"Will technology allow us to fit 70 tons of lethality and survivability into a 20 ton package?"

Canada and Space Warfare

On November 9, 2001, hundreds of people will occupy the grounds of Defence Research Establishment Ottawa (DREO) to protest Canada's involvement in National Missile Defence (NMD), aka Star Wars. While this act of civil disobedience may be seen as premature by a Chretien government that plays wait-and-see on NMD, it is meant to address what activists feel is Canada's proactive role in the militarization of space.

The 1994 Defence White Paper allowed for NMD research and development, but Ottawa has yet to acknowledge the full extent to which Canada's military plays in sync with U.S. plans to wage war in and from outer space.

In October, 1997, the U.S. and Canadian militaries signed a joint Statement of Intent for military space cooperation on the understanding that such an agreement to militarize the heavens "is in the mutual security and economic interests" of both countries.

The government's Technology Investment Strategy 2000 goes even further, declaring, "Space soon will be the fourth medium of warfare, it will not only bind all war fighting forces together but will also become strategically critical to the survival of warfighters...For future coalition warfare, space superiority will be fundamental."

Leading the research charge is Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC), an umbrella grouping of five federally-funded research facilities that includes the DREO site targeted for civil disobedience. Committed to exploit the electromagnetic spectrum for military purposes, DREO's website also boasts of its capacity to develop a diverse range of warfighting technologies, including "Electronic Warfare, Information Warfare, Space Systems and Technologies for Defence Applications, Detection and Identification of NBC [nuclear, biological, chemical] Agents."

A January, 2001, Ottawa Citizen article helped clarify the meaning behind some of those heavy-handed terms when it reported to little fanfare that DREO is involved in a Star Wars research program called the Quantum Well Infrared Photodetector. "This project is a key contributor to the collaborative work with the (U.S.) Ballistic Missile Defence Organization [the key U.S. government branch pursuing NMD]," read military research reports obtained by the Citizen. The Canadian QWIP system has "significant implications for future exploitation to support U.S. Space-based Infrared Surveillance Systems, surveillance from space and missile defence applications."

As Star Wars is ultimately about control of space and, consequently, mastery of Earth, dominating the electromagnetic spectrum is paramount. As Emmett Paige Jr., Assistant Secretary of Defence for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence (U.S.) points out, "the world is moving toward new warfighting paradigms, and the electromagentic spectrum holds the key" to the military's successful use of new war technology, and "the [U.S.] Department of Defense is committed to ensuring that 'in the next conflict' it is we who will control the spectrum. We know its value."

Meanwhile, the ability to station in space light-weight platforms which have the capacity to launch directed energy or laser beam weapons against terrestrial targets is a key part of the U.S. Space Command document Vision 2020, the primary inspiration for the renewed Star Wars plan. DRDC has taken up this challenge, and its own annual report asks the burning question, "Will technology allow us to fit 70 tons of lethality and survivability into a 20 ton package?"

The same report notes that one outcome of the Canadian Defence Industrial Research program has been the development of products useful for, among other things, the Star Wars "Exo-Atmosphere Kill Vehicle." Related technology being developed in Canada, including space-based radar and use of Canada's RADARSAT-2 satellite to produce "a ground moving target indication (GMTI) capability" will "provide an improved operational picture to the war fighter." The annual report notes without any sense of irony that "there is a high level of US interest in the Space-Based Radar GMTI Project," as the employment of such sensor technology is key to any space warfare capacity.

DREO also hosted a visit in November, 2000 from a leading U.S. NMD cheerleader, Dr. Hans Mark, who, according to a DREO press release, "is the highest-ranking [Pentagon] science and technology director to visit Canada... In his presentation to DREO researchers and staff, he used his own experience in the development of high energy lasers to illustrate the point that it can take several decades for technologies and processes to realize applications in military systems. Dr. Mark was a pioneer in the development of lasers in the 1960s and has championed the trials of missile defence technologies in which lasers successfully downed small missiles."

Never far behind in such matters, the Canadian military industry smells blood, and a potential profit windfall. Last summer, the Canadian Defence Industries Association produced a paper called, "The National Missile Defense Program: An Assessment of Market Opportunities for Canadian Industry."

"Canada has the capability to support the industrial requirements of the National Missile Defense program," the report concludes. "Under the existing conditions, Canada can expect, at a minimum, about $270 million in NMD-related exports over the next 15 years. With appropriate levels of Government and industry action, there is a potential for that to increase to more than $1 billion in exports."

Cambridge, Ontario-based COM DEV, long a developer of space technology, was one of the corporate consultants to the Vision 2020 document that concludes "Space systems are crucial to this nation's ability to wage war." Given that Com Dev controls 80% of the world market for the type of satellites likely to be crucial to NMD, the company would reap the benefits of potential contracts springing from a vision they helped create.

Thus, while public debate focuses on whether Canada should or should not be involved, it misses the point that this country has already made a commitment to the overall framework that space will be the newest, most profitable medium for warfare. Adding these things up doesn't make this seem so much a game of "wait-and-see" as "ready when you are."

Matthew Behrens is a member Homes not Bombs, an Ontario-wide network planning a large civil disobedience action at DREO November 9. For more info call (416) 651-5800, email tasc@web.ca or write PO Box 73620, 509 St. Clair Avenue West, Toronto, ON M6C 1C0

Back to Space Warfare Home Page