North American Aerospace Defense Command

North American Aerospace Defense Command

April 25, 2013

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NORAD Emblem

NORAD Emblem (Photo by N/A)


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For a more in-depth look at NORAD's history, click here.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is a United States and Canada bi-national organization charged with the missions of aerospace warning and aerospace control for North America. Aerospace warning includes the detection, validation, and warning of attack against North America whether by aircraft, missiles, or space vehicles, through mutual support arrangements with other commands.

Aerospace control includes ensuring air sovereignty and air defense of the airspace of Canada and the United States. The renewal of the NORAD Agreement in May 2006 added a maritime warning mission, which entails a shared awareness and understanding of the activities conducted in U.S. and Canadian maritime approaches, maritime areas and internal waterways.

NORAD Mission
The North American Aerospace Defense Command conducts aerospace warning, aerospace control and maritime warning in the defense of North America.

NORAD Missions

In close collaboration with homeland defense, security, and law enforcement partners, prevent air attacks against North America, safeguard the sovereign airspaces of the United States and Canada by responding to unknown, unwanted, and unauthorized air activity approaching and operating within these airspaces, and provide aerospace and maritime warning for North America.

To accomplish these critically important missions, NORAD continually adjusts its structure to meet the demands of a changing world. The commander is responsible to both the U.S. president and the Canadian prime minister. The commander maintains his headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. The NORAD and U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) Command Center 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. Three subordinate regional headquarters, located at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska; Canadian Forces Base Winnipeg, Manitoba; and Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, receive direction from the commander and control air operations within their respective areas of responsibility.

For the aerospace warning mission, the commander of NORAD provides an integrated tactical warning and attack assessment to the governments of Canada and the United States. To accomplish the aerospace control mission, NORAD uses a network of satellites, ground-based radar, airborne radar and fighters to detect, intercept and, if necessary, engage any air-breathing threat to Canada and the United States. In conjunction with its aerospace control mission, NORAD assists in the detection and monitoring of aircraft suspected of illegal drug trafficking. This information is passed to civilian law enforcement agencies to help combat the flow of illegal drugs into North America. The Command has developed an initial concept for implementing the new maritime warning mission.

Through outstanding bi-national cooperation, NORAD has proven itself effective in its roles of watching, warning, and responding. NORAD continues to play an important role in the defense of Canada and the U.S by evolving to meet the changing threat. The events of September 11, 2001 demonstrated NORAD’s continued relevance to North American security. Today, NORAD provides civil authorities with a potent military response capability to counter domestic airspace threats should all other methods fail.

While the national leadership of Canada and the U.S. continue to refine our response to the terrorist threat, NORAD’s proven abilities and unique capabilities will remain a vital part of homeland defense.

NORAD Regions

The Alaskan NORAD Region (ANR) conducts airspace control within its area of operations and contributes to NORAD's aerospace warning mission. With its headquarters located at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, ANR provides an ongoing capability to detect, validate, and warn of any aircraft and/or cruise missile threat in its area of operations that could threaten North American security. ANR is supported by both active duty and Air National Guard units. Both 11th AF and the Canadian Forces provide active duty forces to the Alaskan Air and Space Operations Center. National Guard forces provide manning for the Alaskan Air Defense Sector to maintain continuous surveillance of Alaskan airspace with Alaskan Radar System long and short-range radars.

The Canadian NORAD Region (CANR) is headquartered with the 1 Canadian Air Division in Winnipeg, Manitoba, CANR executes a variety of tasks to defend Canadian airspace, including identifying and tracking all aircraft entering Canadian airspace, exercising operational command and control of all air defense forces in CANR and operations in support of other government departments and agencies. The 1 Canadian Air Division is responsible for providing CANR with combat-ready air forces to meet Canada’s commitment to the defense of North America and maintain the sovereignty of North American airspace. CANR CF-18 Hornet fighter aircraft are on continuous alert to respond to any potential aerial threat to the safety of Canada and Canadians.

The Continental U.S. NORAD Region (CONR) provides airspace surveillance and control and directs air sovereignty activities for the continental United States (CONUS). Co-located with Headquarters First Air Force at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, a Combined Air Operations Center coordinates CONR sector activities and executes the NORAD air sovereignty mission for the continental United States. CONR plans, conducts, controls, and coordinates all Air Force forces for the Commander of NORAD. The best of the US Air Force and Air National Guard fighter inventory, the F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-22 Raptor, fly as CONR’s primary weapons systems. CONR is presently divided into two defense sectors: the Western Defense Sector, with its headquarters located at McChord Air Force Base, Washington; and the Eastern Defense Sector, with its headquarters located at Rome, New York. Within CONR is the National Capital Region (NCR) in the Washington DC area, which is protected by the NCR Integrated Air Defense System (NCR IADS) consisting of a system of radars, cameras, visual warning system, alert aircraft and Army air defense artillery assets.