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Canada's new frigates could take part in ballistic missile defence – if Ottawa says yes – CBC.ca

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Canada’s new frigates are being designed with ballistic missile defence in mind, even though successive federal governments have avoided taking part in the U.S. program.

When they slip into the water some time in the mid-to-late 2020s, the new warships probably won’t have the direct capability to shoot down incoming intercontinental rockets.

But the decisions made in their design allow them to be converted to that role, should the federal government ever change course.

The warships are based upon the British Type 26 layout and are about to hit the drawing board. Their radar has been chosen and selected missile launchers have been configured to make them easy and cost-effective to upgrade.

Vice-Admiral Art McDonald said the Lockheed Martin-built AN/SPY-7 radar system to be installed on the new frigates is cutting-edge. It’s also being used on land now by the U.S. and Japan for detecting ballistic missiles.

“It’s a great piece and that is what we were looking for in terms of specification,” McDonald told CBC News in a year-end interview.

An artist’s rendering of the British Type 26 frigate. (BAE Systems Inc./Lockheed Martin Canada)

Selecting the radar system for the new frigates was seen as one of the more important decisions facing naval planners because it has to stay operational and relevant for decades to come — even as new military threats and technologies emerge.

McDonald said positive feedback from elsewhere in the defence industry convinced federal officials that they had made the right choice.

“Even from those that weren’t producing an advanced kind of radar, they said this is the capability you need,” he said.

The whole concept of ballistic missile defence (BMD) remains a politically touchy topic.

BMD — “Star Wars” to its critics — lies at the centre of a policy debate the Liberal government has tried to avoid at all costs. In 2017, Canada chose not to join the BMD program. That reluctance to embrace BMD dates back to the political bruising Paul Martin’s Liberal government suffered in 2004-05, when the administration of then-U.S. president George W. Bush leaned heavily on Ottawa to join the program.

In the years since, both the House of Commons and Senate defence committees have recommended the federal government relent and sign on to BMD — mostly because of the emerging missile threat posed by rogue nations such as North Korea.

Liberals reluctant to talk BMD

The question of whether to join BMD is expected to form part of the deliberations surrounding the renewal of NORAD — an undertaking the Liberal government has acknowledged but not costed out as part of its 2017 defence policy.

Missile defence continues to be a highly fraught concept within the federal government. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan made a point of downplaying a CBC News story last summer that revealed how the Canadian and U.S. militaries had laid down markers for what the new NORAD could look like, pending sign-off by both Washington and Ottawa.

Asked about Sajjan’s response, a former senior official in the minister’s office said it raised the spectre of “Star Wars” — not a topic the Liberal government was anxious to discuss ahead of last fall’s election.

The current government may not want to talk about it, but the Canadian navy and other NATO countries are grappling with the technology.

Practice makes perfect

Last spring, a Canadian patrol frigate, operating with 12 other alliance warships, tracked and shot down a supersonic target meant to simulate a ballistic missile. A French frigate also scored a separate hit.

For the last two years, NATO warships have practiced linking up electronically in defensive exercises to shoot down both mock ballistic and cruise missiles. A Canadian frigate in the 2017 iteration of the exercise destroyed a simulated cruise missile.

HMCS St. John’s conducts a replenishment at sea during NATO operation Formidable Shield on May 4, 2019. (Pte. Sarina McNeill/Department of National Defence)

At the recent Halifax Security Forum, there was a lot of talk about the proliferation of missile technology. One defence expert told the forum Canadian military planners have been paying attention to the issue for a long time.

The frigate design is an important example.

“I think what they’ve tried to do is keep the door open by some of the decisions they’ve made, recognizing that missile proliferation is a significant concern,” said Dave Perry, of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. “They haven’t shut the door on doing that and I think that is smart.”

Opponents of BMD, meanwhile, have long argued the fixation by the U.S. and NATO on ballistic missile defence is fuelling instability and giving Russia and China reasons to cooperate in air and missile defence.

Speaking before a Commons committee in 2017, Peggy Mason, president of the foreign and defence policy think-tank Rideau Institute, said the United States’s adversaries have concluded that building more offensive systems is cheaper than investing in defensive ones.

“The American BMD system also acts as a catalyst to nuclear weapons modernization, as Russia and China seek not only increased numbers of nuclear weapons but also increased manoeuvrability,” said Mason, Canada’s ambassador for disarmament from 1989 to 1994, testifying on Sept. 14, 2017.

She also warned that “there would be significant financial costs to Canadian participation” in the U.S. BMD program “given American demands” — even prior to Donald Trump’s presidency — “that allies pay their ‘fair share’ of the collective defence burden.”

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Health

Horse race marks Sydney’s emergence from long COVID-19 lockdown

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Thousands of Sydney residents flocked to a prominent horse race on Saturday, as Australia’s biggest city emerges from a strict COVID-19 lockdown and the nation begins to live with the coronavirus through extensive vaccination.

Up to 10,000 fully vaccinated spectators can now attend races such as The Everest https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/horse-racing-third-time-lucky-nature-strip-everest-2021-10-16 in Sydney, Australia’s richest turf horse race, and the country’s most famous, Melbourne Cup Day, on Nov. 2.

