Canada Launches Anti-Terrorism System

The contract with MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. is the latest effort to use new technology to cover vast stretches of coastline that Canada’s modest military cannot effectively monitor with ships and aircraft alone.

The new surveillance system uses a series of sea-floor devices that detect the engine sounds and metal hulls of ships that refuse to announce their presence in Canada waters. “It’s a fairly new idea,” said Garry Heard, the Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, defense scientist in charge of the project. “This would give you a warning if any intruder passed a barrier.”

The navy already uses fixed, permanent monitors on the seabed to watch for intruding submarines and other potentially hostile vessels on Canada’s coastal approaches, a system that is shrouded in secrecy. But the older monitors are expensive to install and maintain, and cannot readily be moved to adapt to newly identified threats.

The new rapidly deployable sensors, as they’re called, can be dropped by helicopter or ship at specific points along the coast where intelligence indicates a smuggler or terrorist might try to penetrate.

The sensors not only monitor engine noises and the magnetic disturbances caused by hulls, but each device can talk to others dropped nearby to plot speed, direction and to determine the type of vessel.

Canada began discussing such a system with its allies in 1995, and began building prototypes in 1999. Tests were carried out along Canada’s three coasts.