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"NORAD" redirects here. For the Norwegian foreign-aid agency, see Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation.

Template:Infobox military structure

North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD, /ˈnɔræd/) is a combined organization of the United States and Canada that provides aerospace warning, air sovereignty, and defense for North America.[1] Headquarters for NORAD and the NORAD/USNORTHCOM command center are located at Peterson Air Force Base in El Paso County, near Colorado Springs, Colorado. The nearby Cheyenne Mountain nuclear bunker has the Alternative Command Center.


CINCNORAD maintains the NORAD headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base near Colorado Springs, Colorado. The NORAD and USNORTHCOM Command Center at Peterson AFB serves as a central collection and coordination facility for a worldwide system of sensors designed to provide the commander and the leadership of Canada and the U.S. with an accurate picture of any aerospace or maritime threat.[2] NORAD has administratively divided the North American landmass into three regions: the Alaska NORAD (ANR) Region, under Eleventh Air Force; the Canadian NORAD (CANR) Region, under 1 Canadian Air Division, and the Continental U.S. (CONR) Region, under 1 AF/CONR-AFNORTH. Both the CONR and CANR regions are divided into eastern and western sectors.

Alaska NORAD Region

The Alaska NORAD Region (ANR) maintains 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week capability to detect, validate and warn of any atmospheric threat in its area of operations from its Regional Operations Control Center (ROCC) at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska.

ANR also maintains the readiness to conduct a continuum of aerospace control missions, which include daily air sovereignty in peacetime, contingency and/or deterrence in time of tension, and active air defense against manned and unmanned air-breathing atmospheric vehicles in times of crisis.

ANR is supported by both active duty and reserve units. Active duty forces are provided by Eleventh Air Force and the Canadian Forces, and reserve forces provided by the Alaska Air National Guard. Both 11 AF and the CF provide active duty personnel to the ROCC to maintain continuous surveillance of Alaskan airspace.

Canadian NORAD Region

1 Canadian Air Division/Canadian NORAD Region Headquarters is at CFB Winnipeg, Manitoba. It is responsible for providing surveillance and control of Canadian airspace. The Royal Canadian Air Force provides alert assets to NORAD. CANR is divided into two sectors, which are designated as the Canada East Sector and Canada West Sector. Both Sector Operations Control Centers (SOCCs) are co-located at CFB North Bay Ontario. The routine operation of the SOCCs includes reporting track data, sensor status and aircraft alert status to NORAD headquarters.

Canadian air defense forces assigned to NORAD include 1416th Tactical excluded Fighter Squadrons at CFB Cold Lake, Alberta and Saskatchewan and 425 Tactical Fighter Squadrons at CFB Bagotville, Quebec. All squadrons fly the CF-18 Hornet fighter aircraft.[3]

In cooperation with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the United States drug law enforcement agencies, the Canadian NORAD Region monitors all air traffic approaching the coast of Canada. Any aircraft that has not filed a flight plan may be directed to land and be inspected by RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency.

Continental United States NORAD Region

The Continental NORAD Region (CONR) is the component of NORAD that provides airspace surveillance and control and directs air sovereignty activities for the Continental United States (CONUS).

CONR is the NORAD designation of the United States Air Force First Air Force/AFNORTH. Its headquarters is located at Tyndall AFB, Florida. 1 AF became responsible for the USAF air defense mission on 30 September 1990. AFNORTH is the United States Air Force component of United States Northern Command (NORTHCOM),

1 AF/CONR-AFNORTH comprises State Air National Guard Fighter Wings assigned an air defense mission to 1 AF/CONR-AFNORTH, made up primarily of citizen Airmen. The primary weapons systems are the F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft

It plans, conducts, controls, coordinates and ensures air sovereignty and provides for the unilateral defense of the United States. It is organized with a combined First Air Force command post at Tyndall AFB and two Sector Operations Control Centers (SOCC) at Rome, New York for the US East ROCC and McChord Field, Washington for the US West ROCC manned by active duty personnel to maintain continuous surveillance of CONUS airspace.

In its role as the CONUS NORAD Region, 1 AF/CONR-AFNORTH also performs counter-drug surveillance operations.


