A strategic review to be presented in the coming months is looking at expanding the North American Aerospace Defense Command's monitoring responsibilities to the Arctic. (Tech. Sgt. John Gordinier/US Air Force)
VICTORIA, BRITISH COLUMBIA — Canadian and US military officials are looking at modernizing the North American Aerospace Defense Command’s (NORAD’s) surveillance capabilities as well as expanding its responsibilities to include monitoring Arctic waters.
A strategic review with various recommendations from NORAD on how to proceed is expected to be presented in the coming months to both Canada’s chief of the Defence Staff, Gen. Tom Lawson, and US Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Royal Canadian Air Force Lt. Gen. Alain Parent, deputy commander of NORAD, said the review will focus NORAD toward the 2025-2030 timeframe.
“This review will include an in-depth analysis of policy and current mission challenges, as well as evolving and emerging missions and, to the extent practical, make recommendations for the alignment of policies and bi-national processes to meet current and future NORAD requirements,” he noted.
But a 2012 briefing for the Canadian government noted that NORAD commander US Gen. Charles Jacoby is specifically interested in “the modernization of the NORAD surveillance network to provide improved multi-domain coverage, particularly of the Arctic region.”
The five-page briefing on what is being called “NORAD Next” was forwarded to the government in June 2012 by then-Canadian Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk.
It was obtained by Defense News and declassified under the Canadian government’s access to information law.
“A cornerstone of Gen. Jacoby’s direction to his staff has been to emphasize the importance of outpacing emerging capabilities of potential adversaries,” the briefing noted. Those capabilities, however, have been censored from the report.
Canadian Army Capt. Jennifer Stadnyk, a spokeswoman for NORAD and US Northern Command, said the alliance’s aircraft have been operating from forward locations in the Arctic for many years.
In April, NORAD aircraft conducted Operation Spring Forward, practicing a number of activities in the northern region of Canada.
But Stadnyk noted there has been an increasing amount of maritime traffic in the Arctic.
“The ever-increasing numbers of vessels transiting Arctic waters emphasize the need for NORAD to observe, share and act on activity in that domain,” she said. “This will be studied during the NORAD Next analysis.”
NORAD Next will make recommendations to the US and Canadian governments; they will determine which recommendations they will accept and act on, NORAD officials said.
Any recommendations that are approved will be implemented during a timeframe covering 2025 to 2030, Stadnyk said.
Stadnyk said it’s not possible at this point to estimate the cost to Canada and the US of any recommendations from the NORAD review.
In an April 7 appearance before the Canadian Senate’s national defense committee, Royal Canadian Air Force Maj. Gen. Pierre St-Amand, commander of the Canadian NORAD region, noted that the alliance’s main system of northern warning radars was built in the 1980s.
“Its estimated life expectancy is 2025 or thereabouts,” he said.
The North Warning System comprises 47 unmanned long- and short-range radar stations along the Arctic coast from Alaska to Labrador.
The Canadian government has committed itself to maintaining the system. On March 28, it awarded a CAN $260 million (US $237 million) contract to Raytheon Canada Ltd. to maintain the sites over the next five years.
But the previous 10-year maintenance contract with Nasittuq Corp. for the warning system was valued at CAN $624 million (US $567 million).
Eleven Canadian defense analysts noted in a March 31 report titled “NORAD in Perpetuity?” that an underlying concern in the NORAD Next study is that the alliance could be marginalized unless it expands and becomes more relevant to the defense relationship of the two nations.