A global war or an intercontinental nuclear exchange is highly unlikely in the current world political climate. But as long as considerable nuclear weapons and long range delivery systems exist in other countries and a developing threat resides with potential adversaries, the possibility of an aerospace attack on North America cannot be discounted. Furthermore, the proliferation of cruise and ballistic missiles, and weapons of mass destruction, has made the post-Cold War world more, rather than less, dangerous. New generations of these weapons may be in the hands of governments or organizations which could threaten the North American continent, or American and Canadian military personnel deployed around the world.
Control of North America’s airspace is challenged by those who violate the air sovereignty of Canada and the United States. In addition, weapons proliferation coupled with an increasingly unstable world, increases the importance of effective aerospace warning.
The greatest benefit the Canadian and US governments derive from NORAD is their ability to share the resources and costs needed for aerospace security.
It would be militarily impractical, as well as inefficient, for each nation to unilaterally perform NORAD’s missions and functions. In Canada’s case, although aerospace control would be possible, the mission of air defense in depth would be difficult due to the country’s large land mass and relatively small defense force.
Further, Canada depends entirely on US systems to provide warning of ballistic missile attack, both at home and at overseas locations where deployed Canadian military personnel could be threatened. Although other US military organizations could assume many of NORAD’s tasks in aerospace warning, the increased costs and operational difficulties would be compounded by the loss of efficiency that is obtained through cross-border cooperation. In addition, the US benefits from the ability to receive early warning information from radars along Canada’s northern tier. This improves the US’’ capability to provide timely warning for air launched cruise missile attacks and to initiate defensive measures. Other benefits to both nations include shared intelligence and technology, joint strategic planning for defense, and a long tradition of binational cooperation and friendship.
The Commander in Chief NORAD (CINCNORAD) is responsible to the governments of both Canada and the United States for the aerospace defense of North America. CINCNORAD may be either a Canadian or American general, but has historically been an American. CINCNORAD reports directly to the Prime Minister of Canada through the Canadian Chief of Defence Staff, and to the US President and Secretary of Defense through the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Canada and the United States decide individually what forces to make available to CINCNORAD to enable him to carry out NORAD’’s missions. CINCNORAD exercises operational control over the Canadian and US forces made available by both countries. For example, CINCNORAD controls US and Canadian radars and air defense fighters to safeguard North America’’s air sovereignty and to defend against air attack. CINCNORAD is also supported by other commands. As a case in point, United States Space Command provides NORAD with surveillance and warning information to carry out NORAD’’s aerospace warning mission. Because timely and accurate warning information plays such a key role in NORAD accomplishing its missions, whenever CINCNORAD is a US officer he is dual-hatted as Commander in Chief of US Space Command (USCINCSPACE). This helps to ensure rapid passage of warning information from USSPACECOM to NORAD.
The Canadian and US governments fund NORAD forces through their respective military budgets and each nation provides its own funding for the forces it contributes to the Command. These arrangements provide maximum flexibility for each government. Except for NORAD Headquarters itself, all forces, surveillance systems, and infrastructure are owned, operated and maintained by other military commands such as Air Combat Command in the United States or Air Command (as of mid-1997, 1 Canadian Air Division) in Canada. These forces and systems frequently are shared with other users, with only a portion of their costs being directly attributable to NORAD.
Enhanced Effectiveness and Efficiency
NORAD continually studies and implements measures designed to streamline operations while performing its critical missions. For example, NORAD has initiated a flexible fighter alert concept. This concept allows NORAD Region Commanders to tailor their aerospace control forces and alert postures to meet the perceived threat within their specific areas of responsibility, reduce their overall level of effort and reduce expenditures to meet their fiscal goals. Surveillance of approaches to North America continues; however, intercepts are now based on regional activity and intelligence information.
The Canada East and Canada West Sector Air Operations Centers (SAOCs) were consolidated at Canadian Forces Base North Bay in 1994, and the Canadian NORAD Region Headquarters is scheduled to move to Winnipeg in 1997 as part of the restructuring of Canada’s operational air forces into a single operational headquarters. The Continental US NORAD Region merged the Southwest and Northwest SAOCs at McChord AFB, Washington in 1995. These consolidations have produced substantial savings in manpower and operating costs.