NORAD (North American Air Defense), was recommended by the Joint Canadian-U.S. Military Group in late 1956, approved by the United States JCS in February 1957, and announced on 1 August 1957;[4] the "establishment of [NORAD] command headquarters" was on 12 September 1957,[5] at Ent Air Force Base's 1954 blockhouse. The 1958 international agreement designated the NORAD commander always be a US officer (Canadian vice commander), and "RCAF officers…agreed the command's primary purpose would be…early warning and defense for SAC's retaliatory forces."[6]:252 In late 1958, Canada and the U.S. started the "Continental Air Defense Integration, North (CADIN)", for the SAGE air defense network.[6]:253

Canada's NORAD bunker with a SAGE AN/FSQ-7 computer was constructed 1959-63, and each of the USAF's eight smaller AN/FSQ-8s provided NORAD with data and could command the entire US air defense. The RCAF's 1950 "ground observer system, the Long Range Air Raid Warning System,"[7] was discontinued and on 31 January 1959, the US Ground Observation Corps was deactivated.[6]:222 The Cheyenne Mountain nuclear bunker's planned mission was expanded in August 1960 to "a hardened center from which CINCNORAD would supervise and direct operations against space attack as well as air attack"[8] (NORAD would be renamed North American Aerospace Defense Command in March 1981). The Secretary of Defense assigned on 7 October 1960, "operational command of all space surveillance to Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) and operational control to North American Air Defense Command (NORAD)".[9]

The JCS placed the Ent AFB Space Detection and Tracking System (496L System with "Philco 2000/Model 212" computer)[10] "under the operational control of CINCNORAD on December 1, 1960";[11] during Cheyenne Mountain nuclear bunker excavation, and the "joint SAC-NORAD exercise…Sky Shield II"--and on 2 September 1962--"Sky Shield III" were conducted for mock penetration of NORAD sectors.[12] NORAD command center operations moved from Ent AFB to the 1963 partially underground "Combined Operations Center" for Aerospace Defense Command and NORAD[13] at the Chidlaw Building. NORAD had an exhibit at the 1964 World's Fair,[14] and on 30 October 1964, "NORAD began manning" the Cheynne Mountain Combat Operations Center[11] and by 1965, about 250,000 US and Canadian personnel were involved in the operation of NORAD,[15] On 1 January 1966, Air Force Systems Command turned the COC over to NORAD[16] (the NORAD Cheyenne Mountain Complex was accepted on 8 February.)[11]:319

1968 reorganization

U.S. Department of Defense realignments for the NORAD command organization began by 15 November 1968 (e.g., Army Air Defense Command (ARADCOM))[17] and by 1972, there were eight NORAD "regional areas...for all air defense",[18] and the NORAD Cheyenne Mountain Complex Improvements Program (427M System)[16]became operational in 1979.[19]

False alarms

On at least three occasions, NORAD systems failed such as on 9 November 1979, when 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.[20] On 3 June 1980, and again on 6 June 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.[21] 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 did not match anything about the erroneous data received from NORAD.

1980 reorganization

Following the 1979 Joint US-Canada Air Defense Study, the command structure for aerospace defense was changed, e.g., "SAC assumed control of ballistic missile warning and space surveillance facilities" on 1 December 1979 from ADCOM.[23]:48 The Aerospace Defense Command major command ended 31 March 1980. and its organizations in Cheyenne Mountain became the "ADCOM" specified command under the same commander as NORAD,[13] e.g., HQ NORAD/ADCOM J31 manned the Space Surveillance Center. By 1982, a NORAD Off-site Test Facility[24] was located at Peterson AFB.[25] The DEW Line was to be replaced with the North Warning System (NWS); the Over-the-Horizon Backscatter (OTH-B) radar was to be deployment; more advanced fighters were deployed, and E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft were planned for greater use. 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.

Post–Cold War

In 1989 NORAD operations expanded to cover counter-drug operations, e.g., tracking of small aircraft entering and operating within the US and Canada.[26] DEW line sites were replaced between 1986 and 1995 by the North Warning System. The Cheyenne Mountain site was also upgraded but none of the proposed OTH-B radars are currently in operation.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, the NORAD Air Warning Center's mission "expanded to include the interior airspace of North America."[27]

The Cheyenne Mountain Realignment[28] was announced on 28 July 2006, to consolidate NORAD's day-to-day operations at Peterson Air Force Base[29] with Cheyenne Mountain in "warm standby" staffed with support personnel.

