Canada strengthens U.S. ties with meetings, weapons programs

THE WATCH STAFF

Canada’s close military and economic ties with the United States are taking the spotlight with a series of high-level meetings and the expansion of a major weapons partnership.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on June 7, 2022, during a trip to attend the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles. Trudeau was accompanied in Colorado Springs by Anita Anand, Canada’s defense minister.

“The Canada-United States partnership is forged by shared geography, values, and interests, deep personal connections, and strong economic ties,” according to the announcement of Trudeau’s visit. “Canada and the United States enjoy the largest trade relationship in the world.”

The same day, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also visited Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs to discuss “our ongoing mission to defend the U.S. homeland and space domain” with personnel from NORAD and U.S. Northern Command. Austin’s visit kicks off an international trip “to help advance a number of key U.S. defense priorities and partnerships around the world,” he said in a tweet.

Canada and the U.S. share a close defense partnership through NORAD, the binational command responsible for providing aerospace warning, aerospace control and maritime warning for the defense of North America. Austin met with Anand at the Pentagon in April 2022, where she announced plans for a “robust” new continental defense system under NORAD. The Ottawa Citizen reported that Canada plans to spend nearly U.S. $1 billion for a new northward-facing, over-the-horizon radar system in the Arctic to detect threats against U.S. or Canadian cities. The system would start operations in 2028. In addition, a Canadian military official told the Citizen, Canada has taken steps to purchase a new high-tech system valued at about U.S. $1 billion that will be capable of shooting down enemy aircraft, missiles and drones aimed at Canada. Defense analysts and retired generals have pointed to the Russian invasion of Ukraine as evidence of the need for such equipment, the newspaper reported.

MASTER SGT. BEN MOTA/U.S. AIR FORCE

Canada also announced in March 2022 that it had selected the F-35 Lightning II made by U.S.-based Lockheed-Martin as the Royal Canadian Air Force’s fighter jet of the future. Four aircraft originally were in the running for a competitive-bid contract worth up to U.S. $15 billion: the F-35, the Super Hornet made by U.S.-based Boeing, the Eurofighter Typhoon made by a European consortium including Airbus, and the JAS 39 Gripen made by Saab of Sweden.

“This procurement project for the RCAF – the largest in over three decades – will help ensure Canada can continue to defend North America, enhance our Arctic sovereignty and meet our NATO and NORAD obligations in the face of current and emerging threats,” Anand said. (Pictured: Canadian Defence Minister Anita Anand speaks during a news conference following a meeting at the Pentagon on April 28, 2022, with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, left.)

Canada will negotiate now with Lockheed Martin and the U.S. government to procure 88 of the F-35s beginning as early as 2025. Two main operating bases are being prepared for the new fighter fleet, one northwest of Edmonton and one near Quebec City. Canada has been a partner since 1997 in the multinational Joint Strike Fighter Program that produced the F-35. Canadian industry forms part of the supply chain in the manufacture of the aircraft, with existing contracts valued at more than $2 billion, according to Lockheed Martin.

Canada joins more than a dozen allied nations and security partners that already are flying the aircraft or are in the process of procuring them. “The F-35 is the fighter jet of choice for Canada’s closest allies,” Lockheed Martin said. “The United States, Denmark and Norway will operate the F-35 in the Arctic to counter increasingly sophisticated adversary threats.” Other allies who have chosen the fighter jet include the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Australia, Japan and South Korea.

IMAGE CREDIT: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

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