Navy BMD

A Potential Political Brawl over BMD Capabilities on Canada’s CSC Type 26 Frigates?

By David Dunlop, 27 November 2023

According to an article published in Australian Defence Magazine, “Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) is a system, weapon, or technology involved in the detection, tracking, interception and destruction of attacking missiles. Originally conceived as a defense against nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), its application has broadened to include shorter-ranged non-nuclear tactical and theatre missiles.”1 The BMD system, managed by the US Missile Defense Agency, is a layered system that provides multiple opportunities to destroy missiles before they can reach their targets. This can be accomplished in one of three phases of the trajectory -- the boost, mid-course and terminal phases. One example of a BMD system is the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System. It is an American program developed to provide missile defence against short to intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Another example is the CSC Type 26 Frigate employed by Lockheed Martin’s (LM) AN/SPY 7 (V3) Aegis system which could also provide BMD as an expansion of the Aegis combat system for the SPY 7 (V3) being fitted on all CSC Type 26 Frigates. It is designed to intercept all ballistic missiles (either nuclear or non-nuclear) in mid-course phase (i.e., after the rocket burn has completed but prior to re-entry into the atmosphere) using SM3 missile systems which may be fitted for (but not with) on all LM CSC Type 26 Frigates using the MK 41 ExLS silos.

There is potential for a political controversy over BMD in relation to Canada’s new CSC Type 26 Frigates. The Lockheed Martin-built AN/SPY-7 (V3) radar, which will be installed on all CSC Type 26 Frigates, can be upgraded as a non-nuclear BMD system. This is significant because successive Canadian governments have resisted joining the BMD program. The new frigates, including their radar systems, are being designed with BMD in mind in case future Canadian governments decide to get Canada involved. However, some leading defense experts are less worried about the potential conflict over BMD than the technical and budget issues related to the federal government’s choice of the SPY 7 (V3) radar system. It’s worth noting that the decision to install this radar system on the new frigates was made quickly and quietly. I have my own thoughts on what the LM SPY 7 (V3) AESA radar was designed to accomplish and why the RCN decided to go with this high-tech radar system. Although this long-range air warning radar for the CSC Frigate has not been ‘put to sea’ as yet (the Spanish F110 frigate will be the first to receive this radar), the capabilities of this radar system has been proven by LM and as stated, it was specifically designed by LM primarily for BMD and in my view far superior to the new SPY 6 V1 AESA radar the Arleigh Burke Flt III ships will receive. It is also not nearly as heavy as either the AB SPY 6 (V1) or the Australian CEFAR radar as well -- another reason to go with the SPY 7 (to save weight). This is one capability for the CSC Frigate that the RCN got right in my opinion.

This radar system has important implications for the military – and for taxpayers as the price for the CSCs is significant. So, while the potential for a vigorous debate exists, there are also other significant factors at play. See a 2020 article called “Cutting-edge radar system for new frigates never used on warships, must be adapted,” at Cutting-edge radar system for new frigates never used on warships, must be adapted | CBC News

[1] Katherine Ziesing, “Ballistic Missile Defence 101: An introduction,” Australian Defence Magazine, 4 June 2015.


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