Minister of National Defence Announces Canada’s NORAD Modernization Plan

Speech

June 20, 2022

Good morning.

I acknowledge that we are gathering on the traditional territory of the Anishinaabeg, Haudenosaunee and Huron-Wendat peoples. Today, we reaffirm our commitment to meaningful reconciliation and respectful partnership with Indigenous Peoples.

I am pleased to be here at 8 Wing Trenton alongside General Wayne Eyre, Chief of the Defence Staff, and Lieutenant-General Alain Pelletier, Deputy Commander of NORAD.

More than six decades ago, against the backdrop of the Cold War and the threat of a Soviet air attack, Canada and the United States established the world’s only binational military command — NORAD.

NORAD is responsible for monitoring the defence of North American airspace and, therefore, NATO’s northern and western flanks.

Recently, the Prime Minister and I visited NORAD Headquarters in Colorado, and saw first-hand the unparalleled collaboration between the Canadian Armed Forces and the United States Armed Forces. Our military members work together, train together, and live together on both sides of the world’s longest undefended border.

Together, they ensure the proper functioning of NORAD and the safety of the people in both of our countries.

NORAD has continually adapted and evolved in response to new threats. Today, we turn another page, and begin NORAD’s next chapter.

As autocratic regimes threaten the rules-based international order that has protected us for decades, and as our competitors develop new technologies like hypersonic weapons and advanced cruise missiles, there is a pressing need to modernize Canada’s NORAD capabilities.

Today, I am here to announce that Canada is investing $4.9 billion over the next six years to modernize our continental defences, and, to protect Canadians from new and emerging threats. This is the most significant upgrade to Canadian NORAD capabilities in almost four decades.

The integrated capacities of our potential adversaries, combined with the effects of climate change, mean that Canada cannot rely solely on its geography to protect us. Ensuring that the Canadian Armed Forces have the tools they need to ensure our security and sovereignty is more important now than ever before. 

This plan will deliver modern, state-of-the-art equipment for our Canadian Armed Forces, who put their lives on the line every single day to ensure the security and sovereignty of our country. It will create tremendous opportunities for Canadian industry, and we will ensure that Indigenous owned-businesses benefit from these investments, throughout the supply chain.

In addition to these immediate investments, this plan is funded for the long-term. This plan has total value of approximately $40 billion over the next twenty years, and it will deliver new capabilities to protect Canadians for generations to come.

Building on the U.S.-Canada Joint Statement on NORAD Modernization signed last summer, let me now describe the five sections of our plan.

Detection

First — we will make significant investments in new capabilities to detect threats to North America. With better information, we improve our ability to make the best decisions for Canada and respond to threats to our shared continent.

In close coordination with the United States, we will establish the backbone of a brand-new, Northern Approaches Surveillance system to enhance surveillance and early warning of threats to our continent. Most notably, this will include three initiatives:

  • An Arctic Over-the-Horizon Radar system to provide early warning radar coverage and threat tracking from the Canada-U.S. border to the Arctic Circle.
  • A Polar Over-the-Horizon Radar system to provide early warning radar coverage over and beyond the northernmost approaches to North America, including the Canadian Arctic archipelago, and
  • A new system called Crossbow — a network of sensors with classified capabilities, distributed across northern Canada, as another layer of detection. 

These three systems will significantly improve our situational knowledge of what enters Canadian airspace from the north. The current central monitoring element of NORAD — the Northern Warning System — will be maintained until these new systems are in place.

Finally, we will build on commitments for space-based surveillance announced in our Defence Policy, Strong, Secured, Engaged, by launching a space-based surveillance project, which will use satellites to perform surveillance of the Earth’s surface for intelligence and threat-tracking purposes.

Together, these investments will significantly improve our knowledge of the situation and allow Canada to be notified sooner and more accurately.

Technology-Enabled Decision Making

Now, let me turn to our new investments in additional technologies to enhance our decision making.

If a threat to Canada is detected, commanders do not have much time to assess its potential impacts on Canadians.

For this reason, it is crucial that commanders and policy makers have a comprehensive and accurate operating picture that integrates data from all-domain sensors, and uses machine-learning, quantum and cloud computing, and artificial intelligence.

We are investing in seven new initiatives to enhance technology-enabled decision making.

