Jeffrey LewisX-Band Radar in Canada?

Canadians are not totally against defense.


Two months ago, CBC reported two senior Raytheon employees skulking around the Happy Valley-Goose Bay area in Labrador.

… senior officials from the Raytheon Company travelled to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador, on a scouting trip.

The Massachusetts-based corporation builds missiles for the American military and is a major player in the design of the North American ballistic missile defence shield.

One visitor was the principal mechanical engineer of national missile defence with Raytheon. The other was the manager of X-band sensor systems, a finely tuned type of imaging radar used in early-warning systems.

Although Raytheon officials refused an interview, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro (possibly influenced by a couple of ice cold Molsons) confirmed Raytheon executives discussed power supply in the area—an important issue for an X-Band Radar. Raytheon’s interest in Goose Bay was odd: Canada had declined formal participation in the US Ballistic Missile Defense System just a few weeks before. (No BMD, eh? had the story at the time).

Raytheon is no longer the reluctant suitor. CBC reports Raytheon confirmed Goose Bay as the “preferred site” for an X Band radar.

David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen previously reported efforts by members of the Liberal government to site an X-Band Radar in Goose Bay for standard pork-barrel reasons.

Given the tepid response of Canadian Defense Minister Bill Graham—“We will see what happens.”—I suspect the Canada BMDS debate has a second act.

Good times.

(For more, check out No BMD, eh?)


  1. Captain_Canuck (History)

    It’s good to see Canadian beer jokes are still all the rage down there. What with all this “War On Terror” stuff, we’ve been sort of afraid you guys would revisit the whole burning-down-the-White-House episode in 1814. Mind you, come December Gitmo may look attractive to some.

    So, a couple of comments on Happy-Valley Goose Bay as a possible XBR site.

    1) The base, built by the US in the good old days of strategic bombing, was later turned over to Canada who have been operating it as a low-level fighter training base for Europeans who’s own airspace is too crowded for such things. Thing is, the Euro customers have recently dried up, and the base is a prime candidate for closure. Base closures in rural economies are no more politically palatable than they are in the US.

    2) Electricity would be in ample supply. The Churchill Falls hydro-electric station is a hundred miles from Goose Bay, and the power runs south, but a new line could be built. However, a proposed new (and massive) hydro-electric development at Muskrat Falls is just a stone’s throw from the base.

    3) While located within a few hundred miles of a couple of the North Warning System sites (AN/FPS-117 and AN/FPS-124), the base really plays no role in NWS at present, nor in any of the SOSUS lines (despite occasional rumours to the contrary).

    4) The political aspects to this idea are interesting. While the cool climate (pardon the pun) between the Bush admin and the governing liberal party here are well-documented, Canada has a long history of supporting a common air and space surveillance network with the US via NORAD. XBR could be spun as a logical continuation of that teamwork, and give the Canadian government a relatively “peaceful” role in missile defence, politically speaking.

    Hell, we took Bomarc – anything’s possible.

  2. ry (History)

    Sigh. Why punish us with memories of good hockey(the goalie photo)? damn the NHL and the lock out.

  3. Stephen (History)

    Captain Canuck isn’t far off on point (4): during the recent national debate up here, some of Canada’s BMD-boosters tried to spin our potential participation as a ‘logical continuation’ of a ‘long history’ of the said ‘teamwork.’

    (Some went further, claiming NORAD would be put at risk altogether if we said ‘No’ to BMD.)

    Though the BMD-boosters ultimately failed, I don’t doubt they’ll try a similar tactic with a Labrador-based XBR if they think the plan could succeed. I think, though, they’ll try to downplay the XBR’s BMD functions and stress other, more general functions instead.

    At least that’s what I think they’ll do for the general Canadian public. As I recall from reading some the polls at the time, however, opposition to BMD tended to be relatively low in N&L, as compared to the rest of the country. Pollsters’ sample sizes obviously need to be taken into account, but it’s likely many people in that economically threatened region might be happy to accept such an XBR base if they thought it might mean a few more jobs, especially given the history Captain Canuck mentions.

    Therefore, the governing Liberals’ mission (should they choose to accept it) won’t be convincing local authorities of XBR’s merits, it’ll be flying the XBR project under the rest of the country’s-ahem-radar.

    Finally, as for ‘our’ accepting BOMARC…

    I happen to be writing from Saskatchewan, where folks remember how well BOMARC worked out for native son Dief the Chief and for the country as a whole.

    The short answer: Not very.

  4. Captain_Canuck (History)

    All of this ignores, of course, the threat axis that a Goose Bay XBR site would address. Unless Iceland has made unexpected progress with its secret ICBM program, this would seem a destabilizing development in the US-Russian relationship.

    Oh, and the hockey picture appears to actually be sledge-hockey, a variant suited to those with physical disabilities.