With growing Russian, and other threats to the Arctic and North American homeland, the joint U.S.-Canadian – North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) – is increasing combat readiness in the north. On Wednesday NORAD tweeted that pilots from the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and the U.S. Air Force (USAF) will jointly practice “response procedures in high-density airspace” on Thursday.
“These exercises ensure NORAD forces remain ready to respond to aerospace threats 24/7 anywhere in Canada and the United States,” NORAD said in a tweet published Wednesday morning, adding, “The defense of North America is our top priority.”
The NORAD tweets stated that this will be routine air defense training over Toronto, and the public may see or hear RCAF CF-18 Hornets, as well as USAF F16s and a USAF KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling tanker.
NORAD Command, known until March 1981 as the North American Air Defense Command, is a combined organization of the United States and Canada that provides aerospace warning, air sovereignty, and protection for Northern America (RELATED: U.S. and Russian Militaries Facing-Off in Arctic).
The Canadian Air Force plays a critical role in the defense of North America. As noted on its website, its CF-18 Hornets are “multi-role fighter aircraft used for air defense, air superiority, ground attack, tactical support, training, aerobatic demonstration, and aerospace testing and evaluation.”
However, these aircraft are getting a bit old.
To make sure their aircraft can meet current threats, 36 of Canada’s 76 CF-18s, and soon-to-be delivered 18 secondhand Australian F-18s, will be getting full combat upgrades, at a cost of C$800 million. As reported by Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC):
The extra money comes after the federal auditor general warned in late 2018 that Canada’s fighter jets risked being outmatched by more advanced adversaries due to a lack of combat upgrades since 2008 and will result in new weapons, sensors and defensive systems for the fleet.
Due to embarrassing political delays, the competition to select a new fighter for the Canadian air force is just now beginning, so the CF-18s will have to meet threats for at least another decade.
“The U.S. Marines are looking at keeping their F-18s — upon which the CF-18 is based — in the air until the 2030s,” said Royal Canadian Air Force commander Lt.-Gen. Al Meinzinger, according to CBC. He added, “the two forces are working together to identify the best ways to do that.”