Military ship on the ocean.

While all of the above investments will also contribute directly to continental defence, Canada will make additional investments explicitly designed to deter threats to the continent from adversaries.

Canada will build on the $38.6 billion NORAD modernization announcement in 2022 and make the following additional investments that will contribute to bolstering the security of North America. These capabilities will help restore deterrence in the North in cooperation with the United States and address requirements not addressed by NORAD modernization.

To detect and manage airborne threats, we will acquire airborne early warning aircraft. These aircraft detect aircraft and missiles at long ranges in real time and from much further away than ground-based radars, and then manage the battle space in response to a threat. They will vastly improve the Royal Canadian Air Force's ability to detect, track and prioritize airborne threats sooner, respond faster, and better coordinate our response with the United States when required. They will allow Canada to continue making meaningful contributions to NORAD while also supporting allies and partners globally.

We commit to making further contributions to the integrated air and missile defence of Canada and North America. In light of the growing variety and sophistication of threats—from drones to advanced cruise missiles to hypersonic weapons—we will work to ensure our new airborne early warning and control aircraft and previously announced platforms such as the Canadian Surface Combatants can contribute to this capability as they come online. We will also explore options for acquiring ground-based air defences to defend critical infrastructure from a diverse array of incoming airborne attacks, including drones, missiles and artillery. This more robust approach to integrated air and missile defence could have significant benefits across all theatres in which Canada operates and strengthen our contribution to collective security.

We will acquire long-range missile capabilities for the Canadian Army. These missiles will be deployed to enable our forces to shoot at greater ranges than our adversaries in combat. We also commit to providing the Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force with the striking power they need to deter threats at an appropriate distance, and will explore options to acquire long-range air- and sea-launched missiles.

Advancing Canada's Global Interests and Values

To better enable military operations abroad and build on lessons learned from Ukraine's fight to defend itself, our investments will focus on addressing threats to the safety and security of our troops abroad, and on their ability to contribute to Canadian and allied objectives. These investments will better prepare our military for potential conflict with advanced adversaries and addressing the growing sophistication of air and maritime threats. They will provide our troops with more operational depth and the ability to sustain themselves, along with the ability to strike at ranges longer than our adversaries.

We commit to providing the Canadian Armed Forces with the ability to accurately strike targets with greater effect from greater distance. We will explore options for modernizing our artillery capabilities. This will significantly improve the protection of our deployed personnel by providing them with the capacity to strike enemy positions from farther away and in a greater number of directions.

Canadian Armed Forces members wait for orders in their Leopard 2 main battle tank during Exercise CRYSTAL ARROW in the training area at Camp Adazi in Latvia on March 9, 2024.

To maintain the Canadian Armed Forces' ability to contribute to contemporary and future operations, we will improve the sustainment of our naval fleets. This will include extending the life of the Halifax-class frigates and preserving the Royal Canadian Navy's interim at-sea replenishment capability. These investments will help Canada maintain a globally deployable naval fleet capable of supporting NATO and engaging in operations, exercises, training, and defence diplomacy with key allies and partners, among other activities. Timely maintenance coupled with regular upgrades will reinforce the Royal Canadian Navy's ability to quickly respond to unforeseen events.

We commit to equipping the Canadian Army to keep pace with the evolving demands of land-based operations. We will explore options for upgrading or replacing our tank and light armoured vehicle fleets. Even as new technologies and techniques proliferate, main battle tanks continue to have a decisive effect on the modern battlefield and remain key to conducting land operations against conventional militaries with advanced capabilities. Similarly, the Canadian Army's light armoured vehicle fleet is central to ensuring Canada can maintain its operational commitments, including to NATO, while maintaining a robust fleet at home for training and domestic operations. Canada will explore establishing a light armoured vehicle production program to replenish our fleet while also enabling industry to invest in a sustainable defence production capacity to support Canada and our NATO allies.

We commit to enabling the Canadian Armed Forces to conduct persistent long-range surveillance and launch precision strikes. We will explore options for acquiring a suite of surveillance and strike drones and counter-drone capabilities. A counter drone capability will ensure that the Canadian Armed Forces can neutralize drones that threaten our deployed forces, as well as those of our allies and partners. Both of these systems will equip Canada to protect its forces against the proliferation of drone technology that is now a feature of modern military operations.

To allow the Canadian Armed Forces to communicate securely and reliably with our deployed forces, allies and partners, we will acquire a comprehensive worldwide satellite communication capability. Working with our allies, we will jointly develop updated access to the satellite constellations that enable the military to operate effectively around the world, including by better defending its communications against jamming or disruptions by adversaries while deployed.

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