North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)

Summary

  • The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is a binational military command responsible for aerospace warning, aerospace control, and maritime warning. As a binational command, the NORAD Commander is appointed by and responsible to the Heads of Government of both Canada and the United States (US).
  • NORAD is the cornerstone of Canada’s defence relationship with the US, and provides both countries with greater continental security than could be achieved individually.
  • As set out in Canada’s defence policy, NORAD modernization and related lines of effort are underway to strengthen continental defence against current and emerging threats to North America, in partnership with the US [REDACTED]

Background

  • NORAD is a binational treaty-level defence agreement between Canada and the US established in 1958 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 added.
  • The current Commander NORAD and US Northern Command is General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy. Canadian Lieutenant-General Christopher Coates is the NORAD Deputy Commander. In Canada, Commander NORAD is responsible to the Government through the Chief of the Defence Staff, who brings issues to the attention of the Minister of National Defence as required.
  • Canada contributes financial, physical, and human resources to NORAD. There are [REDACTED] Canadian Armed Forces personnel posted to NORAD headquarters located at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In total, approximately 1,000 Canadian Armed Forces personnel are employed on the NORAD mission throughout North America. This close cooperation has created unprecedented interoperability between the two countries.
  • Canada provides fighter aircraft on alert status to NORAD during normal operations, and also operates and maintains the Canadian portion of the North Warning System as well as three forward operating locations in Inuvik, Iqaluit and Yellowknife to support fighter operations in the North.
  • Key NORAD contributions to collective defence include northern sovereignty operations, continental defence, missile launch detection and warning, and, increasingly, support to Head of State visits and high profile events (i.e. Vancouver 2010 Olympics). Following the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001, NORAD created Operation NOBLE EAGLE which provides the response to asymmetric air security threats occurring within North America, such as civilian aircraft being used as a weapon.
  • NORAD missions are conducted on a daily basis across the continent. Air domain awareness missions are delivered by a set of ground radars and dedicated aircraft to detect, identify, and track potential threats. NORAD applies a variety of airspace control measures, from flight and airspace restrictions, to scrambling, intercepting, and engaging targets by NORAD aircraft. Tracks of interest can range from civilian aircraft to Russian long range aviation patrols approaching the Canadian Air Defence Identification Zone.

Considerations

  • The Canada-US defence partnership both on a bilateral and binational basis is integral to continental security, and the breadth and depth of our relationship provides both countries with greater security than could be achieved individually. Canada and the US have negotiated a number of mutual defence agreements on a bilateral basis (e.g. the Combined Defence Plan), pertaining to the two countries recognition of the need to cooperate on a wide range of defence and security issues both for continental defence and internationally.
  • This deep defence relationship is taken further through NORAD’s unique binational structure which means that it is equally responsible to, and made up of personnel from, both Canada and the US. NORAD features prominently within Canada’s defence policy, Strong Secure Engaged, highlighting its continued importance to Canada in terms of continental security and broader Canada-US defence relations. The defence of North America is one of the main pillars of Strong Secure Engaged, and represents one of the core Canadian Armed Forces missions.
  • The global security environment is evolving rapidly and presents a variety of threats to Canada. The evolving balance of power and the changing nature of conflict, as well as rapid advancements in technologies such as advanced missile systems, and diffuse threats in the space and cyber domain mean that North America is no longer a sanctuary. [REDACTED]
  • Strong Secure Engaged committed the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces to work with the US to modernize NORAD to meet existing challenges and evolving threats to North America, taking into account the full range of threats. [REDACTED]
  • In alignment with Canada’s defence policy, the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces are also working in partnership with the US to explore which new technologies could be developed and fielded to improve Arctic surveillance and control – including renewal of the North Warning System – which will contribute significantly to the NORAD mission and broader North American defence.
  • The binational NORAD Agreement was renewed in perpetuity in 2006, with the provision that it be reviewed, and amended if required, at least every four years. The NORAD Terms of Reference last underwent a full review in 2017, with no recommended changes.
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