Former NORAD Regions/Sectors
1966 1967 1968 1969 1970-1983 1984 1985-1986 1987 1988-1990 1991-1992 1993-1995 1996-2005 2006-2009
20th 1966–1967 1969–1983
21st 1966–1967 1969–1983
22d 1966–1987
23d 1969–1987
24th 1969–1990
25th 1966–1990
26th 1966–1990
27th 1966–1969
28th 1966–1969 1985–1992
29th 1966–1969
30th 1966–1968
31st 1966–1969
32d 1966–1969
34th 1966–1969
35th 1966–1969
36th 1966–1969
NW 1987–1995
NE 1987–2009
SE 1987–2005
SW 1987–1995

Commanders and deputy commanders

The Commander of NORAD is always a United States Department of Defense 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 United States commands associated with NORAD:

Name of Command Abbreviations Emblem Association started Association ended Type of combatant command Notes
Air Defense Command
Aerospace Defense Command
15 November 1957 31 March 1980 specified command Air Defense Command re-designated as Aerospace Defense Command, 15 January 1968. A new JCS Unified Command Plan designated ADC as a specified command and changed its name to the Aerospace Defense Command (ADCOM) on 1 July 1975. ADCOM inactivated on 31 March 1980 as specified command. Some components of ADCOM were reassigned to the Aerospace Defense Center, a USAF direct reporting unit assigned to Headquarters, NORAD that inactivated on 1 October 1986.
Air Defense, Tactical Air Command ADTAC 1 October 1979 1 July 1987 Air Division Resource management responsibility of ADCOM's atmospheric defense units transferred to Tactical Air Command; ADTAC established under TAC at Air Division echelon level for command of transferred ADCOM forces.
United States Space Command USSPACECOM 23 September 1985 1 October 2002 functional unified command merged with United States Strategic Command
United States Northern Command USNORTHCOM 1 October 2002 continuing regional unified command


The NORAD commander is an American four-star General, or equivalent. Since 2004 commanders have included Admirals.

NORAD Commanders
Number Name Photo Start of term Association ended Notable positions held before or after
1 General Earle E. Partridge, USAF 1957 1959 World War I enlisted Army combat veteran, participated in two major ground offensives on Western Front; USMA class 1924; USAAF CS Fifteenth Air Force DC Eighth Air Force World War II; Commander USAF Far East Air Forces, 1954.
2 General Laurence S. Kuter, USAF 1959 1962 Commander 1st Bombardment Wing, Eighth Air Force; DC, Northwest African Tactical Air Force; Commander Atlantic Division, Air Transport Command; Commander, Military Air Transport Service; Commander, Far East Air Forces
3 General John K. Gerhart, USAF 1962 1965
4 General Dean C. Strother, USAF 1965 1966 U.S. Military Representative, NATO Military Committee, 1962–1965
5 General Raymond J. Reeves, USAF 1966 1969
6 General Seth J. McKee, USAF 1969 1973
7 General Lucius D. Clay, Jr., USAF 1973 1975
8 General Daniel James, Jr., USAF 1975 1977
9 General James E. Hill, USAF 1977 1979
10 General James V. Hartinger, USAF 1980 1984
11 General Robert T. Herres, USAF 1984 1987 1st Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1987–1990)
12 General John L. Piotrowski, USAF 1987 1990 22nd Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force (1985–1987)
13 General Donald J. Kutyna, USAF 1990 1992 Member of the Rogers Commission (1986–1988)
14 General Charles A. "Chuck" Horner, USAF June, 1992 September, 1994 Commander, 9th Air Force, and Commander, U.S. Central Command Air Forces (1987–1992), he led U.S. and allied air operations for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
15 General Joseph W. Ashy, USAF September, 1994 August, 1996
16 General Howell M. Estes III, USAF August, 1996 14 August 1998
17 General Richard B. Myers, USAF 14 August 1998 22 February 2000 5th Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (2000–2001)
15th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (2001–2005)
18 General Ralph E. "Ed" Eberhart, USAF 22 February 2000 5 November 2004 27th Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force (1997–1999)
19 Admiral Timothy J. Keating, USN 5 November 2004 23 March 2007 Director of the Joint Staff (2003–2004)
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command (2007–2009)
20 General Victor E. Renuart Jr., USAF 23 March 2007 19 May 2010 Senior Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (2006–2007)
21 Admiral James A. Winnefeld, Jr., USN 19 May 2010 3 August 2011 Director for Strategic Plans and Policy, The Joint Staff which he concurrently served as the Senior Member, U.S. Delegation to the U.N. Military Staff Committee (2008–2010)
22 General Charles H. Jacoby, Jr., USA 3 August 2011 Director for Strategic Plans and Policy, J5

