Canadian NORAD Region reflects 'spirit of NORAD'
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Canada ranks as the world's second-largest country in total landmass, covering about 3.8 million square miles, or nearly 10 million square kilometers. And that's the size of the area under the protection of the Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command Region.
NORAD is divided into a total of three regions: the Canadian NORAD Region in Canada, the Alaskan NORAD Region in Alaska and the Continental NORAD Region in the lower 48 states of the United States.
"If you look at NORAD, and the size of the organization and the footprint, it covers essentially from the Mexican border all the way up to the North Pole and as far east as Newfoundland and as far west as to the western tip of the Aleutians belonging to the Alaskan territory," said Canadian Forces Maj.-Gen. Charlie Bouchard, commander of the Canadian NORAD Region, which is headquartered in Winnipeg. "So you can probably appreciate that it's quite a fair bit of real estate."
Dividing NORAD into three regions recognizes the sovereignty of both Canada and the United States, Bouchard said, and also the geographic detachment of Alaska from the continental United States.
"We talk about division into regions, but I think we should also be mindful that they are all united under one single mission focused on defending North America against air-breathing threats and also providing aerospace warning of attack on North America," he said. "So, divided into regions we are, united under one single command we also serve."
"Air-breathing threats" include aircraft, missiles and rockets that travel through the earth's atmosphere. NORAD uses a network of satellites, ground-based and airborne radar, and jet fighters to detect, intercept and, if necessary, engage any air-breathing threat to North America.
Bouchard actually wears three hats in his position of Canadian NORAD Region commander. He is also the One Canadian Air Division commander and the Combined Forces Air Component commander for operations in Canada. As such, the general can call upon any available assets in Canada's Air Force when needed.
But some Canadian personnel and aircraft are earmarked specifically for NORAD missions. They are based in Bagotville, in the eastern province of Quebec, and Cold Lake, in the western province of Alberta.
"If you look at the geography of Canada, you say, 'Well, that's not that many assets considering the footprint that we have,'" Bouchard said. "We tailor our response on many things and, essentially, it's driven by the threat that we have and the intelligence that we have available to us. So the locations of those assets can be changed every day."
Next month, the United States and Canada will celebrate the 49th anniversary of the signing of the NORAD agreement. That agreement must continue to evolve, Bouchard said.
"I think we have to look at our agreement in greater terms than just being aircraft in the defense of air-breathing threats," he said. "It's about facing and being prepared for the future, for the new threat, whether it be more conventional in nature or new asymmetric threats that we've seen since the emergence of terrorist threats after 9-11."
But what's even more important, Bouchard said, is the cooperation and collaboration between two countries that have been neighbors and allies for many years.
"This is really what the spirit of NORAD is all about," he said. "It's about Canada and the United States working together as one team to make both of our countries a safe place for our citizens to live and to really flourish in a great environment."