A little over a decade ago, Canada —under the Martin’s Liberals — rejected taking part in the United States Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system along its U.S. counterpart.
The Canadian government is currently reviewing its defence policy, including the possibility to reconsider its position on their participation to the U.S. BMD system. The review is expected to be released early next year.
Canada could provide interceptor and radar sites for the Boeing Ground-based Midcourse Defense system. The United States has two interceptor sites; Fort Greely, Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence wrote a report in 2014 stating that: “The committee is unanimous in recommending that the Government of Canada enter into an agreement with the United States to participate as a partner in ballistic missile defence.”
According to the report, North Korea and Iran are the two countries that could potentially target North America with Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM). However, North Korea remains the main threat, hence why both U.S. interceptor sites are based on the West Coast.
NATO is slowly implementing a BMD system in Europe under the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA). As a matter of fact, two interceptor sites —using Aegis-Ashore system— are anticipated in Europe. As stated in the Senate Committee report, “Canada has endorsed the idea of protecting Europe from ballistic missile attack by rogue states. Yet it fails to apply this same logic in respect of its own security.”
Although I believe the threat is minimal, I believe Canada should participate in the BMD system in North America. If we endorse a defence system in Europe, we should do the same to defend our country. That said, there is always a price tag attached to new projects. So before taking a decision, Canadians should know how much it will cost.
Canada bought the Iron Dome technology from Israel last year and will be produced by Rheinmetall Canada. The Iron Dome is a mobile all-weather air defense system capable of intercepting and destroy short-range rockets and artillery shells fired from a distance between 4 km and 70 km. The Iron Dome will most likely be deployed in Northern Canada and could possibly be deployed abroad to protect Canadian bases. That said, even with a very high success rate, the interception range is too short to protect against ICBMs.
The Iron Dome is a great piece of equipment and Canada made a good move acquiring it, but it cannot replace the Ground-based Midcourse Defense System. That said, the system will be perfect to defend deployed Canadian soldiers against incoming rockets.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said the Liberals want Canada and North America well defended from a variety of threats. He also invited Canadians to discuss the defense review in which the BMD system is included.
“We want to make sure that the defense review is open and wide,” he said. “By not opening up the discussion on ballistic missile defense, allowing Canadians to have a say in this, it would not be an open defense review.”
Canada could deploy the Raytheon Upgraded Early Warning Radar (UEWR) in places like CFS Alert and CFB Goose Bay. If we do so, I would also support a Ground-based Midcourse Defense system on the East Coast, enabling NORAD to intercept incoming missiles.
If we don’t participate and multiple ICBMs are launched toward North America, the United States would definitely destroy the incoming ballistic missiles but would prioritize its own territory. It might sound like fearmongering but with rogue states like North Korea, there is no way to be safe.
The Ground-based Midcourse Defense System have had mixed success, however. Nine of the 17 (53%) hit-to-kill intercept has been successful. So if Canada was to participate in the BMD system, I would strongly recommend waiting until the success rate is higher before deploying the defence system, especially since it will most likely cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Boeing is actively working on its Ground-based Midcourse Defense system and conducted a successful CTV-02+ exercise last January.
“Under rigorous ground and flight testing, the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system has demonstrated impressive capabilities, including the ability to shoot down an incoming ballistic missile. Recent program accomplishments include a successful CTV-02+ exercise held in January 2016. More than an intercept, ground and flight tests collect data on all parts of the system, ensuring the best missile defense for the U.S. homeland. The Ground-based Midcourse Defense system has successfully intercepted nine targets to date,” said Terence Williams, GMD Communications.
As I said, I am in favour of a BMD system but the success rate needs to be higher. I would be clearly against it if we spend hundreds of millions of dollars for a system that has been successful only 53% of the time. The money injected in this program will most likely comes from the defence budget and with the delayed military spending, I highly doubt the Liberals would increase the Defence budget over a BMD system.
Before investing in a BMD system, Canada should make sure its Armed Forces is in a better state, however. The North Korean ICBM threat is still out there but I believe that our Canadian Forces soldiers, airmen and sailors need modern equipment first.