Celebrating NORAD
© 2015 FrontLine Defence (Vol 6, No 1)

Airplanes were painted festively, time capsules were sealed shut and defence leaders came together throughout 2008 to celebrate 50 years of North America’s longest and most famous military agreement: the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD).

NORAD Headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado kicked off the celebrations by hosting a formal ball, sealing a time capsule and opening a new command centre on May 12 and 13. Winnipeg, home of the Canadian NORAD Region Headquarters (CANR), celebrated the anniversary with a special Snowbirds flypast and military parade on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislative Building on May 30th. The Snowbirds and CF18 Hornet National Demonstration Team also made the anniversary one of their themes, and they traversed the North American air shows with the NORAD colours on their tails throughout 2008. 22 Wing North Bay also recognized the jubilee with a special tribute concert on November 22 by the Canadian Forces North Bay Band and 400 Squadron Pipes and Drums.

May 2008 – Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay, NORAD Commander General Gene Renuart and U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates cut the ribbon to ­officially open NORAD and NORTH­COM’s new ­command and control centre (known in military circles as “N2C2”), created to work in partnership with an operations centre located deep inside Cheyenne Mountain. Photo: TSgt Christopher Gish, USAF

Although originally created to protect the skies against a Cold War invasion, NORAD’s focus has changed dramatically in its five decades of existence. After 9/11, NORAD began to also look inward, expanding its watch and improving its partnerships with civilian organizations to look for potential air threats from within the continent, particularly by civilian aircraft. Additionally, NORAD has taken on a special public responsibility for providing air defence coverage for special events in Canada and the United States.

The 50th anniversary of NORAD celebrations officially ended December 31st, but Air Force historians won’t have to wait long for new milestones to celebrate: 2009 marks the Canadian Centennial of Flight and the 85th anniversary of Canada’s Air Force.

© FrontLine Defence 2009