NORAD’s three missions: Aerospace Warning, Aerospace Control and…Maritime Warning

An E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control system flies over the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt during a composite training exercise in 2017. (Photo credit: Specialist 3rd Class Anthony J. Rivera) ~ Un système aéroporté d’alerte et de contrôle E-3 Sentry survole le porte-avions USS Theodore Roosevelt pendant un exercice d’entraînement composite en 2017. (Photo : Spécialiste de 3e classe Anthony J. Rivera)

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North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) has established a Forward Element Office at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa responsible for advancing operations and plans with NORAD equities in Canada – to include maritime warning.

In May 2006, the Canadian and U.S. governments renewed the NORAD Agreement and added the maritime warning mission to the Command’s existing missions of aerospace warning and aerospace control.

NORAD’s maritime warning mission consists of processing, assessing, and disseminating intelligence and information related to the respective maritime areas, internal waterways, and approaches to the United States and Canada.

While NORAD’s traditional Canadian mission partners have been the Royal Canadian Air Force and Transport Canada and their U.S. counterparts; maritime warning has broadened NORAD’s areas of interest to overlap with the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Coast Guard, and Canada Border Services Agency among others.

“The core of the NORAD maritime warning mission is focused on providing the governments of Canada and the United States with early warning regarding any threat originating in the maritime domain,” said United States Navy Captain Sean Grunwell, NORAD’s Maritime Operations and Warning Division Chief. “Our most important work is to review operational and intelligence information to facilitate information sharing among numerous Canadian and U.S. defense and government agencies.”

NORAD is an enduring bi-national military partnership with a global area of responsibility that coordinates with Canadian and U.S. combatant commands around the world. As these commands have a mandate to support the NORAD missions – NORAD is able to utilize a vast network of military organizations alongside civilian security agencies to build global maritime domain awareness (MDA).

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Building comprehensive MDA requires sharing enormous amounts of information and intelligence gathered on numerous systems and networks within Canada and the United States. NORAD is in a unique position to identify information sharing impediments and provide recommendations on how MDA stakeholders may overcome information gaps and seams.

As a hypothetical example, if a Canadian or American combatant command received intelligence that there may be a transport ship crewed with persons of interest who are suspected to pose a security risk to Canada or the United States, NORAD would bring together all defence and other government department stakeholders to brief the situation. Should it be deemed appropriate, Commander NORAD would release a maritime warning message to indicate the significance of the threat.  Each nation could then begin to develop a whole of government coordinated response plan in sufficient time to address the threat.

“As NORAD’s role in Maritime Warning is not widely understood, we will be responsible to conduct strategic and operational coordination with mission partners in the National Capital Region to bridge that information gap,” said Colonel Michael Ward, Director NORAD Forward Element Office (Ottawa).

Col. Ward and his team are looking forward to meeting with Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Coast Guard, Customs Border Patrol and many others with an interest in developing maritime domain awareness in order to facilitate relationships with NORAD headquarters leadership.

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