Deputy commanders

In recent years deputy commanders have always been Canadian air force lieutenant generals. Prior to the 1968 unification of the Canadian Forces, the deputy commanders were RCAF Air Marshals.[30]

NORAD Deputy Commanders
Number Name Photo Start of term Association ended Notable positions held before or after
1 Air Marshal Roy Slemon, CB, CBE, CD 50px 12 September 1957 14 August 1964 Chief of the Air Staff (1953–1957)
2 Air Marshal Clarence Rupert Dunlap, CBE, CD 50px 15 August 1964 25 August 1967 Deputy Chief of Staff (Operations) at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (1958–1962), Chief of the Air Staff (1962–1964)
3 Air Marshal William R. MacBrien OBE, CD 50px 26 August 1967 22 January 1969
4 Lieutenant-General Frederick Ralph Sharp CMM, DFC, CD 50px 23 January 1969 14 September 1969 Chief of the Defence Staff (1969–1972)
5 Lieutenant-General Edwin Reyno September 1969 August 1972 Chief of Personnel of the Canadian Forces (1966–1969)
6 Lieutenant-General Reginald J. Lane, DSO, DFC, CD September 1972 October 1974 Deputy Commander of Mobile Command (1969–1972)[31]
7 Lieutenant-General Richard C . Stovel, AFC, CD October 1974 September 1976
8 Lieutenant-General David R. Adamson September 1976 August 1978
9 Lieutenant-General Kenneth E. Lewis 18 August 1978 24 June 1980
10 Lieutenant-General Kenneth J. Thorneycroft June 1980 May 1983
11 Lieutenant-General Donald C. MacKenzie May 1983 August 1986
12 Lieutenant-General Donald M. McNaughton August 1986 August 1989
13 Lieutenant-General Robert W. Morton, CMM, CD August 1989 August 1992 [32]
14 Lieutenant-General Brian L. Smith August 1992 August 1994 [32]
15 Lieutenant-General J. D. O'Blenis August 1994 August 1995
16 Lieutenant-General L. W. F. Cuppens August 1995 April 1998
17 Lieutenant-General G C Macdonald, CMM, MVO, CD April 1998 August 2001 Vice Chief of Defence Staff, Canadian Forces (2001-2004)
18 Lieutenant-General Ken R. Pennie, CMM, CD 8 August 2001 14 July 2003 Chief of the Air Staff (2003–2005)
19 Lieutenant-General Rick Findley, CMM, MSC, CD 14 July 2003 2 August 2007 Chief of Staff for Personnel, Training, and Reserves; Chief of Staff for Operations at 1 Canadian Air Division; Director of Combat Operations at NORAD
20 Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, OC, CMM, MSC, CD 2 August 2007 10 July 2009 Deputy Commander for Continental NORAD Region, Deputy Commander of Allied Joint Force Command Naples
21 Lieutenant-General Marcel Duval, CMM, CD 10 July 2009 15 August 2011 Canadian Contingent Commander Middle East; Commander of 1 Wing
21 Lieutenant-General Thomas J. Lawson, CMM, CD 15 August 2011 4 September 2012 Chief of the Defence Staff (2012–present)
22 Lieutenant-General Alain Parent, OMM, CD 4 September 2012 Commander of 1 Canadian Air Division and Canadian NORAD Region

In popular culture

Beginning in 1955 when a local Sears store in Colorado misprinted the telephone number for Santa, Air Defense Command[33] NORAD Tracks Santa follows Santa Claus' Christmas Eve journey around the world.[34][35]

Cheyenne Mountain is a setting of the 1983 film WarGames and the Stargate television series.

See also


External links

  • CBC Digital Archives – Norad: Watching the Skies
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