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Ottawa Citizen: Canadian firms urged to build space weapons: DND report: PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Monday, 31 May 2004 07:54
Canadian companies should concentrate on developing space weapons and other "kill vehicles" if they want to win lucrative contracts for the U.S. missile defence shield, a federal government report recommends. Canadian companies should concentrate on developing space weapons and other "kill vehicles" if they want to win lucrative contracts for the U.S. missile defence shield, a federal government report recommends.

In addition, there could be work for Canadian firms in testing parts of the Pentagon's missile system in the Arctic, notes the Department of National Defence report produced last year.

The acknowledgment the U.S. is moving toward putting weapons into orbit, and that Canadian companies can support such efforts, appears to fly in the face of government claims that such systems aren't part of the missile shield. It could also provide ammunition to the Bloc Quebecois and NDP, who have been trying to make Canada's participation in the missile shield an election issue.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Paul Martin told the Commons that Canada opposes weapons in space and said the country will not take part in the U.S. system if it involves such capabilities.

In January, Defence Minister David Pratt admonished NDP leader Jack Layton for referring to the missile shield as "Son of Star Wars," a reference to former U.S. president Ronald Reagan's program of the 1980s to put weapons into orbit. Mr. Pratt accused Mr. Layton and other critics of the missile shield of scaremongering with their predictions it would lead to a "Star Wars" scenario of weapons in space.

The first phase of the shield, to be ready by the fall, will use ground and sea-based interceptors to shoot down incoming missiles headed for North America.

According to Mr. Pratt, the development of space weapons are so far off in the future they need not be of concern at this point.

But the Defence Department report notes that Canadian companies have missed out on initial contracts to build systems for the ground and sea-based interceptors so they should concentrate on future missile shield programs. One area where Canadian companies can become involved is in the development of the space-based kinetic energy interceptor, a system the report acknowledges had its genesis in a weapons program proposed under Mr. Reagan's Star Wars.

Other future weapons that might provide opportunities for Canadian companies include "second-generation kill vehicles" and mobile interceptor rockets. Contracts might also be available in designing a portable version of the main missile shield sensor known as the X-Band radar.

Another potentially lucrative area could be in the testing and evaluation of the missile shield including "expanded test-bed operations in Canada such as Arctic X-band radar testing."

The report estimates that there is the potential for Canadian companies to win $100 million to $180 million U.S. per year in missile shield contracts, but that the government must quickly sign on to the plan for that to happen. "Committing soon will provide Canada with (a) preferential position for winning industrial opportunities," the report notes. "2004 will be the next window of opportunity but we must start developing strategic plans now for possible participation."

Mr. Pratt's spokesman, Darren Gibb, said he had not seen the report, but noted that government policy does not support weapons in space. "What we're looking at is a land- and sea-based system that does not in any way include weaponization of space," he said. "The weaponization of space is a deal breaker."

But Greenpeace Canada spokeswoman Jo Dufay said the Martin government is misleading Canadians, since space weapons will form a major part of the missile shield in the coming years.

"To say we can selectively participate in some parts of this program while not others is like saying we can be a little bit pregnant," she noted.

According to the Defence Department report, there are several ways for Canada to pay for its involvement in the missile shield. It could contribute money directly or allow parts of the system to be operated from Canada. It could also help develop components for the shield.

Money could also be used from the federal government's Technology Partnerships Canada fund for industry to finance missile shield work, the report suggests.

Canadian and U.S. officials are still in negotiations over Canada's involvement in the missile system. But many defence analysts, as well as military officers on both sides of the border, believe that Canada will sign on to participate in the shield with an announcement to be made later in the year.
Last Updated on Monday, 31 May 2004 07:54

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