New South Wales State, of which Sydney is the capital, reached its target of 80% of people fully vaccinated on Saturday, well ahead of the rest of Australia.

“80% in NSW! Been a long wait but we’ve done it,” New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Twitter.

The state reported 319 new coronavirus cases, all of the Delta variant, and two deaths on Saturday. Many restrictions were eased in New South Wales on Monday, when it reached 70% double vaccinations.

Neighbouring Victoria, where the capital Melbourne has been in lockdown for weeks, reported 1,993 new cases and seven deaths, including the state’s youngest victim, a 15-year-old girl.

Victoria is expected to reach 70% double vaccination before Oct. 26 and ease its restrictions more slowly than New South Wales has, drawing criticism from the federal government on Saturday.

“It is really sad that Victorians are being held back,” said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

Australia is set to gradually lift its 18-month ban on international travel https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/covid-19-infections-linger-near-record-levels-australias-victoria-2021-10-14 from next month for some states when 80% of people aged 16 and over are fully vaccinated. As of Friday, 67.2% of Australians were fully inoculated, and 84.4% had received at least one shot.

The country closed its international borders in March 2020, since then allowing only a limited number of people to leave or citizens and permanent residents abroad to return, requiring them to quarantine for two weeks.

Australia’s overall coronavirus numbers are low compared to many other developed countries, with just over 140,000 cases and 1,513 deaths.

(Reporting in Melbourne by Lidia Kelly; Editing by William Mallard)

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Lebanese Christian group denies Hezbollah claim it planned Beirut bloodshed

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The Head Of The Christian Lebanese Forces Party (LF) denied late on Friday his group had planned street violence in Beirut that killed seven people, and said a meeting held the day before was purely political.

Thursday’s violence, which began as people were gathering for a protest called by Shi’ite Muslim group Hezbollah against the judge investigating last year’s Beirut port blast, was the worst in over a decade and stirred memories of the country’s ruinous sectarian civil war from 1975-90.

Samir Geagea told Voice of Lebanon International radio that a meeting held on Wednesday by a political grouping the LF belongs to had discussed action options should Iran-backed Hezbollah succeed in efforts to remove the judge.

Geagea said the option agreed upon in that event was to call for a public strike, and nothing else.

The powerful Hezbollah group stepped up accusations against the LF on Friday, saying it killed the seven Shi’ites to try to drag the country into a civil war.

The violence, which erupted at a boundary between Christian and Shi’ite neighbourhoods, has added to concerns over the stability of a country that is awash with weapons and grappling with one of the world’s worst ever economic meltdowns.

Asked whether the presence of LF members in the areas of Ain al-Remmaneh and Teyouneh, where the shooting erupted, meant the incident was planned, Geagea said they were always present in these areas.

The security coordinator in the party contacted the authorities when they heard a protest was planned and asked for a heavy military presence in the area “as our priority was for the demonstration to pass by simply as a demonstration and not affect civil peace,” Geagea said.

Geagea said his party was assured that would be the case.

“The army has arrested snipers so they need to tell us who they are and where they came from.”

Nineteen people have been detained so far in relation to the incident.

Geagea, whose party has close ties to Saudi Arabia, also criticised President Michel Aoun over a phone call between the two during the incident.

Aoun’s party, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), Lebanon’s largest Christian bloc, is an ally of Hezbollah.

“I didn’t like this call at all,” Geagea said, saying Aoun implicitly made the same accusations of involvement that Hezbollah has by asking him to calm down the situation.

“This is totally unacceptable.”

(Reporting by Maha El DahanEditing by Shri Navaratnam and Mark Potter)

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New Zealand vaccinates 2.5% of its people in a day in drive to live with COVID-19

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New Zealand vaccinated at least 2.5% of its people on Saturday as the government tries to accelerate inoculations and live with COVID-19, preliminary health ministry data showed.

Through an array of strategies, gimmicks and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s encouragement through the day, 124,669 shots were administered by late in the day in a country of 4.9 million.

“We set a target for ourselves, Aotearoa, you’ve done it, but let’s keep going,” Ardern said, using a Maori name for New Zealand at a vaccination site, according to the Newshub news service. “Let’s go for 150 [thousand]. Let’s go big or go home.”

New Zealand had stayed largely virus-free for most of the pandemic until an outbreak of the Delta Variant in mid-August. The government now aims to have the country live with COVID-19 through higher inoculations.

Forty-one new cases were reported on Saturday, 40 of them in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city. It has been in lockdown since mid-August to stamp out the Delta outbreak. Officials plan to end the strict restrictions when full vaccination rates reach 90%.

As of Friday, 62% of New Zealand’s eligible population had been fully vaccinated and 83% had received one shot.

Vaccination spots were set up on Saturday throughout the country, including at fast-food restaurants and parks, with some spots offering sweets afterwards, local media reported.

“I cannot wait to come and play a concert, I want to be sweaty and dancing and maybe not even wearing masks. Hopefully we can get there,” said pop singer Lorde, according to local media.

“Protect your community, get yourself a little tart, perhaps a little cream bun,” she said. “But please, please get that jab.”

Final results of the mass vaccination drive are expected to be released on Sunday.

 

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly in Melbourne; Rditing by William Mallard)

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