These include:

  • Modernizing Command and Control Information Systems,
  • Expanding Canada’s contribution to the NORAD PATHFINDER initiative, that takes advantage of cloud-based computing and machine learning to ensure that NORAD commanders can make informed, rapid decisions,
  • Modernizing the Canadian Combined Air Operations Centre,
  • Constructing a new Positioning, Navigation, and Timing capability, (or PNT AirNAS) to assist with air navigation in remote areas, 
  • Renewing the CAF’s high and low-frequency radio capability,
  • Enhancing satellite communications in the Arctic — which is central to the CAF’s ability to protect Canadians and conduct emergency responses and Search and Rescue; and
  • Procuring and installing new digital radios and network equipment.

These investments will leverage the full capabilities of 21st century computing, and provide commanders with cutting-edge tools to make critical decisions faster.

Defensive Capabilities

Thirdly, we will acquire new defensive capabilities to deter and, if necessary, to overcome aerospace threats.

Canada is procuring new, advanced air-to-air missiles with the capability to engage threats from short, medium and long ranges.

As we announced just a few months ago, Canada is in the finalization phase of the procurement process for 88 new F-35 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin — and these advanced missiles will be compatible with our Future Fighters.

We will also work on developing options for a Canadian ground-based air defence capability.

Infrastructure and Support Capabilities

Fourth, we are investing in new infrastructure and support capabilities so that the Canadian Armed Forces have the resources that they need to launch and sustain operations in the Canadian North.

Upgrading our infrastructure is more urgent than ever, as climate change and warming temperatures have a major impact on our current infrastructure.

Warmer temperatures mean that the Canadian Armed Forces is increasingly tasked with sovereignty-related operations, intelligence and surveillance activities, maritime and air interdiction, search and rescue, and emergency response.

This means we are investing in:

  • Acquiring additional air-to-air refuelling aircraft,
  • Upgrading Northern Basing Infrastructure at four locations in Canada’s North,
  • Upgrading fighter infrastructure and NORAD Quick Reaction Alert capabilities at bases across Canada; and,
  • Modernizing our air operational training infrastructure.

We are making these investments in partnership with Indigenous communities, provinces, territories, and other government departments, so that new infrastructure can fulfil the needs of our military, and local communities.

Science and technology

As the fifth part of our plan, we will create a new science and technology program for the defense of North America within Defense Research and Development Canada.

This program will ensure that we are one step ahead of new threats. Using Canadian innovation and knowledge, the program will address strategic continental defence capability gaps on an ongoing basis — by rapidly assessing, accessing and co-developing technological solutions with our Allies.

Together, these five elements form a solid plan to modernize our continental defences.

Consultation and Partnership with Northern Communities and Indigenous Peoples

Before concluding, I must mention that as we modernize NORAD, we are resolutely committed to working with Indigenous and Northern communities, to meeting our legal obligations, and to meaningful reconciliation.

As we build new infrastructure, engage in research and development and create new economic opportunities, we will work alongside local communities to make sure our investments not only meet the needs of our military, but also serve Indigenous and Northern communities.

In particular, we will be relying on the unique knowledge of the North possessed by Indigenous and Northern communities — including our valued Canadian Rangers — to ensure that we deliver the best results for our military.

Accordingly, the final piece I will highlight today is the creation of a fund to enable Indigenous partners to meaningfully engage with us as we deliver these initiatives. We have begun these consultations and we will ensure that our engagement continues.

We believe that Northern and Indigenous communities play a central role in affirming and defending Arctic security. We will work collaboratively through the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework, the Inuit Crown Partnership Committee, and the Inuit Nunangat Policy.

Conclusion

To conclude, let me say that the United States remains Canada’s most important ally, our strongest partner, and our closest friend.

Every single day, two countries collaborate on mutual priorities around the globe — delivering military aid to Ukraine, upholding the rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific, and promoting stability and security in the Middle East.

But our most important priority will always be to protect our citizens.

In 2017, our government presented a defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, that raises our defence spending by seventy percent after years of underinvestment.

Through Budget 2022, we are investing eight billion dollars in additional defence spending.

Today’s plan brings significant improvements to our continental defenses, and it will ensure that the Canadian Armed Forces have the tools they need to protect Canadians from any threat.

And, through our upcoming Defence Policy update, we will further review the resources, roles, and responsibilities of the Canadian Armed Forces, to reflect our changing world.

There is much work to do, and no time to waste. I look forward to continuing this important mission.

Thank you, merci, meegwetch.

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