Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this issue which is certainly one that affects all of us in Canada. More specifically, it affects the constituency which I represent, Beaver River, which includes CFB Cold Lake where the cruise missile lands when it completes its flight.
I have witnessed this first hand from the very beginning in my teaching career when the testing first started in the early eighties.
Let us all realize that an extremely important function of any government is to provide for security for the state and its people. Security for Canadians is determined by several geopolitical factors, the principal one being our close proximity to the United States. The deterrence of future threats, no matter how remote they may now appear, can best be accomplished with the help of allies and Canada must be seen as a reliable, effective team player in such alliances.
In short, our security remains bound up with that of our alliance partners. No matter what anyone may say or think, it is essential that we keep the bond we have with the United States.
While the end of the cold war and of the east-west confrontation may offer us unique opportunities to move toward a more peaceful world, regional conflicts and violent nationalism should cause us to pause and reflect.
Let us talk about the actual cruise itself for a few minutes. This is an unmanned self-guided aerodynamic vehicle, continuously powered by air breathing jet engines. This is a vehicle which can travel all on its own. I had a student who saw it come over the trees and came to me and said: "Miss Grey, you can't imagine what I just saw". It was an incredibly moving experience for him. This was several years ago when he was still in high school.
Flying at low altitude, the cruise missile is difficult for radar to spot in ground clutter. The detection requires expensive systems with sophisticated processing capabilities. This complicates developing an effective defence against the cruise missile, which is one of its greatest strengths.
Conventionally armed cruise missiles are equipped with terminal homing systems to achieve even greater accuracy. It is important that we note that because the cruise can employ radar or laser returns to fix on the target. Terminal homing provides improved guidance where the nature of the target or warhead is delivered very accurately wherever it is aimed. Future versions of the cruise missile can be expected to display higher speeds, greater manoeuvrability, longer range, lower radar and other signatures, and penetration aids such as electronic counter measures.
We see there has been a life and a history to the cruise missile. Even though the cold war is officially over, I think we realize there are still some hot spots, which we touched on yesterday, around the world. We have not achieved peace world wide.
Cruise missiles appeal to the military because they have an incredibly broad range of application. Its possible deployment in large numbers is something that makes it very effective as does its potential to combine quality and quantity in one weapon system and its ability to be modified. So you see it is not just a one-system vehicle, it has all kinds of assets of which military analysts speak highly.
The Department of National Defence listed the following objectives for this particular project, and I name some of them.
"They could fly this over a route of realistic length and width with a representative standoff launch distance to the landfall. Also they could fly the cruise over relatively smooth terrain with various types of surface cover to include snow and ice."
My hon. colleague addressed this earlier in questions and comments. They need to be able to look at the terrain and they need to fly the cruise missile in winter over ice-covered and snow-covered lakes. They need to fly the cruise missile and test it in operationally realistic weather conditions.
Let me assure all hon. members in this House that during the period of January 1 to March 31 in northeastern Alberta, Beaver River in fact, they will find realistic weather conditions. I live exactly one hour south of CFB Cold Lake where the cruise lands. I can guarantee that when they evaluate their missile radar altimeter operation over snow, trees, and ice-covered lakes, that is exactly what they get in Beaver River.
The flight path, as was mentioned earlier perhaps, includes a corridor that is 2,600 kilometres long through the Northwest Territories down through the Mackenzie Valley and through the
northeastern corner of B.C., across Alberta and into Saskatchewan over the Cold Lake-Primrose air weapons range.
I have just mentioned the timing of it but I will stipulate between the two. When it is launched from a B-52 and goes into its free flight and is operating strictly on its own, the cruise missile has to operate within that time element of January 1 and March 31. Captive-carries, that cruise missile which flies all the way attached to the B-52 bomber, is not restricted to that timeframe so it can take place at other times without that narrow window of January 1 to March 31.
They are allowed six flights per year. So when people say the cruise missile is always flying over northern Canada that is simply not true. Under this particular agreement of Canada and the U.S. they are only allowed six per year.
Let us take a couple of minutes and talk about the chronology of this. The first flight was in March 1984. To date 23 cruise missile tests have been conducted in Canada. In February 1986, a couple of years after this program got started, a cruise missile crashed immediately after launch from a B-52. The engine did not start. The federal government imposed a temporary halt to the cruise missile testing program.
In January 1990 a test was designed to test the capability of the Canadian F-18 aircraft to intercept cruise missiles, certainly an important part of the test regime. Also the American U.S. F-15s and F-16s were involved in this. Unfortunately as probably most members in this House will recall, in January 1990 upon take off one of the Canadian F-18s exploded causing critics again to renew their calls for an end to cruise testing in Canada. I remember that well because of course that CF-18 had taken off from CFB Cold Lake to do the intercept. It certainly was a tragedy.
As with all things and of course with the debate we had yesterday, do we cancel these projects because one tragedy occurs?
Again, as was mentioned earlier, in January 1991 there were several cruise missiles used and deployed in the gulf war. The Iraqi conflict demonstrated that guided weapons were very precise and damage to civilian structures was much less than in previous conflicts. We need to realize very strongly that just because the cold war has ended does not mean that peace has broken out across the world. I think we need to be preventive in realizing that some of these hot spots do still occur and therefore we need to realize that testing is essential.
We could ask the rhetorical question: Can this cruise missile be used without testing it at all? I think not. I would like to pay tribute to the communities of the tri-towns of Cold Lake, Grand Centre and specifically CFB Cold Lake. They work hand in hand with the Americans regularly. We have a military procedure in the spring called maple flag where any number of Americans come up and participate in a rendezvous or military exercises at CFB Cold Lake. We have experienced good relations with the Americans. It is also good for our area's local economy.
Further as a member of the G-7, Canada is obligated to take part in some of these things. We need to realize that as a member of the G-7 we cannot simply slide in under the arm of the Americans and say we will let them do everything, that we will take no part and no responsibility.
Again may I re-emphasize in closing how important it is for our Canadian pilots to be involved in this testing of the cruise missile and that it is essential for the proficiency of our intercept systems in our F-18s.
Finally I would just like to pay tribute to Colonel Dave Bartram, the base commander, and the members of 4 Wing at CFB Cold Lake for a job they do well. We must understand how important our military is and so we take our hats off to them. I think it would be wise for the government to continue this good relationship which we have with the Americans.