VICTORIA, British Columbia — Canada is searching for sites along its border with the U.S. to install a new long-range radar designed to protect North American cities.

The so-called Arctic Over-the-Horizon Radar would be established in the southern portion of the province of Ontario and provide long-range detection of incoming threats approaching Alaska. The system would be part of what the Canadian government is calling a layered approach to keep watch over the northern approaches of the continent.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the system March 24, 2023, during a visit to Ottawa by U.S. President Joe Biden.

As many as four sites could be needed for the system’s transmitters and receivers. Canada’s Department of National Defence is currently assessing locations in the province bordering the American states of Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.

“Decisions on potential locations are expected to be finalized by spring 2024,” department spokeswoman Jessica Lamirande said.

Initial operating capability for the Arctic Over-the-Horizon Radar is set for 2028, she added, and full operating capability for 2031.

The radar would “provide long-range surveillance of northern approaches to the major population centers in North America by establishing a northward-aimed high frequency over-the-horizon radar system in southern Canada,” according to an April 7, 2022, briefing prepared for defense industry representatives.

The preliminary cost estimate for the system is CA$1 billion (U.S. $743 million).

A second system to be built, the Polar Over-the-Horizon Radar, would also provide early warning radar coverage over the Arctic, but that system would be located in the high Arctic at a site still undetermined. Its capability would come online two years after the Arctic Over-the-Horizon Radar, according to Canadian defense officials.

Lamirande did not have a cost estimate for that effort.

A third project, called Crossbow, is a complementary but classified network of sensors that will be distributed across northern Canada. It’s expected Crossbow will begin operating around 2029 or 2030. Development of Crossbow is taking place in conjunction with the U.S. military.

The Department of National Defence declined to provide additional details, citing the classified nature of the project.

A fourth portion of the layered defense involves space-based capabilities. Canada will develop a new space-based system to replace the surveillance satellites of the current RADARSAT Constellation Mission as well as other surveillance-related spacecraft now operating. The new project, called Defence Enhanced Surveillance from Space, will include a space-based synthetic aperture radar and an automatic identification system for maritime tracking.

That new space system won’t be available until at least 2035, according to the Canadian government.

Trudeau also announced what he called the Defence of Canada Fighter Infrastructure project. That will involve spending CA$7.3 billion on new infrastructure to support the acquisition of F-35 jets by Canada. Those aircraft are expected to arrive starting in 2026 but would not be fully operational until three years later.

The new infrastructure project would include upgraded locations in the Arctic region from which aircraft operate.

David Pugliese is the Canada correspondent for Defense News.

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