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US, Canadian defense ministers back NORAD modernization

NORAD mission
An F-22 Raptor on A NORAD mission assigned to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson intercepts a Russian Tu-95 Bear on June 9, 2020. Photo: NORAD

The heads of defense departments Canada and the US have expressed support for the enhancement of the ability of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) to defend the two countries’ critical assets.

“As an integral part of ongoing work to strengthen the security and defense of Canada and the United States, we reaffirm our commitment to supporting NORAD’s ability to detect, deter, and defend against aerospace threats and to detect maritime threats to North America, today and in the future,” Canadian defense minister Harjit Sajjan and his US counterpart Lloyd James Austin III said in a joint statement.

The modernization drive is aimed at improving, and better integrating the capabilities required for NORAD to maintain persistent awareness and understanding of potential threats to North America in the aerospace and maritime domains, to deter acts of aggression against North America, to respond to aerospace threats quickly and decisively when required, and to provide maritime warning consistent with the NORAD Agreement.

According to the ministers, priority areas for new investments should include situational awareness, especially in the northern and maritime approaches to the continent.

Significant progress has been made to identify solutions for detecting, identifying, characterizing, and tracking new conventional threats to North America. Canada and the United States share a desire to coordinate in fielding new capabilities to complement and eventually replace the North Warning System with more advanced technological solutions as soon as possible, including next-generation over-the-horizon radar systems that can dramatically improve early warning and persistent surveillance of North American airspace and approaches.

Ensuring effective awareness ultimately requires a system-of-systems approach including a network of Canadian and US sensors from the sea floor to outer space. The existing North Warning System is to be maintained until appropriate replacement capabilities are in place.

Modernized command and control systems will better fuse and integrate data from all-domain sensors into a common, comprehensive operating picture, enabling faster and better informed decision-making. Canada and the US continue to explore and field solutions for robust and resilient communications, including in remote and contested environments, as required to execute NORAD missions.