NORAD: Current Operations and Future Plans
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 4 Mar 1976, p. 314-329
Stovel, Lieutenant General Richard C., Speaker
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An introduction by Lieutenant General Richard Stovel, followed by a review of NORAD by Lieutenant Colonel Povilus, United States Air Force. Responsibilities of NORAD: To provide warning of an attack of any nature; to keep track of everything that happens in space—the only military command so tasked; to protect the physical integrity of the air space over North America. Why early warning is needed. The users of the information. A brief look at the Soviet missile threat. Soviet submarine missiles. How NORAD provides warning. Reliability. Defence, or lack thereof, against missiles. Diverse programs run by NORAD. Next, Major Bill Stewart of the Canadian Forces talks about airplanes, and how intruders into our air space are prevented. How to defend against a manned bomber. Closing comments by General Stovel.
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4 Mar 1976
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The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
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Full Text
MARCH 4, 1976
NORAD: Current Operations and Future Plans
CHAIRMAN The President, H. Allan Leal, Q.C.


Ladies and gentlemen: We bid you a cordial welcome to this luncheon meeting of The Empire Club of Canada. On most days one does not envy NORAD personnel their tasks. This is not one of those days. How pleasant it would be flying above this weather. Come to think of it, how pleasant it would be tucked away in the bosom of Cheyenne Mountain on a day like this. For obvious reasons we are doubling in brass for this occasion and I am keen to have you meet and recognize our distinguished guests.

Our distinguished visitor and speaker today, General Stovel, has been Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the North American Air Defence Command since October 1, 1974.

Born and educated in the Province of Manitoba, he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force on the outbreak of war in September, 1939 and was commissioned as a pilot officer in 1940. During World War II, he served in key positions associated with Canada's air crew training program and flew Mosquito bombers during his operational tour overseas. As a Wing Commander in 1944 he was awarded the Air Force Cross.

General Stovel was the first commanding officer of the RCAF station at Cold Lake, Alberta, and has also seen duty at NORAD as Deputy Director of Plans and Policy. He served with Canada's 1st Air Division in France as Chief of Staff, and at Canadian Forces Headquarters in Ottawa in various command-level positions. Prior to taking his present post, he was commander of the Canadian defence staff in Washington, D.C.

We welcome him here today as an individual and in his representative capacity. It is easy, and tempting, to be dramatic in reference to the burdensome tasks and awesome responsibilities of General Stovel and his colleagues. May I say simply that we sleep because they do not, and we relax because that is a word unknown in the lexicon of those whose avocation is eternal vigilance. We salute General Stovel and all those serving with and under him, and it is a privilege for me to call upon him to address this meeting, and to introduce his staff to you.


Mr. President, Mr. Consul-General, honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen: When I listen to those words I cannot help but feel embarrassed because it illustrates that I have served almost more time outside of Canada than I have been allowed to serve in it.

I have with me today Lieutenant Colonel William Povilus, USAF, representing the United States Air Force, and from the Canadian Forces Major Bill Stewart. The American Lieutenant Colonel is here, no doubt, to see if in this Bicentennial Year there is any consideration on the part of Canada to annex the United States. If he does hear of that, I am sure he will let me know.

I have served in NORAD now for five years: four of those years starting when it opened in 1958. I have been privileged to work with the Americans. I find that with them we can call a spade a spade. In the military fraternity, my task as a Canadian has been easy.

Bill Povilus will give us the NORAD story. While you are watching this, you might like to know that I was very impressed with the change in the NORAD organization in the last decade. When I started there, some two thousand aircraft and pilots were in the skies, defending us against air attack. You will note, as the briefing progresses, that that is now only a small part of our mission. We are involved in what goes on in space, and our main aim is to protect the sovereignty of the North American continent.


Thank you very much. It is certainly a pleasure for us to be here with such a distinguished audience. For me, as an American, I am especially proud to be a guest in your country.

Over the next half-hour, we are going to bring you up to date in the defence of North America, and perhaps even show you a little bit about where we are going in the future, to handle what is, as you will see, a very large threat from the other side.

