NEWS
02/22/2016 14:15 EST | Updated 02/22/2017 00:12 EST

Russian missile attacks in Syria have Arctic implications: NORAD commander

OTTAWA — The commander of NORAD says U.S. and Canadian defence planners are taking notice of Russia's use of cruise missiles in Syria, something that could have wide-ranging implications for the West — particularly in the Arctic.

U.S. Admiral Bill Gortney tells The Canadian Press that multiple strikes on Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, show Russian aircraft don't have to leave their airspace in order to deliver lethal effects.

Missiles — launched last November — came from Tu-160 and Tu-95 warplanes and warships in the Caspian Sea and travelled thousands of kilometres to hit their targets.

Those attacks were followed by submarine-based launches of Kalibr cruise missiles in December.

Gortney says NORAD's north warning system can track ballistic missiles coming over the North Pole, but coverage for low-flying cruise missiles is a big challenge.

 He says the U.S. and Canadian permanent joint board on defence is trying to figure out the best solution.

The Trudeau government is about to embark on a defence policy review, but unlike Conservatives who emphasized military preparedness in the Arctic, the issue has barely registered in Liberal policy statements.

The Canadian Press