The Need for a Northern Surveillance Strategy – AAC Position Paper 01/2010

AFAC POSITION PAPER 01/2010

Issue:  The Need for a Northern Surveillance Strategy

Background

• It is generally accepted that global warming is causing increased attention in the North, given the possibility of increased access to resources, a greater level of activity overall, and the fact that Arctic nations may now feel that there is a greater threat to their security.  The North is increasingly perceived to have great value to these nations, Canada included.  In the words of Dr. Rob Huebert, an expert in this area, “the main Arctic states are developing new policies that focus on both their foreign and their defence policies in the region…Notwithstanding their proclamations of cooperation, the Arctic states are now rearming.”   The Canada First Defence Strategy directs the CF to “have the capacity to exercise control over and defend Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic.”   This includes the need to “Provide surveillance of Canadian territory and air and maritime approaches.”

• The Canadian Government has an integrated Northern Strategy which supports a vision of a new North by focusing on four priorities:  economic and social development, governance, environmental protection and sovereignty.   Funding has been budgeted for such initiatives as a new Polar-class icebreaker, comprehensive mapping of the Arctic seabed and Northern geology, and other socio-economic undertakings.  From a defence and security perspective, the Government has identified the need for an Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship, a deep water port at Nanisivik, a Northern training facility at Resolute Bay, and an expansion in the number of Rangers.  The Joint Unmanned Surveillance Target Acquisition System (JUSTAS) project identifies a need to be able to conduct surveillance in the North in addition to that already being done by other resources – maritime patrol aircraft and ship patrols.

• While these actions are useful and welcomed, they fall short of what might be considered to be a comprehensive Northern Strategy, especially when it comes to defence and security issues.  It is believed that these proposals were based on a political perspective and not necessarily created as a result of any detailed study or analysis of the region and its strategic importance to Canada.  Whilst the need for socio-economic activity in the North is recognized, it should be complemented with actions to exert and maintain Canadian sovereignty throughout the region.  This applies to developing a capability to know what is occurring in the North, being able to investigate appropriately and dealing with a threat if necessary.  Throughout there is a need for sufficient acquisition funding and the resources for long-term sustainment to ensure that capabilities are maintained and evolved appropriately. 

AFAC Position

• The employment of aerospace resources to monitor the North and support any actions taken there is critical to having a meaningful capability, given the area to cover and the vast distances involved.  Indeed, of the three service arms, only the Air Force has the wherewithal to carry out this task efficiently and effectively.  Primordial is the need to develop and implement a comprehensive surveillance strategy.  Following an assessment of the overall requirement (area to cover, frequency and persistence of surveillance, fidelity of data to gain useful information, etc), an implementation plan should be written to address the means to provide the necessary surveillance.  Implementation would then be focused on filling in any gaps from current capabilities.

• Recognizing that such an approach to Northern surveillance is a long term undertaking and will require considerable investment to acquire and sustain, implementation is likely to be gradual.  Current capabilities should be improved upon where possible and cost effective; new technologies can be exploited as they are developed; and cooperation with the US should be considered where appropriate.  Throughout, aerospace solutions will be fundamental to providing the capability needed.  These include space-based assets, manned and unmanned aircraft, and ground-based surveillance systems.

• The overall strategy should be to implement the capability to ensure that a practical, robust surveillance system is put in place to meet Canadian needs for situational awareness of our sovereign territory.  Importantly, individual capabilities must be complementary so as to be part of a holistic solution to surveillance and intelligence gathering in the North.

• Finally, having a robust and current surveillance capability in the North will also assist in the execution of another critical CF tasking, that of search and rescue, in this sparse and desolate region.

Messages

• With increasing interest in the North, Canadian capability to monitor and protect our sovereignty is becoming increasingly important to our security, economic and social interests.

• Surveillance of the North is key to ensuring sovereignty and a holistic approach is needed to assess needs and field a capable system.

• Aerospace capabilities are fundamental to Northern surveillance and related technologies should be exploited to the extent possible to satisfy the requirement.

Developed by:  Aviation Affairs Committee

Contacts: 

Date:  Jun 2010