Nanoose Range

The Nanoose Range is maintained and operated by the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Keyport (NUWCDIVKPT). The range is a joint United States-Canadian facility located in the Strait of Georgia on the eastern side of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The underwater instrumentation consists of 26 short-baseline hydrophone arrays that provide a coverage area of approximately 56 square nautical miles.

The facility consists of a 100-square-kilometer seabed are off the coast of Vancouver Island in the Strait of Georgia near Nanoose Bay, about 30 km north of Nanaimo. Nanoose Bay has four test ranges, the most important called Whiskey Golf which is 24 kilometers long by eight kilometers wide. The seabed has an average depth of 410 metres. Unlike test ranges in California and Hawaii, Nanoose Bay's average depth of 410 metres and unique seabed makes it easy to retrieve torpedoes. High-tech military hardware is used to track underwater objects in 3-D. The area is part of the test facilities at Canadian Forces Experimental and Test Ranges, which has been open since 1965 as a testing site for torpedoes, sonar, sonobuoys, and other maritime warfare equipment.

The Nanoose Bay torpedo testing range located in the Georgia Strait off Vancouver Island, (officially the Canadian Forces Maritime Experimental Test Range) has been operating since 1967, testing torpedoes, sonar, sonobuoys and other maritime warfare equipment. Ottawa allows foreign governments - principally the U.S. Navy - to use the facilities.

The range tests between 300 to 400 torpedos annually, most of them American. Almost all are launched from surface craft. There have been 31,000 test firings since the range opened. An average of two submarines and six surface ships visit the range each year. Since the range opened, as of 1999 there had been 246 visits by U.S. surface ships, 162 by U.S. submarines, six by Canadian submarines and 254 by Canadian ships. A Chilean submarine visited Nanoose in 1994. In 1996, the U.S. Navy said it had saved $2 billion over 30 years by using Nanoose Bay.

The federal government owns the land used for the range. The foreshore is owned by B.C. and used by the federal government under a sixty-year agreement signed in 1988. The Nanoose Bay seabed was also owned by British Columbia and leased to Ottawa. A Supreme Court of Canada ruling in 1984 confirmed B.C.'s ownership of the seabed. Following that ruling, B.C. and Canada signed a $1 per year licence agreement for the seabed which expired in September 1999.

The range employs 57 people, including 11 Canadian military naval officers and six U.S. civilian technicians. The U.S. has invested $170-million in the facility. Canada's investment is $47-million. The base is estimated to pump $8-million into the local economy.

At the present time, there is no acoustical system, but a number of optical and radar systems are used for splash point location at the Nanoose Range.

Dual Cinesextant Track is an optical system that uses a spatially separated pair of cinesextants to provide manual azimuth and elevation readings for a bearing-bearing solution of the splash point.

Cinesextant With Radar Track Intercept uses the three "now" system with release on the third "now" to obtain the time of drop. A single cinesextant provides a bearing line to the splash which is intersected with the extrapolated aircraft radar track to provide an estimate of the water entry point.

Radar Extrapolation Using Ballistics is actually three systems that use the same technique. The aircraft radar track, the third "now," and either sonobuoy, torpedo, or mine ballistics are used to perform on-line estimates of the appropriate object's splash position. For torpedoes and mines, the positions can be compared to target locations or desired mine positions for exercise scoring. This procedure can also be used for simulated drops, because there is no requirement for an object to hit the water surface.

In terms of impact detection and scoring requirements, NUWCDIVKPT lists mines, sonobuoys, and air-launched torpedoes as the types of impacts with an accuracy of ~+mn~10 yards over the Nanoose 3-D tracking range area. A fully automated real-time system is desired and a semiautomated near real-time system is required. Both systems should provide a post-test, non-real-time, position-refinement capability. Identification of the type of impact is not required.

Knowing the difficulty the U.S. military has in finding weapons testing and training sites, British Columbia premier Glen Clark on 23 May 1997 brought Washington D.C. and Ottawa back to stalled negotiations over salmon rights by invoking the B.C. right to cancel federal use of the Nanoose Bay torpedo range with 90 days notice. Ottawa pays $1 a year for the range, subletting use to the U.S. Navy since 1965. Canadian foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy announced the restart of the salmon talks within 24 hours.

The Federal Government was sensitive to Premier Clark's concerns and held discussions to find a solution satisfactory to both parties. Officials of both Governments were on the verge of concluding an agreement in May 1999 in which the province would earn $125 million over 30 years from the lease, a big increase from British Columbia's previous token income of $1 a year. This would have preserved British Columbia's current interest in the property and met the needs of the Canadian Forces.

Nuclear weapons soon replaced salmon as the flashpoint in the dispute. In 1992, the B.C Legislative Assembly had declared British Columbia a nuclear weapons free zone by a vote of 51 to 1. British Columbia demanded a pledge that no nuclear-armed ships will enter the Georgia Strait, where the Nanoose range is located. In the end, Premier Clark refused to accept the settlement that was possible. The Federal Government was therefore left with no choice but to resort to expropriation.

In November 1999 two CP-140 Aurora aircraft from 19 Wing's 407 "Demon" Maritime Patrol Squadron conducted a torpedo and tracking exercise at the Canadian Forces Maritime Experimental Test Range at Nanoose Bay on Vancouver Island. The exercise was designed to test the equipment and submarine-hunting skills of the Aurora crews, who were extensively involved in the detection of migrant smuggling off the B.C. coast in the summer of 1999.

On September 3, 1999, the B.C. government filed a court challenge in B.C. Supreme Court on the grounds that the expropriation is constitutionally invalid and that it falls outside the federal government's narrow power of expropriation over provincial lands. In September, 1999, the Government of Canada completed its expropriation of 217 square kilometres of Georgia Strait by filing papers in the Land Title Office in British Columbia. B.C. was offered $1.88 million in compensation.

On December 17, 1999, the Government of Canada announced a ten-year extension of the agreement with the United States to allow the U.S. Navy to continue to be the primary user of the Nanoose Bay testing range.



NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list