Canada, U.S. mark 60 years of joint NORAD command

News Article / May 22, 2018

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From U.S. Northern Command

A demonstration team of Canadian Armed Forces CT-114 Tutors—known internationally as the Snowbirds—performed stunning aerobatic manoeuvres to cap a series of tributes to those who keep the peace as Canada and the United States celebrated a 60-year military partnership defending North America.

The 60th anniversary of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) at the command’s headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, was marked on May 11 and 12, 2018, by tributes from the two nations’ highest military and civilian leaders. The celebration included displays of precision aviation, and a glimpse into NORAD’s Cold War beginnings behind the 23.4-tonne blast doors of the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station.

“One of the reasons our arrangement here in Colorado Springs works,” said Canadian Armed Forces Chief of the Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance, “is the genuine and profound connection between our two countries, and the people of them.”

The command has evolved from its Cold War infancy to face new threats that include intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and terrorism, General Vance said during a ceremony at Peterson Air Force Base. “Yes, we share a continent. Yes, we share values, and those we must defend. But there is a deeper bond as has been mentioned before between Canada and the United States, and it’s one that makes us more than friends. We’re family.”

The anniversary events heralded a unique binational command that was officially formed on May 12, 1958. NORAD is charged with aerospace warning and aerospace control over North America. It detects and warns against attacks by aircraft, missiles or space vehicles, and has carried out a maritime warning mission since 2006.

Snowbirds from the Canadian Forces 431 Air Demonstration Squadron conducted a fly-past in the missing-man formation in CT-114 Tutor jets and a CF-18 Hornet following a ceremony May 11 to honor Canadians who died while serving NORAD. The Snowbirds performed again the following day, along with a fly-past displaying U.S. and Canadian airpower that included F-22 Raptor, CF-188 Hornet, F-15C Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft.

With no task more sacred than defending each other’s homelands, military and civilian leaders emphasized the critical nature of the command’s continued success at a black-tie ball in the Broadmoor hotel. “A lot of things change in 60 years,” said General Lori J. Robinson, commander of NORAD and U.S. Northern Command. “From the constant fear of nuclear war to the ICBM to the attacks of 9/11, NORAD has stood through all of these tests, adapted to the challenges and maintained its capability.”

“This unique binational military command is an enduring symbol of the important partnership between Canada and the United States – one that is essential to us both,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement.

Before the ceremonies kicked off, members of the media were given a rare peek into NORAD’s beginnings at Cheyenne Mountain, a site made famous by movies including “WarGames” and “Independence Day”. Today, 15 buildings still sit atop giant springs designed to help the command center withstand a nuclear blast. The center now serves as an alternate command site for NORAD, which is located at nearby Peterson Air Force Base, and continues to host other military units.

“The valued partnership we share will help our militaries to counter emerging threats and pass on a legacy of peace and prosperity to future generations,” U.S. President Donald J. Trump added in a statement.

From the black-tie ball to the spectacular aerial displays, every event underscored a partnership based on trust.

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