Raytheon and a group of Canadian politicians are lobbying the Canadian government for the installation of a missile defense X-band radar on the country’s east coast, despite a decision by Prime Minister Paul Martin not to support the Pentagon’s missile defense program.

According to defense industry and government sources, Raytheon Canada officials looked at potential sites at the Canadian Forces base at Goose Bay, Labrador, March 1-2 for the proposed 500 million Canadian dollar ($400 million) project, which they say would provide a valuable sensor for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in monitoring Middle East missile launches.

But some Canadian politicians remain skeptical about whether Martin’s Liberal Party government would approve the radar installation, considering the ongoing, highly charged debate on missile defense. Martin announced Feb. 24 that Canada would not join the U.S. missile defense shield effort but would continue to work with the United States through NORAD.

Raytheon officials are promoting the X-band in Canada as a means to contribute to the NORAD mission. The radar, they have told Canadian politicians, also could be used for space surveillance and to track satellites. Raytheon did not respond to a request for comment for this report.

Liberal Party Sen. Bill Rompkey, who is supporting the proposal, said he talked to Defence Minister Bill Graham about the idea but received no commitment from the government. Rompkey, however, said he is continuing to lobby government officials for approval.

Graham’s spokesman, Steve Jurgutis, said the X-band radar idea came from industry but there are no government plans to move forward on it.

“Certainly, if it was something that the U.S. thought would be a good idea and lay out the reasoning behind it, then we would take a look at it,” Jurgutis said. “But at this point, there’s no work going on at our end to make this something that happens.”

Liberal Sen. Colin Kenny said he was among 30 officials who recently attended a presentation by Raytheon about the potential for an X-band radar at Goose Bay. But Kenny, chairman of the Senate Committee on Defence, said he never viewed the proposal as practical because of the cost and the opposition to missile defense among the Canadian public.

In 2001, Canadian defense planners determined that an X-band radar set up on the country’s northern east coast could improve the warning time in detecting a Middle East missile launch.

But Rick Lehner, spokesman for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, questioned the need for a radar at Goose Bay, adding that his organization has not been approached about the proposal.

“There’s really no need that I know of for any type of a radar in Canada, mainly because it’s far better to have forward-based radars … whether it be in the Pacific or in Europe,” he said. “The objective is to have X-band radars as far forward as possible, because you want to get as much information as early as possible during a missile launch.”

David Pugliese covers space policy and developments in the space industry in Canada. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and a degree in journalism from Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario.