Canadian considerations for missile defense

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(Photo: Sputnik News)

By Patrice Deschênes, CD, MDS

The United States is, at this very moment, in the middle of a complete review of their missile defence strategy. The Missile Defense Review (MDR) is due to be completed and presented to Congress in January 2018.

Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) is a combined area of warfare that requires excellent technological integration across services within a multinational framework, and Canada would be wise to pay close attention to the MDR. We are already lagging among our allies in the business of missile defence due to certain political calculations and the new American MDR represents a unique opportunity for Canada to increase its relevance in this domain and get on board with BMD.

Due to the unique technical challenges and the astronomical investments required to develop IAMD, the U.S., via their Missile Defense Agency will remain the only source of technology and doctrine in the foreseeable future. For that reason, the results of the MDR will constitute the main indicator as to what would be the best contribution Canada could offer to our collective missile defence.

Canada should make its intention clear, better sooner than later, to contribute to missile defence. However, our policymakers and defence experts should reserve their choice of the type of participation until after the release of the MDR. Effectively, the MDR has the potential to revolutionize the concept of IAMD, which will no longer be limited to missile interception, but instead focus on countering a full spectrum of missile threats using a wide range of means: neutralizing the threat before its interception, and even prior to launch.

That said, despite its “half-pregnant” stance on BMD, Canada has not been totally absent from the club. In fact, Canada is heavily involved and a key member of the Maritime Theater Missile Defense Forum (MTMD-F). The MTMD-F is facilitating the ability of the participating nations to improve interoperability, and enhance individual and collective maritime IAMD capabilities.

The forum got the attention of the Russian political and military establishments when, in October 2015 off the Scottish coast, the group put together an operational task force in a live-fire exercise that saw, for the first time in history, the firing of SM-3 interceptor missiles in the European theater. Canada, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and the United States conducted more surface-to-air missile firing events as France, Norway and the United Kingdom conducted Radar and Combat Systems Development Trials.

Editor’s note: we welcome Patrice Deschênes, a guest contributor to the AIMS blog. He has significant experience and interest in defense and security issues.

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