Senior officer warns Norad can’t detect Russian bombers in time, needs upgrades

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OTTAWA — A senior Canadian military officer says the aging defensive system protecting North America from attack cannot detect long-range Russian bombers before they are in range to launch missiles at the continent.

Commodore Jamie Clarke, the deputy director of strategy at the North American Aerospace Defence Command, warned that Norad desperately needs to be upgraded as the Russian and Chinese militaries become more advanced.

Clarke is the latest in a line of Canadian and American military officers to warn that the Norad early-warning system, which includes a chain of 1980s-era radars in Canada’s Arctic, is becoming obsolete.

Those warnings have grown in intensity over the past few years in the face of slow progress in Ottawa and Washington on upgrading the system, which has been the bedrock of North American security for decades.

The Liberal government’s 2017 defence policy includes plans to upgrade Norad to defend against the threats of today and tomorrow, including high-speed cruise missiles, long-range ballistic missiles and other potential weapons.

Yet it did not set aside any money for the effort, which is expected to cost many billions of dollars, and discussions with the U.S. about the future of Norad have so far been limited.