|North American Aerospace Defense Command|
|Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States|
|Type||Aerospace warning and aerospace control|
|In use||1958 - present|
|Canada / United States|
|Controlled by||Joint operations of|
Canadian Forces Air Command and United States Air Force and co-location with USNORTHCOM
|Garrison||Headquarters:Peterson Air Force Base|
Directorate: Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station
(west of Colorado Springs, CO)
|Commanders||Admiral James A. Winnefeld, Jr., USN|
|Events||May 2006 NORAD Agreement Renewal|
North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD, pronounced /ˈnɒræd/ NORR-ad) is a joint organization of Canada and the United States that provides aerospace warning, air sovereignty, and defense for the two countries. It was founded on May 12, 1958 (an effect of the Cold War) as a joint command between the governments of Canada and the United States, as the North American Air Defense Command. Its main technical facility has been the Cheyenne Mountain Directorate, formerly Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center, of the Cheyenne Mtn. Air Force Station, Colorado; and for this reason NORAD is sometimes referred to as Cheyenne Mountain. Similar to the Cheyenne Mountain Directorate, but on a smaller scale, the Canada East and Canada West Sector Air Operations Control Centres were located in an underground complex 600 feet below the surface at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) North Bay in Ontario, Canada. On October 12, 2006, NORAD operations at CFB North Bay have officially moved above ground into the newly-constructed Sergeant David L. Pitcher Building, and the underground complex has been "mothballed" but can be returned to operation if it should be needed again.
NORAD's headquarters facilities in Colorado are administered by the U.S. Air Force under the command of the 721st Mission Support Group, part of the 21st Space Wing, headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base. NORAD's forces consist of the Alaskan NORAD Region/Eleventh Air Force, Canadian NORAD Region, and Continental NORAD Region.
|NORAD Headquarters Building,|
The growing perception of the threat of long-range Soviet strategic bombers armed with nuclear weapons brought the U.S. and Canada into closer cooperation for air defense. While attacks from the Pacific or Atlantic would have been detected by Airborne Early Warning aircraft, Navy ships, or offshore radar platforms, the Arctic was underprotected. In the early 1950s the U.S. and Canada agreed to construct a series of radar stations across North America to detect a Soviet attack over the Arctic. The first series of radars was the Pinetree Line, completed in 1954 and consisting of 33 stations across southern Canada. However, technical defects in the system led to more radar networks being built. In 1957, the McGill Fence was completed; it consisted of Doppler radar for the detection of low-flying craft. This system was roughly 300 miles (480 km) north of the Pinetree Line along the 55th parallel north. The third joint system was the Distant Early Warning Line (DEW Line), also completed in 1957. This was a network of 58 stations along the 69th parallel north. The systems gave around three hours' warning of a bomber attack before they could reach any major population center.
The command and control of the massive system then became a significant challenge. Discussions and studies of joint systems had been ongoing since the early 1950s and culminated on August 1, 1957, with the announcement by the U.S. and Canada to establish an integrated command, the North American Air Defense Command. On September 12, operations commenced in Colorado. A formal NORAD agreement between the two governments was signed on May 12, 1958.
On June 16, 1961, the official groundbreaking ceremony was held at the construction site of the NORAD Combat Operations Center (COC). Gen. Laurence S. Kuter, NORAD Commander, and Lt. Gen. Robert Merrill Lee, ADC Commander, simultaneously set off symbolic dynamite charges.
Cold War and false alarms
|NORAD blast doors, Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado,|
By the early 1960s, about 250,000 personnel were involved in the operation of NORAD. The emergence of the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) threat in the early 1960s was something of a blow. In response, a space surveillance and missile warning system was constructed to provide worldwide space detection, tracking and identification. The extension of NORAD's mission into space led to a name change, the North American Aerospace Defense Command in March 1981.
From 1963, the size of the U.S. Air Force was reduced, and obsolete sections of the radar system were shut down. However, there was increased effort to protect against an ICBM attack; two underground operations centers were set up, the main one inside Cheyenne Mountain and an alternate at North Bay, Ontario. By the early 1970s, the acceptance of mutual assured destruction doctrine led to a cut in the air defense budget and the repositioning of NORAD's mission to ensuring the integrity of airspace during peacetime. There followed significant reductions in the air defense system until the 1980s, when, following the 1979 Joint US-Canada Air Defense Study (JUSCADS) the need for the modernization of air defenses was accepted—the DEW Line was to be replaced with an improved Arctic radar line called the North Warning System (NWS); there was to be the deployment of Over-the-Horizon Backscatter (OTH-B) radar; the assignment of more advanced fighters to NORAD, and the greater use of Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft from Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma or Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska. These recommendations were accepted by the governments in 1985. The United States Space Command was formed in September 1985 as an adjunct but not a component of NORAD.
