With climate change reducing the amount of ice in the Arctic, and opening up the area for increased maritime traffic during the summer
months, Canada is examining how it can better conduct
surveillance on the remote region.
The task is daunting.
Canada’s northern region consists of more than 1. 5
million square miles and is larger in size than India.
But there are less than 120,000 people in the entire
area. Canada’s Arctic coastline is 162,000 kilometers
long (100,000 miles) and only one-tenth of its northern waters are charted.
The country’s previous Conservative Party government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper had put special
emphasis on establishing a military and government
presence in Canada’s Arctic territories and enforcing
sovereignty there. He had cited the presence of oil, gas
and minerals in the Arctic, resources he labeled as critical to the country’s future economic growth.
Canada’s new Liberal Party government appears
to be ready to take up where Harper’s administration
The Liberal Party had promised
during the fall election campaign
that if it formed the next government, it would increase surveillance
over the country’s Arctic waters and
land mass. Now it has to figure out
how to proceed on that promise.
Jordan Owens, spokeswoman
for Canadian Defence Minister
Harjit Sajjan, said the government’s
new Arctic policy would be formulated during the planned review of
the country’s defense capabilities.
Sajjan has said that review, which
will guide the Canadian military in
the coming decades, should be
ready by the end of the year.
The remoteness of the region, the
vast expanse and the extreme weather has limited
attempts to conduct maritime surveillance in the Arctic.
The Royal Canadian Air Force examined purchasing a
maritime version of the Global Hawk unmanned aerial
vehicle (UAV) to conduct surveillance over the northern
waters, but abandoned those plans because the cost was
estimated to be more than $1 billion and there were questions about whether such UAVs would be effective.
Canada currently has been using its RADARSAT- 2
spacecraft to provide wide-area maritime surveillance of
its Arctic waters. The commercial radar-imaging Earth-observation satellite, which can monitor activity day or
night and through cloud cover, is outfitted with a maritime satellite surveillance radar. That allows for the
detection of ships that are 25 meters — or about 75 feet
— in length or longer, according to the Canadian Forces.
Canada plans to further improve that capability with
the proposed launch of three next-generation radar-imaging satellites in 2018. Those spacecraft, called the
RADARSAT Constellation Mission, would provide for
increased passes over the Arctic region, allowing military
commanders to collect more data about ship movements.
New Canadian government promises to increase
maritime surveillance in the country’s Arctic territories
By DAVID PUGLIESE, Special Correspondent
Improving Arctic ISR
Canada’s Liberal Party government says it will formulate a new
Arctic policy during the planned review this year of the country’s
; Only one-tenth of Canada’s northern waters are charted.
; The remoteness of the region, the vast expanse and the
extreme weather has limited attempts to conduct maritime surveillance in the Arctic.
; The proposed launch of three new radar-imaging satellites and
the use of unmanned vehicles are being looked at to provide
greater intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities in the region.