C4iSR: Joint & Common Equipment

US Air Force studying North Warning System improvements

05 December 2018

Key Points

  • The USAF is studying potential improvements to the North Warning System of radars
  • The region is changing environmentally and the service is studying how it can adapt

The AN/FPS-177 air-defence radar is one of 11 long-range radars on the NWS lining northern Canada. (Lockheed Martin)The AN/FPS-177 air-defence radar is one of 11 long-range radars on the NWS lining northern Canada. (Lockheed Martin)The US Air Force (USAF) is studying potential improvements for the North Warning System (NWS) of 47 radars, jointly owned with Canada, which serves as the first notification of airborne threats across North America’s polar region.

Iris Ferguson, USAF senior advisor Headquarters Air Force/A3 Operations, said on 4 December that the service is considering these upgrades as the Arctic region is quickly changing. Once considered a strategic buffer between the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War era, Ferguson said the region is becoming more porous, physically through environmental changes and technologically, as adversaries improve their ability to come across the North Pole.

Ferguson told Jane’s that this effort is a USAF-funded binational collaborative study led by Air Combat Command (ACC). The study, she said, is in the early stages of evaluating potential solutions for the modernisation of sensor coverage in North America to detect, track, and enable defeat of existing and emergent airborne threats on their approach to the continent.

Ferguson, in her presentation, said the USAF is eyeing these potential NWS improvements as the Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy (NDS) has re-aligned the US towards great power competition against nations such as China and Russia. The NWS, operated by Raytheon Canada Limited (RCL), provides command-and-control (C2) capability to the Canadian Air Defence Sector of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). The NWS spans the Arctic from Labrador in northeast Canada to Alaska.

Public Works and Government Services Canada awarded RCL a five-year contract in May 2014 for operations and maintenance (O&M) of the NWS.

Want to read more? For analysis on this article and access to all our insight content, please enquire about our subscription options at

(311 of 645 words)