Activities – Continental

Continental Defence and NORAD Modernization

  • As outlined in our 2017 defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, this Government is committed to the defence of North America.
  • Since its release, the security and defence challenges outlined in this policy – including great power competition, and advances in technology – have accelerated.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated some of these trends, and further increased demand on the CAF at home.
  • These realities increase the need for Canada to strengthen its approach to continental defence across all-domains, and to modernize NORAD, in collaboration with our US partners.
  • NORAD is the cornerstone of Canada's defence relationship with the US, and provides both countries with greater security than could be achieved individually.
  • As outlined in the defence policy, we are already making significant investments in personnel, equipment, and infrastructure that will support continental defence.
  • New capabilities and approaches will also be required to ensure the Canadian Armed Forces has the ability to detect, deter, and respond to threats against Canada and North America.
  • As we move forward, we will seek solutions to continental defence challenges that contribute to Canada's economic recovery and maximize benefits for Canadians.

Key Facts

  • 1,000 Canadian Armed Forces members support NORAD missions in aerospace warning, aerospace control, and maritime warning in defence of North America.
  • Strong, Secure, Engaged made several large investments contributing to continental defence, including commitments to acquire:
    • 15 new Canadian Surface Combatants for the Navy;
    • a fleet of 88 new fighters for the Air Force;
    • a fleet of six Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessels to provide enhanced naval presence in the North;
    • Remotely piloted systems to enhance surveillance of Canadian territory.
    • Space capabilities to improve Arctic surveillance and communications.
  • Other initiatives, such as the All Domain Situational Awareness research and development program ($133M worth of investments over the last five years), are also supporting these efforts.


  • The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) has a duty to monitor all of Canada's territory. The CAF execute these missions unilaterally, bilaterally with the US; and binationally through the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
  • NORAD is a bi-national military organization established in 1958 by Canada and the US to conduct aerospace warning and control in the defence of North America. The NORAD Agreement was renewed in perpetuity in 2006 and a maritime warning function was added.
  • It has been over 30 years since the last NORAD modernization effort, which resulted in the creation of the North Warning System, amongst other initiatives.
  • Strong, Secure, Engaged (SSE) set the policy for Canada to "work with the US to ensure that NORAD is modernized to meet existing and future challenges" and to look broadly at emerging threats to North America across all domains.
  • In this context, the Minister of National Defence's mandate letter stresses the need to modernize NORAD and work with interdepartmental partners to develop better surveillance, defence, and rapid response capabilities, particularly in the North and Canada's approaches.
  • Efforts to renew commitments to NORAD will support and complement potential contributions to strengthening broader continental defence, including defence and security in Canada's Arctic.
  • The development of a proposed plan to strengthen continental defence and modernize NORAD continues despite the COVID-19 pandemic. In this context, additional consideration will be given to how these efforts could contribute to Canada's economic recovery.

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