August 1, 1957: The US and Canada announce the formation of the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD). Today, the word Air has been changed to Aerospace so the acronym remains the same. NORAD provided aerospace warning, air sovereignty, and defense for the two countries. In May 2006, the NORAD Agreement Renewal continued the program. The formation of NORAD was first proposed by a Joint Canadian-US Military Group in late 1956 and approved by the US in February 1957. Announced on this day, the command headquarters was set up at Ent Air Force Base on September 12. An international agreement in 1958 set up the practice of the NORAD commander always being a US officer and a Canadian as vice commander.
By late 1958, NORAD had begun the Continental Air Defense Integration North (CADIN) for the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) air defense network which as the name implied was semiautomatic. Large computers networked to provide coordinated data from radar sites to produce a single unified image of the airspace protected under NORAD. The costs were in the billions of dollars but also included the preparing the way for the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS) sites. Several SAGE sites were needed to provide the information, one in Canada and eight smaller sites in the US. As the Space Race took over the world’s attention, it was deemed necessary to also monitor against attacks launched from space and the name changed to reflect this “advance”.
There have been at least three times when the NORAD systems failed. In November 1979, a test tape was loaded, but the technician failed to switch the system status to “test” and a stream of false warnings were issued. In June 1980 two separate events of computer communication failure caused sporadic false warning messages of a nuclear attack to be sent to US Air Force command posts. Planes with nuclear bombs were sent up from the Pacific Air Forces but none were sent up from Strategic Air Command (SAC), since they assumed the reports were false. SAC was criticized for not following procedure. Both commands were receiving information from other radar, satellite, and missile detection systems at the time and other data did not match the NORAD data.
As the Cold War came to an end, the mission of NORAD changed. Rather than looking for nuclear attack from the Communists, they started helping with counter-drug operations. After September 11, 2001 they again shifted focus and rather than simply looking for incoming threats, look for threats originating inside the borders. Today, they are headquartered at Paterson Air Force Base with a secondary post at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station. Admiral William Gortney, USN is the current commander with Lieutenant General JAJ Parent, RCAF second in command. NORAD is also tasked with making sure Santa’s trip around the world is safely accomplished as children worldwide can watch his sleigh travel ever closer to their house on December 24.
Blind aggressiveness would destroy the attack itself, not the defense. – Carl von Clausewitz
A war is never undertaken by the ideal State, except in defense of its honor or its safety. – Cicero
Every state has not only the right but the duty to make adequate provision for its own defense in the way it thinks best, providing it does not do so at the expense of any other state. – Lester B. Pearson
Our defense is not in our armaments, nor in science, nor in going underground. Our defense is in law and order. – Albert Einstein
Also on this day: “You’ll never look at music the same way again” – In 1981, MTV began broadcasting.
Collapse – In 2007, the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River collapsed.
University of Texas Sniper – In 1966, the Texas Sniper struck.
London Bridge is Going Up – In 1831, a new bridge across the River Thames opened.
Slavery Abolished – In 1834, the UK abolished slavery, sorta.