Threats from Russia, China underscore need to modernize Norad: expert

The increasing national security risks posed by Russia and China underscore the need to upgrade Norad’s North Warning System, a joint United States and Canadian early-warning radar system for the atmospheric air defense of North America. It was upgraded in the 1980s, according to one expert.

The U.S. and Canada have discussed the possibility to modernize Norad. Canada is said to cover 40 per cent of the modernization cost.

Christian Leuprecht, a professor at Royal Military College, considers these modernizations are worth the hefty price tag. In his interview to CTV’s Your Morning he specified: “We live in a much more competitive and contested environment. And so that means that we need as Canadians to take the world for what it is rather than what we would like it to be.”

“It is a place that is highly competitive in all domains – political, economic, military – and so we need to be investing in our defences.”

According to Leuprecht, Norad’s old missile warning systems will face problems related to detecting the hypersonic weapons being developed by Russia and China, as well as their underwater vehicles, as reported by

“What that means is that your time from launch to impact as well as the speed has changed dramatically. And so, it means that you need to be able to engage much more quickly and might not be able to even detect some of these vehicles,” he said. “Our adversaries are exploiting the loopholes that our system has, in order to advance a much broader geopolitical competitive agenda.”

Norad has traditionally been solely used as a defensive deterrent, but Leuprecht considers it necessary to equip Norad with some offensive capabilities taking into account the new risk posed by hypersonic weapons.

“With these new weapons, you might have to intercept one of these new hypersonic cruise missiles at launch, because that is your only opportunity to intercept,” he stressed.

In the past, the threat came from intercontinental ballistic missiles from the Kola peninsula in Russia’s far north, potentially reaching targets in the United States. But now, according to Leuprecht, the situation has changed and focus has shifted to targets in Canada.

“You can hit a component in Canada and have a dramatic impact on the entire North American continent, and the entire North American system and how it functions,” he said.

The other factor is that in the past, the Arctic was only seen as a flyover zone for these weapons. Now, defence of sovereignty in the Arctic itself is becoming more important as Russia and China’s ambitions in the Arctic continue to grow.

“It’s also about for being able to protect our soveignty and being able to protect the Arctic at large,”Leuprecht said.

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