I will address our current mission, as it is viewed today, of how we handle the Russian missile threat. Then Major Bill Stewart, of the Canadian Forces, will talk about airplanes and how we actually protect the physical air space over North America against intruding Russian reconnaissance aircraft or bombers.*

Our Commander is a very interesting and controversial individual, the first black "Four Star" ever in the American forces, General Daniel Chappie James, Jr. He is a very impressive man, both in capability and in stature. By that I mean he stands 6'5", and weighs 280 pounds. And, as has just been pointed out to you, his Deputy Commander-inChief is Lieutenant General Richard C. Stovel. This dual Canadian-American relationship exists throughout the NORAD organization.

Our headquarters is in Colorado Springs, inside a large granite edifice. After you go through the tunnel, about a mile long, we are buried inside several all-steel buildings that are designed to withstand shock, for instance of direct nuclear attack or a natural disaster such as an earthquake. In order to sustain that shock, the buildings are mounted on springs to protect the delicate equipment inside, mostly computers. Those buildings, incidentally, can bounce both vertically and laterally about a foot. They are locally known as "Colorado Springs"!

Necessarily, the two governments dictate what we do. These are our responsibilities:

1. To provide warning of an attack of any nature.

2. To keep track of everything that happens in space. We are the only military command so tasked.


*The following addresses were in the form of a commentary on a slide presentation.


3. The role NORAD has had since its inception in 1957, to protect the physical integrity of the air space over North America.

Why is attack warning needed? Why is that our most important product? We are the folks who pick up the phone and call your Prime Minister and the President of the United States and tell them of an impending attack. This allows them to make a rational decision on some sort of response and the Russians know this. They know that they will get in their back yard the same kind of thing they may want to put in ours, and they are deterred from doing anything.

The users of our information are many, besides Ottawa and Washington. We alert the offensive forces of the United States--the bombers and missile fleets. We even get the fighter aircraft off the ground in both countries so that they might survive a nuclear attack and the populations of both countries are alerted, starting from within Cheyenne Mountain. We send out the warning that gets the air raid sirens and the local officials ready.

Let us take a brief look at the Soviet missile threat. It's a fairly dynamic one. In case you have never seen a Soviet Intercontinental Ballistic Missile being fired, here is a short film clip. The whole family of Soviet ICBMs numbers over sixteen hundred targeted for North America. Some of the older ones are being dismantled in favour of submarine launched missiles. The SS-9 in the middle is the largest intercontinental missile in the world. It's about 110 feet tall, as high as an eleven-storey building, destined for targets such as Cheyenne Mountain, perhaps, or some of our missile fields, or maybe even the Bank of Montreal.

On the submarine side, they have come a long way in a very few short years. Currently, there are about 750 missiles afloat, aboard Soviet submarines. Your maritime forces and our United States Navy keep us aware in NORAD of where the submarines are at all times. They patrol off our coasts all the time. We keep radar aimed in that direction, in case they might launch.

Here's a look at one of those Soviet submarine missiles being fired.

Most of them are fairly short range, by that I mean about 1,300 miles, very equivalent to our first series of Polaris in the United States. They are building a new submarine, called the Delta class, which carries a 4,200 miles range missile. That complicates our problem because they can launch from most ocean areas anywhere in the world and hit North America. They now have eleven of these submarines and a few of them are out patrolling. The coverage from these submarines is very comprehensive.

Enough of scare tactics for the moment. Let's take a look at how NORAD provides this all-important warning.

First, regarding missile attacks, our first indications that a missile has been fired somewhere in the world come from a series of satellites that we have up in synchronous orbit. Synchronous orbit means that the satellite appears to rotate over the same point on the earth's surface, always looking down at the same place. They use heat detectors to warn us as soon as a missile is fired. They can see the tail plume when a rocket has been launched. We know about it, within Cheyenne Mountain, within seconds.

