NORAD Commander Warns Canadian Officials of Hypersonic Missile Threat
NORAD Commander Gen. Glen VanHerck on Tuesday warned key Canadian government and military leaders of the threat hypersonic missile technology poses to North American security, saying it makes “very difficult “the accomplishment of his mission for him.
Visiting Canada for the first time since taking command of the Continental Defense Organization last year, VanHerck gave officials in Ottawa what he called a “frank” risk assessment – a day after Russia said it had successfully tested another of its hypersonic cruise missiles.
Hypersonic missiles can travel at more than five times the speed of sound and have wide ranges. A hypersonic missile can bounce and sneak through the atmosphere and avoid interception en route to its target. Its maneuverability also makes it more difficult to follow.
Most hypersonic vehicles can only carry conventional warheads, but experts warn they may be able to carry nuclear weapons within a few years.
“As the commander of NORAD, I think the most important mission I do is probably to provide threat alerts and attack assessment for Canada and the United States, for North America,” VanHerck said during a media roundtable.
“Hypersonics will challenge my ability to do this in the future.”
VanHerck said he is not in charge of defending North America against hypersonics at this time. He said it was up to decision-makers in Canada and the United States to tell him if his mission needed to change.
The US missile defense review examines the technology, he said. Canada, meanwhile, is not conducting a similar review and has not set a clear position on what it would do to defend Canada against hypersonic.
VanHerck said Canadian officials did not share any political decisions with him on Tuesday. He said he gave Defense Minister Anita Anand, Chief of the Defense Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre and his vice chief Lieutenant General. Frances Allen, information on the threat so they can determine “the way forward”.
“It’s not my job to get into the ‘You should do this or that’ policy,” he said. “My job is to lay out the facts of the risk, the capabilities that exist.”
The global race to master this next generation of weapons is intensifying.
US confirms China launched hypersonic
Russia announced on Monday that it had successfully completed another test launch of its Zircon hypersonic cruise missile. Moscow said the missile was fired from a warship in the White Sea and hit a target more than 400 kilometers away.
The U.S. Navy and Army also tested prototype hypersonic weapon components last month – the same day U.S. President Joe Biden said he was concerned about Chinese hypersonic weapons.
China knocked out the Pentagon this summer by launching a rocket with a “fractional orbital bombardment system” to propel a “hypersonic glide vehicle” around the world for the first time. The weapon almost hit its target, the Financial Post reported.
In a rare move last month, U.S. General Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed that China has carried out two hypersonic weapons tests. He called the tests a “very important technological event” which is “very close” to a “Sputnik moment,” according to his interview with Bloomberg Television.
China’s Foreign Ministry denied that a weapons test had taken place and called the device under test a space vehicle rather than a missile.
VanHerck said Russia is already using hypersonics in the field, while China is not.
“Russia is the main military threat to North America,” he said. “China is about a decade behind.”
He said NORAD needs the ability to use artificial intelligence to provide defense officials with information about the threat.
Canada and the United States are committed to modernizing NORAD to bring it into the digital age. VanHerck said modernization talks are still in their infancy.
“To say that we are well engaged in the discussion and that we have come to an agreement on anything would be false information,” he said. get ready to crawl, if you will. “
There is no timeline or estimated cost yet, VanHerck said. The next step would be for Canada’s defense minister and the US defense secretary to create a framework to move forward, he said.
Canada’s hypersonic defense stance unclear
When CBC News asked Anand’s office what direction it would give VanHerck at their meeting Tuesday on hypersonics, a spokesperson said, “Canada and the United States are coordinating closely on emerging threats to our continent”.
“These threats include long-range cruise missiles – including hypersonic missiles – to which NORAD devotes significant attention and resources in order to mitigate the threat they pose,” Anand spokesperson wrote. , Daniel Minden, in a press release.
David Perry, vice president of the Canadian Institute for World Affairs, said the government’s hypersonic policy remains “unclear.”
Perry said parts of the Canadian military, including ships and fighter jets, are geared toward defending Canada against missile strikes. But in 2005, Canada chose not to join the ballistic missile defense of the George W. Bush administration.
In 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada would not change its stance on missile defense “anytime soon”. Anand’s office also confirmed on Tuesday that the position had not changed.
Perry said the United States is leading the world in developing systems to detect, track and destroy hypersonic missiles. But the Canadian federal government, he said, has not publicly stated whether the withdrawal from the US ballistic missile defense effort also means the country continues to withdraw from defense agreements for other types of defense. missiles, such as hypersonic glide vehicles.
“Since we said no to that, there has been a lack of clarity from at least the public on what exactly we will and will not do when it comes to defending Canada,” Perry said.
Times have changed, Perry said, and Canada should clarify its position now that there is evidence that Russia and China are aggressively modernizing their armies and researching new weapon technologies.
“This means they now have the military capability that they can launch from their home country that can reach North America,” he said.
James Ferguson, deputy director of the Center for Defense and Security Studies at the University of Manitoba, said Canada has yet to find a defensive response to hypersonic weapons.
“How do you rank them? Ferguson said. “We just don’t know what the government is thinking about this, if it is thinking about it at all.”
“Our defense capabilities to deal with this new generation of threats, such as hypersonic vehicles, are outdated. We have a major void that must be filled for the purposes of deterrence.”
Canada and the United States issued a joint statement in August committing to modernize NORAD in the coming years and committing to “respond to aerospace threats swiftly and decisively”.
Anand’s office told CBC News in a media statement that Canada has committed $ 163 million in Budget 2021 to the NORAD modernization program and, in partnership with the United States, “will continue to advance investments needed to protect Canadians and Americans from current and emerging threats. . “