Upgrade of NORAD includes Space-Based Surveillance System

File photo: Artist rendering of the Department of National Defence Sapphire satellite used for Space-Based Surveillance. Credit: MDA.

Defence Minister Anita Anand announced $4.9 billion in spending at CFB Trenton yesterday to upgrade and modernize the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). The upgrades include several longstanding wish list items including a Space-Based Surveillance System.

The government had already allocated $3 billion in funding over six years from the 2022 budget towards the upgrades with an additional $1.9 billion announced yesterday.

The funding will go to five investment areas as outlined in a National Defence press release:

  • Bolster our ability to detect threats earlier, and more precisely, by modernizing our surveillance systems. We will build a new Northern Approaches Surveillance system that will significantly expand the CAF and NORAD’s situational awareness of who and what is entering Canadian airspace from the North, and we will continue to strengthen the CAF’s current space-based surveillance capabilities.
  • Improve our ability to understand and communicate threats to those who need it, when they need it, through investments in modern technology. We will harness the full capability of 21st century computing and invest further in state-of-the-art tools such as modernized command and control information systems, upgraded radio communications capabilities, and enhanced satellite communications in the Arctic.
  • Strengthen our ability to deter and defeat aerospace threats by modernizing our air weapons systems. We will procure new, advanced air-to-air missiles that can engage threats from short, medium and long-ranges, and that will be compatible with Canada’s modern future fighter fleet, to be certain that our Canadian Armed Forces have the capabilities they need to track, assess and engage targets.
  • Ensure our Canadian Armed Forces can launch and sustain a strong military presence across the country, including in Canada’s North, through investments in new infrastructure and support capabilities. We will acquire additional air-to-air refuelling aircraft, upgrade CAF infrastructure at four locations in Canada’s North, improve CAF main operating bases and quick reaction alert capabilities across the country, and modernize our air operational training infrastructure. And to ensure that new infrastructure fulfills the needs of our military and maximizes broader benefits for Canadians, we will deliver these initiatives working closely with provinces, territories and Indigenous communities.
  • Future-proof our capabilities to defend North America through investments in science and technology. We will create a science and technology program that will assess new and emerging threats, and access and co-develop technological solutions to address them, alongside the United States, which will ensure our defence investments keep pace with rapidly evolving military threats and solutions into the future.

The upgrades will include “over-the-horizon radar,” a technology touted for some time as a Canadian need. SpaceQ interviewed Colonel (Retired) Pierre Leblanc, principal at Arctic Security Consultants, in January 2019 on Arctic security which included a discussion on the need for over-the-horizon radar.

Details on a Space-Based Surveillance System surveillance system where not mentioned during the press conference though we know that the Department of National Defence (DND) has been moving forward slowly on this issue for sometime including selecting seven engineering and costing proposals for a Space-Based Surveillance System in February 2020.

In 2019 DND awarded $46.2M for two contracts related to the All Domain Situational Awareness Science & Technology Program. This included $31.2M to Raytheon Canada Limited to demonstrate the feasibility of sky-wave radar, or Polar Over-the-Horizon Radar. The other $15M was allocated for three microsatellites as part of Project Grey Jay being developed by the Space Flight Laboratory in Toronto. We’ll have an update shortly on the status of Project Grey Jay.

About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20 years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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