The increasing national security risks posed by Russia and China underscore the need to upgrade Norad’s North Warning System, which was last upgraded in the 1980s, according to one expert.
The U.S. and Canada have been in talks to modernize Norad, which could cost up to $14 billion. Canada would likely cover 40 per cent of that cost, given that 40 per cent of Norad’s budget is covered by Canada.
But Christian Leuprecht, a professor at Royal Military College, thinks these modernizations are worth the hefty price tag. He sat down with us to talk about the need to modernize Norad amid the growing geopolitical risks.
“We live in a much more competitive and contested environment. And so that means that we need as Canadians to take the world for what it is rather than what we would like it to be,” Leuprecht told us.
“It is a place that is highly competitive in all domains – political, economic, military – and so we need to be investing in our defences.”
Norad’s old missile warning systems would have trouble detecting the hypersonic weapons being developed by Russia and China, as well as their underwater vehicles, Leuprecht said.
“What that means is that your time from launch to impact as well as the speed has changed dramatically. And so, it means that you need to be able to engage much more quickly and might not be able to even detect some of these vehicles,” he said. “Our adversaries are exploiting the loopholes that our system has, in order to advance a much broader geopolitical competitive agenda.”
Norad has traditionally been solely used as a defensive deterrent, but Leuprecht says the new risk posed by hypersonic weapons is making it more necessary to equip Norad with some offensive capabilities, saying that the “line between offence and defence is starting to be blurred.”
“With these new weapons, you might have to intercept one of these new hypersonic cruise missiles at launch, because that is your only opportunity to intercept,” he said.
Leuprecht says that in the past, the threat came from intercontinental ballistic missiles from the Kola peninsula in Russia’s far north, potentially reaching targets in the United States. But now, Leuprecht says targets in Canada are in play, pointing to the integrated power grids that are shared between much of the U.S. and Canada as an example.
“You can hit a component in Canada and have a dramatic impact on the entire North American continent, and the entire North American system and how it functions,” he said.
The other factor is that in the past, the Arctic was only seen as a flyover zone for these weapons. Now, defence of sovereignty in the Arctic itself is becoming more important as Russia and China’s ambitions in the Arctic continue to grow.
“It’s also about for being able to protect our soveignty and being able to protect the Arctic at large,”Leuprecht said.