Canadian Company Joins BMD Program

Kenneth Epps

Kenneth Epps

The Ploughshares Monitor Winter 2002, Volume 23, No. 4

In October the Canadian corporation CAE Inc. announced a partnership with the US military giant Boeing Company to develop new systems for the Pentagon’s Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) program. According to a Boeing press release, the Military Simulation and Training Group of CAE, headquartered in Montreal, will provide modelling and simulation software tools “to evaluate and develop systems related to air and missile threats, sensors, interceptors, and battle management/command, control and communications systems.” The partnership is in the form of a technical assistance agreement between CAE and Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, the prime contractor responsible for the integrated missile defence systems component of BMD.

CAE is the latest of a global who’s who of military contractors to partner with Boeing in missile defence systems development. Earlier this year, Boeing announced similar agreements with Finmeccanica of Italy, BAE Systems of the UK, and European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS). Boeing and its four partner corporations all appear in the latest Stockholm International Peace Research Institute ranking of the world’s largest 100 arms-producing companies.

The recent partnership announcements coincide with a US government diplomatic offensive to enlist NATO governments in the BMD program. In July, Pentagon and US State Department officials visited counterparts in 12 European NATO capitals to argue the political and economic benefits of missile defence. Some commentators suggest that US officials are looking to apply traditional domestic military pork-barrelling arrangements on a global scale in an effort to engage allies in the BMD program (Berrigan and Hartung 2002). Others go further to suggest that because it “shows so much promise for transatlantic industrial cooperation,” missile defence may be the “glue” to hold NATO together (Jane’s Defence Weekly 2002, p. 2).

The program to produce the US Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), the next-generation fighter aircraft of the US Navy and Air Force, is cited as the Pentagon’s model for obtaining foreign corporate and government commitment to BMD. Several US allies, including Canada, have announced funding commitment to the JSF program in exchange for the opportunity for domestic corporations to bid on program contracts. When the UK, and likely most other partner governments, purchase the new aircraft, the widespread JSF use is expected to advance the “interoperability” of US and allied forces (Epps 2002).

As with the JSF, potential BMD economic benefits are very attractive to foreign suppliers. Since 1983 the US has spent US $90 billion on missile defence projects (including Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative), and the Missile Defense Agency responsible for BMD is projected to spend another $200 billion to put the multi-tiered system in place. The huge expenditures are very appealing to industries facing stagnant or declining defence budgets at home. In Canada, industry officials have spoken of repeating their JSF strategy to pressure the Canadian government to participate in the program based on the benefits to Canadian industry (Canadian Defence Industries Association 2001).

Meanwhile, recent Pentagon restructuring has meant the Missile Defense Agency will be free of many of the usual Pentagon reporting requirements (Hitchens 2002). This will provide more Agency discretion in the awarding and tracking of contracts and could be the wiggle room needed to ensure that politically expedient foreign suppliers receive BMD contracts.

CAE is not the first Canadian company to become involved in the BMD program. According to earlier reports, Bristol Aerospace of Winnipeg is providing missile targets for the Theater Ballistic Missile Defense component of BMD, and Panorama Business Views of Toronto is providing data processing support equipment. Nevertheless, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (2002), “Canada is not … committed to participating in the development or operation of a strategic BMD system.”


Berrigan, Frida and Hartung, William 2002, “The Empty Promise of Global Missile Defense,” August 1.

Canadian Defence Industries Association 2001, National Defence Outlook Seminar, November 20, exchange between Mr. Ducetteville of Boeing Canada and Major General Ross, DND Director General International Security Policy.

Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade 2002, “Canadian Positions on Key Non-Proliferation, Arms Control and Disarmament Policy Issues.”

Epps, Ken 2002, “Canada and the Joint Strike Fighter Program,” The Ploughshares Monitor, Summer, pp. 14-16.  

Hitchens, Theresa 2002, “The Unknown Spiral: Oversight Scheme Threatens Acquisition,” Defense News, March 11-17.

Jane’s Defence Weekly 2002, 30 October.


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