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For a week in August, 22 Wing at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) North Bay was under relentless attack by Red Air Bombers armed with cruise missiles. Wing personnel worked alongside 60 members of the South Carolina Army National Guard’s (SCNG’s) 263rd Army Air and Missile Defense Command (263rd AAMDC) and 10 civilian defence contractors to carry out air defence artillery scenarios as part of North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) training. The simulated attacking forces were provided by Discovery Air Defence Services (DADS)/Top Aces in the form of its IAI Westwind special mission aircraft and Dornier Alpha Jets.
The exercise in North Bay was part of NORAD’s ongoing series of Vigilant Shield training scenarios, in this case integrating the SCNG’s air defence artillery assets into 22 Wing’s NORAD radar and air defence network. The air defence batteries brought to North Bay worked as part of the 22 Wing Canadian NORAD region’s radar network, confirming the interoperability of this aspect of the Canadian and US Air Defence joint air defence systems and procedures.
One key aspect is the use of data link communications between the portable short range radar into 22 Wing’s overall strategic radar picture, which was accomplished with no major problems. Differences in operations and deployability were quickly and successfully overcome.
The 263rd AAMDC is based in Anderson, S.C., and deployed to North Bay with two full independent short‑range air defence systems, which use Sentinel radars and Avenger missile launchers. The unit deployed both by ground and by airlift courtesy of an RCAF CC-177 Globemaster III, demonstrating the compatibility of the transport aircraft, which for the most part is identical to the US Air Force C-17.
The 263rd is often tasked with air defence in the U.S. National Capital area.
The Thales-Raytheon Systems AN/MPQ‑64 Sentinel is a 3D radar used to alert and queue short range air defence (SHORAD). It is a low power system meant to detect and track airborne threats at a short range, and provides tracking data for the deployment of the Avenger missile launcher. The radar is trailer based.
The Boeing AN/TWQ‑1 Avenger Air Defence System is a M1097A1 HMMWV (HumVee)-based self‑propelled surface‑to‑air missile system, which provides mobile, short‑range air defence protection for ground installations and military assets against cruise missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, and low‑flying aircraft. It deploys eight Raytheon Missile Systems FIM‑92 Stinger missiles as its main armament. It is capable of not only firing while stationary, but can do so while in motion, and has successfully been tested at speeds of up to 30 kilometres per hour. It was first deployed during the Persian Gulf War in the 1990s, and over 1,000 sets have been acquired by the U.S. Army, and it is also used by the U.S. Marine Corps.
No live munitions or actual firings transpired during this particular exercise.
22 Wing North Bay is the headquarters for the Canadian Air Defence Sector (CADS) of NORAD, providing surveillance, identification, warning, and control of air traffic over and approaching North America. Strategic radar information used in the network is received via satellite from the North Warning System across the Canadian Arctic, coastal radars on the east and west coasts of Canada, and Airborne Warning and Control System Aircraft.
NORAD draws on a wide range of technology and capabilities to provide joint aerospace warning and control. The tactical radar picture provided by the Sentinel radars was integrated into the NORAD system, which in turn provided a much wider radar picture for the SCNG air defence batteries.
The DADS contracted aggressor aircraft flew scenarios over the city of North Bay and approaching the airport from various directions and altitudes, in some cases as low as 500 feet, attacking the base area defended by the anti-aircraft installations. This deployment represents the first physical validation of the system in Canada, although it has been a planned operational option for many years.
Discovery Air Defence Services was established as Top Aces in 2004 to provide contracted electronic warfare training for Canadian Forces using Alpha Jets and IAI Westwinds. It most recently added A-4 Skyhawk aircraft to its portfolio to provide similar training in to NATO air arms in Europe.
RCAF 414 Squadron Electronic Warfare Officers based in Ottawa often ride as back seaters in the DADS aircraft for certain missions requiring electronic jamming. Top Aces aircraft are based in Ottawa, Bagotville, Cold Lake and Victoria.
As a combined, bi‑national military command, NORAD exemplifies the close coordination between the Canadian and U.S. militaries for the aerospace security and defence of North America. The deployment of the SHORAD system from South Carolina validates the interoperability of the small portable air defence systems into the huge NORAD long range air defence system, and provides the crews with a realistic scenario of defending a major strategic installation from low level attack from the skies.
“NORAD continuously works to defend against potential threats to the airspace of Canada and the United States, both conventional and unconventional,” said MGen Christian Drouin, Commander, 1 Canadian Air Division and the Canadian NORAD Region. “Exercises like this one not only hone the skills of our men and women, but build upon our ability to work together seamlessly in support of NORAD’s commitment to detect, deter, and defend against threats to Canada’s airspace.”