WASHINGTON ― Canada’s defense minister said Thursday she’s close to offering a “robust” plan to modernize continental defenses under North American Aerospace Defense Command, something the U.S. wants in response to the complex hypersonic missile threat.
“I have been entrusted to lead Canada’s efforts to strengthen continental defense and to deliver a robust plan on modernize NORAD, in collaboration with our American allies. And we will have more to say on this in the short term,” Canadian Defence Minister Anita Anand said after meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon.
Anand didn’t provide specifics, but the Ottawa Citizen reported this week Canada plans to spend CA$1 billion (U.S. 780 million) for a new northward-facing, over-the-horizon radar system in the Arctic, which would provide long-range surveillance to detect threats against U.S. or Canadian cities. The radar would start operation in 2028.
Earlier this week, U.S. Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck, the chief of NORAD, said the binational command faces increasing threats from Russia and China, including hypersonic missiles, whose maneuverability in flight make them difficult to detect and track.
“It’s the maneuverability and the challenges they present by coming in at different attack vectors, or different angles, which allows us to not see them, candidly. So what I’m most worried about, in my NORAD hat, is providing threat warning,” he said.
VanHerck wants to use signals intelligence, geospatial intelligence and other data sources to establish a pattern of behavior on the ground that warns of potential threats. That could let commanders respond hours or days before an actual launch.
After the defense chiefs discussed military aid to Ukraine, Austin lauded Canada’s commitment to provide eight armored vehicles as well as M777 howitzers and associated ammunition. The new move is part of a push to arm Ukraine with heavy weapons as fighting intensifies in the Donbas region. Russia invaded its neighbor Feb. 24.
“We will continue to stand with Ukraine. We remain prepared to defend every inch of NATO territory, and we will always do whatever it takes to ensure the security of our North American continent,” Anand said.
Anand also confirmed that Canadian soldiers are training Ukrainian troops on the howitzers.
Against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Canadian government this month committed to providing CA$8 billion in new defense spending over the next five years. Also that month, Canada announced it chose Lockheed Martin’s F-35 in its competition to buy a new fighter jet, an investment of CA$19 billion.
“This is such an important procurement for our continental relationship, for our relationship with NORAD, for our potential NATO contributions as well,” Anand said at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event earlier in the day.
Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.