NORAD Celebrates 44th Anniversary

By Petty Officer 1st Class Beverly Allen, USN NORAD/USSPACECOM Public Affairs


PETERSON AFB, CO -- The men and women of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) recently celebrated NORAD's 44th anniversary during a ceremony at the Officers Club on Peterson Air Force Base. This bi-national Canadian and American organization was officially created on May 12,1958 to "deter, detect and defend against air and space threats to North America."

The featured guest was Mrs. Beverly Crockett. Mrs. Crockett, a native of Colorado, served on the NORAD staff for most of her 45-year career as a Department of Defense employee.

When asked about the changes she has seen, she said, "NORAD has responded to the changing threat through advancement in technology. Most important has been the installation of satellites in space, improving air surveillance and information transmission, benefiting both military and civilian communities."

Crockett added, "I'm proud to be a member of this unique, multi-service command. NORAD serves as an example to the world; two great nations working together for the common defense of their homelands."

The highlight of the ceremony occurred when Mrs.Crockett was joined by NORAD's junior Canadian Forces member, Leading Seaman Jimmy Stewart, to cut the official birthday cake.

On May 12, 1958, NORAD formerly came into being as a U.S.-Canadian military command assigned with the key role of providing air defense for North America.

The roots of the NORAD agreement can be traced to the 1941 Ogdensburg Declaration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King, which called for close military cooperation between Canada and the United States.

Entrusted with the air defense of North America during the height of the Cold War, NORAD evolved and adapted over the years to meet new security challenges. In the 1950s, the U.S. and Canada carried out the herculean feat of building an extensive radar network across Canada and Alaska (the Pine Tree Line, Mid-Canada Line and the Distant Early Warning -(DEW)-Line) designed to detect intruders entering North American airspace. Hundreds of thousands of military personnel manned these sites as well as making sure U.S. and the Royal Canadian Air Force fighter/interceptors, Army missile units, Navy picket ships, and other units and individuals from all services from both countries remained on alert to deter and defend against any potential Soviet attack.

Actual NORAD military operations commenced on Sept 12, 1957, barely three weeks prior to the successful launch of Sputnik 1 on Oct 4, 1957 which not only heralded the space age, it also ushered in the spectre of an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile threat to North America. In response, NORAD acquired the ability to see objects in space and to provide warning of a missile attack.

With its missions so important and the Cold War threat so great, the NORAD Operations Center was moved into a newly constructed complex deep inside Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado Springs, CO in 1966.

Since the early 1970s, NORAD has used ground-based and space-based sensors to detect missile launches around the world. In a launch scenario, NORAD has four minutes to detect and confirm a missile launch and provide warning to national leaders in Washington and Ottawa if North America has been targeted. The same missile detection technology was used to warn allied forces during the Gulf War of Iraqi SCUD launches.

In 1981 the name of NORAD was changed from North American Air Defense Command to North American Aerospace Defense Command to reflect the air and space nature of its missions. As space capabilities have increased, NORAD has continued to partner with US Space Command and its components to employ critical space-based systems in support of its homeland defense missions.

NORAD?s missions have continued to evolve. In 1989, NORAD began assisting law enforcement agencies in the detection, tracking and interception of airborne drug smugglers attempting to enter North American Airspace.

The NORAD agreement has been renewed several times since 1958. The last agreement was signed in 2000 for a five-year period. The current missions of NORAD are:

-- Aerospace Warning: the monitoring of man-made objects in space; and detection, validation and warning of attack against North America whether by aircraft, missiles, or man-made space vehicles, and
-- Aerospace Control which includes providing surveillance and control (air sovereignty) of Canadian and American airspace.

NORAD's mission was extended to include a focus on domestic airspace in light of the September 11, 2001 attacks on America.

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