Even though all equipment in Cheyenne Mountain was put through a rigorous inspection, on at least three occasions, failure in its systems could have potentially caused nuclear war. On November 9, 1979, a technician in NORAD loaded a test tape but failed to switch the system status to "test", causing a stream of constant false warnings to spread to two "continuity of government" bunkers as well as command posts worldwide. On June 3, 1980, and again on June 6, 1980, a computer communications device failure caused warning messages to sporadically flash in U.S. Air Force command posts around the world that a nuclear attack was taking place. During these incidents, Pacific Air Forces properly had their planes (loaded with nuclear bombs) in the air; Strategic Air Command did not and took criticism because they did not follow procedure, even though the SAC command knew these were almost certainly false alarms (as did PACAF). Both command posts had recently begun receiving and processing direct reports from the various radar, satellite, and other missile attack detection systems, and those direct reports simply didn't match anything about the erroneous data received from NORAD.
|An F-22 Raptor escorting Tu-95 Bear,.|
At the end of the Cold War NORAD reassessed its mission. To avoid cutbacks, from 1989 NORAD operations expanded to cover counter-drug operations, especially the tracking of small aircraft entering and operating within America and Canada (although commercial flights were not perceived to be threats). But the DEW line sites were still replaced, in a scaled-back fashion by the North Warning System radars between 1986 and 1995. The Cheyenne Mountain site was also upgraded. However, none of the proposed OTH-B radars are currently in operation.
Post-September 11, 2001 attacks
|Command center of NORAD,|
After the September 11, 2001 attacks, the NORAD mission evolved to include monitoring of all aircraft flying in the interior of the United States. NORAD oversees Operation Noble Eagle using fighter aircraft Combat Air Patrols (CAP) under command of First Air Force and Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) E-3 Sentry aircraft under command of the 552nd Air Control Wing. At U.S. request, NATO deployed five of its NATO AWACS aircraft to the U.S. to help NORAD in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.
On July 28, 2006, military officials announced that NORAD's day-to-day operations would be consolidated, for purposes of efficiency, in an ordinary building at Peterson Air Force Base in nearby Colorado Springs. The mountain will be kept only as a backup in "warm standby," though fully operational and staffed with support personnel should the need arise. NORAD officials stated that the same surveillance work can be continued without the security the facility provides. They emphasized that they are no longer concerned about a halt to their operations from an intercontinental nuclear attack.
NORAD commander Admiral James A. Winnefeld, Jr. said in 2010 that NORAD did not send interceptors to intercept every flight of Russian bombers near U.S. airspace because NORAD did not wish to feed Russia's propaganda about their illusion of power.
Commanders and deputy commanders
The Commander of NORAD is always an United States Defense Department Officer confirmed by the US Senate and from 2002 has simultaneously headed USNORTHCOM, while the Deputy Commander is always Canadian. During the course of NORAD's history there have been four different U.S. combatant commands associated with NORAD:
The NORAD commander is an American four-star General, or equivalent. Since 2004 commanders have included Admirals.
In recent years deputy commanders have always been Canadian air force three-star generals. Prior to the 1968 unification of the Canadian Forces, the deputy commanders were RCAF Air Marshals.
Notable popular culture
NORAD comes to the public's attention during December and on Christmas Eve, when its NORAD Tracks Santa service follows Santa Claus on his journey around the world. This tradition started in 1955 when a local Sears store in Colorado misprinted the telephone number and children thought they were calling Santa, but actually were calling Air Defense Command (NORAD's predecessor) instead.
Cheyenne Mountain was the central setting of the 1983 motion picture WarGames, starring Matthew Broderick as a teenager who hacked NORAD's main computer and almost started a global thermonuclear war.
Cheyenne Mountain is also the main earth setting of the Stargate universe, serving as the Command Center for all Stargate Operations in the Milky Way Galaxy.