Since 1992, reductions in the operations and maintenance tempo of the North Warning System radars along Alaska’’s northern coast and across Canada’’s Arctic have reduced costs by about 50%. In addition, the day-to-day readiness posture of the four Canadian Forward Operating Locations (runways with limited support facilities) has been reduced considerably. However, despite the reductions the sites are still available for operations appropriate to maintaining Canada’s sovereignty, and they can be fully regenerated in times of increased tensions.
Fort Wainwright in Alaska is the site of one of the Alaskan radar system radar sites.
The need for aerospace control and warning for North America will continue into the next century. Although the level of readiness required to counter a large scale strategic attack has been reduced, in order to protect air sovereignty and to counter emerging threats, robust surveillance capabilities must be maintained. Because of the proliferation of cruise missile technology, NORAD needs to capitalize on modern technology to detect, identify, monitor, and engage small, low-observable targets. In a world of proliferating ballistic missile capabilities, subject to the agreement and tasking of the governments of the U.S. and Canada, NORAD may be the logical organization to have command and control of a ground based North American limited ballistic missile defense system. More than 20 nations currently seek or control short and/or medium range ballistic missiles and the number of nations in this category is growing. This future capability to counter a limited ballistic missile attack, or a cruise missile attack, is crucial to maintaining a credible security strategy.
Within its present mission tasking, NORAD’s primary focus has shifted from deterring a massive nuclear attack to peacetime aerospace control for North America. NORAD has continually shifted its missions to adjust to political-military realities, and this has contributed to NORAD’s longevity as a viable and responsive binational defense institution. As future technological and geopolitical changes transform the world of the 21st century, NORAD will evolve to continue to be the preeminent defensive arrangement safeguarding the homelands of Canadians and Americans.
The changing aerospace threat to North America, and NORAD’’s evolving missions, have not altered the long traditions of friendship and cooperation between Canada and the US. Shared values and interests have made the two nations friends, allies, and true partners in aerospace security.
Partners in protecting our homeland:
Deter, detect and defend against air and space threats to North America
The Evolution of the NORAD Agreement
The first NORAD agreement formalized existing cooperative air defense arrangements between the Royal Canadian Air Force and the United States Air Force. Although the agreement initially called for a binational command structure for a fighter defense against long-range Soviet bombers, the nuclear tipped intercontinental ballistic missile soon emerged as the primary threat to the North American continent. Thus, NORAD’s primary emphasis shifted during the 1960s from purely air defense, to warning and characterization of nuclear attack by manned bombers and ballistic missiles. This contributed to deterrence during the Cold War by providing the US National Command Authority (President and Secretary of Defense) with unambiguous warning of attack in time to make decisions on an appropriate response. Although the ability to provide attack warning has remained a vital NORAD function, the Command has kept pace with the changing global conditions and threats to Canada and the United States.
The 1996 renewal of the NORAD Agreement is illustrative of NORAD’’s capacity to evolve in concert with the changing global situation. Recognizing the widening scope of NORAD’s responsibilities in the post-Cold War world, the renewed agreement assigned NORAD the missions of Aerospace Warning and Aerospace Control for North America. Aerospace warning includes: 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. Aerospace control includes providing surveillance and control of the airspace of Canada and the United States. This mission is currently defined as providing air sovereignty and air defense for North America. In short, the Command monitors any potential aerospace threat to the two nations, provides warning and assessment of that threat for the two governments, and responds defensively to any aircraft or cruise missile threatening North American airspace.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is a binational command involving the United States and Canada. Established in 1958, NORAD provides warning of missile and air attack against both of its member nations, safeguards the air sovereignty of North America, and provides air defense forces for defense against an air attack. While the essence of NORAD has not changed, its mission has evolved over the years to meet the aerospace defense needs of Canada and the United States.
Cite this NORAD’s Head, Missions and Functions
NORAD’s Head, Missions and Functions. (2018, Aug 10). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/nato-2-essay/