Mon. Jan 17th, 2022

NORAD’s commander-in-chief, General Glen VanHerck, on Tuesday warned senior Canadian government and military leaders of the threat posed by hypersonic missile technology to North American security, saying it made it “very challenging” for him to carry out his mission.

When he visited Canada for the first time since taking command of the Continental Defense Organization last year, VanHerck gave Ottawa officials what he called a “sincere” 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 tilt and weave through the atmosphere and avoid eavesdropping on its way to its target. Its maneuverability also makes it harder to track.

Most hypersonic vehicles can only deliver conventional warheads – but experts warn that they may be able to carry nuclear weapons within years.

“As Commander-in-Chief of NORAD, I think the most important mission I carry out is to provide threat warning and attack assessment for both Canada and the United States, for North America,” VanHerck said at a roundtable discussion.

“Hypersonics will challenge my ability to do that going forward.”

Gen. Glen VanHerck said on Tuesday he gave an honest risk assessment to senior Canadian military and government leaders regarding hypersonic. (Corporal Jeff Smith, Canadian Forces Support Group Ottawa-Gatineau Imaging Services)

VanHerck said he has no mission to defend North America against hypersonic right now. He said it is up to decision makers in Canada and the United States to tell him if his mission should change.

The U.S. Missile Defense Review examines the technology, he said. Canada, meanwhile, does not conduct a similar review and has not established 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 Secretary of Defense Anita Anand, Chief of Defense Staff, General Wayne Eyre and his Deputy Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General. Frances Allen, information about the threat so they can determine the “way forward.”

“It’s not my job to get into the policy of, ‘You should do this or that,'” he said. “My job is to explain the facts about the risk, the opportunities that are out there.”

The global race to master this next generation of weapons is intensifying.

The United States confirms that China has launched hypersonically

Russia said Monday it had conducted another successful 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 prototypes of hypersonic weapon components last month – the same day that U.S. President Joe Biden said he was concerned about Chinese hypersonic weapons.

China stunned the Pentagon in the summer by firing a rocket with a “fractional orbital bombardment system” to propel a “hypersonic glider” around the world for the first time. The weapon was close to hitting its target, the Financial Post reported.

Chinese military vehicles with DF-17 missiles roll during a parade to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China in Beijing on Tuesday, October 1, 2019. (Ng Han Guan / The Associated Press)

In a rare move last month, U.S. General Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed that China had conducted two hypersonic weapons tests. He called the tests a “very significant technological event” that came “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 tested for a spacecraft instead of a missile.

VanHerck said Russia already uses hypersonic in the field, while China does not.

“Russia is the primary 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 authorities with information about the threat.

Canada and the United States are committed to modernizing NORAD to bring it into the digital age. VanHerck said the modernization discussions are in the early stages.

“To say that we are well on our way in the discussion and have reached agreement on anything would be false information,” he said. get ready to crawl if you want to. “

There is not a timeline or estimated cost yet, VanHerck said. The next step would be for the Canadian Secretary of Defense and the U.S. Secretary of Defense to create a framework for moving forward, he said.

Canada’s hypersonic defensive position unclear

When CBC News asked Anand’s office what direction she would give VanHerck during their Tuesday meeting on hypersonic, a spokesman said that “Canada and the United States are closely coordinating regarding new threats to our continent.”

“These threats include long-range cruise missiles – including hypersonic missiles – on which NORAD spends considerable attention and resources to mitigate the threat they pose,” Anand spokesman Daniel Minden wrote in a media statement.

Defense Secretary Anita Anand’s office says Canada and the United States are closely coordinating on new threats, including hypersonic missiles. (The Canadian Press)

David Perry, vice president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said the government’s policy on hypersonic remains “unclear”.

Perry said parts of Canada’s military, including ships and fighter jets, are geared toward defending Canada against missile attacks. But in 2005, Canada opted out of joining the George W. Bush administration’s ballistic missile defense.

In 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada would not change its position on missile defense “anytime soon.” Anand’s office also confirmed on Tuesday that the position has not changed.

Perry said the United States is a world leader in developing systems to detect, track and destroy hypersonic missiles. But the Canadian federal government, he said, has not publicly stated whether opting out of the U.S. ballistic missile defense effort also means the country continues to opt out of defense arrangements for other types of missiles, such as hypersonic glider vehicles.

“Since I said no to that, at least there has been a lack of public clarity about what exactly we want 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 military and pursuing new weapons technology.

“That means they now have the military capability that they can fire from their home country, which 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 not yet come up with a defensive response to hypersonic weapons.

“How do you rate them?” said Ferguson. “We just do not know what the government thinks about this, if they think about this at all.”

“Our defense capabilities to deal with this new generation of threats, such as hypersonic vehicles, are obsolete. We have a large gap that needs to be filled for deterrent purposes.”

Canada and the United States issued a joint statement in August committing to modernizing NORAD in the coming years, promising to “respond quickly and decisively to aviation threats.”

Anand’s office told CBC News in a media statement that Canada earmarked $ 163 million in the 2021 budget for NORAD’s modernization program and in partnership with the United States will “continue to promote the necessary investments to keep Canadians and Americans safe from current and new threats.”

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