Wed. Nov 30th, 2022

Russia has begun sending long-range bombers back over the Arctic toward North American airspace after a brief hiatus during the early months of the war in Ukraine, according to a senior Canadian military official.

Russian submarines are also operating off both coasts as Moscow seeks to demonstrate its ability to attack Canada and the United States, said Lt. Gen. Alain Pelletier, deputy commander of the North American Air and Space Defense Command.

“We have seen a decrease this year, especially since Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine on February 24. However, some of that activity has now resumed,” Pelletier told the Senate Defense Committee on Monday.

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“Activities are not limited to long-range aviation. Russia is now using its submarines on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to actually demonstrate its strategic capabilities and pose a threat to North America.”

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While Pelletier did not provide more specific details, Norad officials announced last month that two Russian long-range bombers were intercepted by US fighter jets after approaching Alaska. The bombers did not enter North American airspace before departing.

Pelletier and other defense officials also confirmed that Canada and the US have begun work on modernizing Norad, the joint early warning system that constitutes North America’s first line of defense against foreign air attack.

The Liberal government announced in June that Ottawa plans to invest $4.9 billion over six years and $40 billion over the next 20 years to upgrade the system in cooperation with Washington, D.C.

Click to play video: 'Russia is biggest threat to NATO, says senior military official'

Russia is the biggest threat to NATO, says a senior military official

This includes replacing the array of 1980s-era radars in Canada’s north that form the backbone of the country’s contribution to Norad with more modern systems that can see further and detect and track new types of weapons.

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“We’re in the very early stages,” Defense Department official Jonathan Quinn said. “The announcement was in June, but we are putting in place detailed plans with key points, setting up project offices here at the National Defense Headquarters to advance specific initiatives.”

This comes as Russia and China, in particular, have begun flexing their muscles in the Arctic and developing new weapons that can more easily hit North America, including cruise missiles and hypersonic weapons that fly extremely fast.

Still, while research and development of new radars and other equipment to find and stop such weapons is progressing rapidly, Quinn told the committee it will be some time before they hit the ground running.

Until then, Canada and the US will be forced to rely on the threat of retaliation to prevent such attacks, Quinn added.

“During the shutdown period, we would rely probably a little bit more than we’d like on penalty deterrence until we kind of strengthen those North American defenses to strengthen denial defense deterrence,” he said.

© 2022 The Canadian Press