Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Military calls for boost in ocean surveillance

From the Vancouver Sun: Military calls for boost in ocean surveillance
Canada's military wants the Harper government to take part in rebuilding a Cold War ocean surveillance system, arguing that the country's waters, including the approaches to the Arctic, are vulnerable to Chinese and Russian submarines.

The current system, overseen by the U.S., involves specialized vessels and underwater sensors scattered around the globe to detect submarine movements.

But with the end of the Cold War in the 1990s and the collapse of the former Soviet Union, that sensor technology, including systems called arrays, were not modernized. They now need to be upgraded or replaced. In some cases Canada shut down its facilities for monitoring underwater activities.

"The oldest portions of the global infrastructure were terminated without replacement - Argentia, Nfld and Shelburne, N.S. fixed arrays - creating gaps covering the Arctic approaches and major portions of the Eastern Atlantic," reads a briefing note sent by defence chief Gen. Walter Natynczyk to Defence Minister Peter MacKay.

That September 2010 document was obtained under the Access to Information Act.

As proof of the re-emergence of the submarine threat, the military informed MacKay about what it called the dramatic increase in the numbers of submarines around the world; an incident where a Chinese submarine surfaced in the midst of a U.S. naval task force in 2006; the voyage of a Russian submarine into the eastern Atlantic in 2009; and the sinking of a South Korean destroyer in 2010, likely by a North Korean submarine.

The military wants to become more involved in the U.S.-led underwater surveillance system, arguing that it would be too expensive to put its own sensors into the ocean.

The warning about Chinese submarines echoes similar concerns contained in a report issued Wednesday by the Pentagon. It pointed out that China's military capabilities are growing and that could threaten stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

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