Modernizing the NORAD Defence Structure

machining capabilities


When the US and Canada began building NORAD in the late 1950s, the cold war threats were straightforward.  ICBMs, whether launched from land or sea, followed high, leisurely parabolic arcs that made them easy to track.  All we really needed was long-range radar to spot them and some simple computers to project where they were going.

Then came cruise missiles.  In the 80s and 90s, Ben Machine was heavily involved in manufacturing components to replace the antiquated DEW Line radar facilities with Canada’s North Warning System, featuring next-generation long and short-range radar systems.  That was a big project for us.  It allowed us to expand our sheet metal fabrication and CNC machining capabilities. We were very proud of the work we did in helping secure our nation’s northern borders.

What’s On the Horizon

Over the last couple of years, Canada has begun committing funding in association with US and Canadian efforts to modernize our northern protections again.  The 2022 budget included $4.6 Billion for NORAD modernization.  Those funds will go toward new radar equipment, command and control, and short, medium, and long-range air-to-air missiles.  Canada will soon begin working with the US on an integrated network of sensors with classified capabilities.  Known as Crossbow, this network will be deployed across northern Canada.

What’s Over the Horizon

Investments were announced in 2021 for initial work to begin on the redesign of the northern radar systems.  Cruise missiles can change flight paths and fly under propulsion below most radar.  There has also been a rash of developments in hypersonic missiles in the last two decades.

The new Northern Approaches Surveillance System (NASS) will include Arctic Over-the-Horizon Radar, which will monitor from the US border to the Arctic Circle.  The Polar Over-the-Horizon Radar will pick up from there, monitoring to the top of the world.

The Defence Enhanced Surveillance from Space is an initiative first announced by Ottawa in 2017 to increase the nation’s space-based surveillance capabilities for Canadian territory and maritime approaches.  Work is slated to begin on that in 2025.

Closer to Home

In January, Ottawa announced the purchase of what will eventually be 88 F-35s to patrol the world’s second-largest airspace.  Infrastructure improvements to accommodate the new fighters have begun at three air bases as well.  Lastly, there is funding designated for research and development on an ongoing basis.  The R&D component is tasked with assessing new and emerging threats and working with the US to develop ways to address them.

All in, the government has committed to investing $38.6 Billion over 20 years to bolster our security on the northern border.  You can read about the individual projects and the timelines here.  It’s quite an ambitious set of plans, but it’s exactly the kind of investment this country needs to make in the interests of national defence.


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