We use radar to verify what the satellites see and to tell us where the missiles might be going. In the north we still use the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS), three very powerful radars looking over the North Pole, to pick up any missiles which might come across the Pole. Against submarines we use a network of older radars on the east and west coasts of the United States.

These radars are old, not very reliable, and very short range. To solve this problem, we initially modified a new type of radar called "phased array" radar. It is now operating at its first site down in Florida, protecting the southern approaches to the United States. We are going to build two new ones, much like the one in Florida, and put one on the east coast and one on the west coast to replace all the other radars. This gives us a considerable increase in capability to warn of missiles that might be launched from the ocean areas.

In something as important as warning of an attack we have to have several different systems. When General James or General Stovel has to pick up that red phone (God forbid!) and call our command authorities in either country to warn of an attack, they can not only provide a timely warning, they can also place their confidence in that warning.

As a matter of interest, last year in the world there were 713 missile launches. We know that through intelligence. We also know that we picked up and tracked every launch. That is an average of about two launches a day, so we get quite a bit of practice.

I have not talked about active defence against the ballistic missile and I think you know why. There is little that we can do about it. The United States, in agreement with the Soviet Union, signed a treaty limiting each country to only one antiballistic missile site. The Soviets built theirs near Moscow, and we built ours in North Dakota. I'd like to show you the site on film, even though just about a week and a half ago Congress directed that it should be dismantled.

This is a very powerful phased-array radar, with many thousands of transmitters and receivers. To give you an idea of its capability, it could track a tennis ball at over a thousand miles. This four-sided radar (it looks as if we might have borrowed it from the Egyptians) is also phased-array, and provided tracking to the interceptor missiles of which we had two types, a long-range called Spartan and a shorter-range called Sprint. On film you see a test firing of the long-range missile, Spartan, a little over a year ago. It was designed to go outside the atmosphere and neutralize incoming warheads.

Here is the short-range Sprint, first in slow-motion and then in real time. It is exceptionally fast and difficult to catch with the eye. To give you an idea of what I mean, it can accelerate two miles straight up in under two seconds, literally faster than a speeding bullet.

The area that this system did protect until recently is shown here. You might note with interest that General Stovel's home, Winnipeg, falls within that area.

NORAD's second area of responsibility is in space and this is where the growth is. Perhaps this is where the future threat may come from. We have a world-wide network of sensors, of all kinds, manned by many different people and organizations, feeding directly into Cheyenne Mountain, to track and monitor space activity. There are at present about 3,750 satellites alone in earth orbit and we keep track of all of them. A lot of it is space junk, astronauts' gloves, cameras and so on, but there are quite a few operational satellites as well. They all feed into the Space Defense Center in Cheyenne Mountain.

We run a lot of programs for a lot of people, and I will just mention two of them here. One program is called Combo, or Combination of Misses Between Orbits. During a man-shot, for example, where there could be a hazard to astronauts, we compare the orbit of the manshot with the orbits of all the other 3,700 odd objects up there on a continuing basis to make sure there is no chance of collision. We have actually been able to tell the astronauts when to stick the camera out of the window and snap the shutter to photograph satellites going by. That gives you an idea of the capability.

Another thing we must do is predict when an object is large enough to survive re-entry and impact, back on the earth's surface. The main reason for this is that a satellite coming in can look suspiciously like a warhead, so if it's coming in over Moscow we pick up the phone and let them know, and they are supposed to do the same for us, although they are not quite so active in that area.

We do predict very often where and when things are going to come down. I have here with me an object that we predicted would come down in New Zealand. It is part of a Russian satellite, Cosmos 384. It is fairly heavy, which may say something about Soviet technology in metal areas.

To track satellites, we have to have a lot of sensors. We use the phased-array radar down in Florida, we use deep-space trackers to actually lock onto a satellite as it goes overhead.

Here on film is a very interesting system--it was the United States' first space tracking system, built just after the launch of Sputnik in 1957. It is run by the United States Navy. Maybe that's why it has no moving parts and is very simple.

Some of you may recognize this system. It is a telescopic camera called a Baker Nunn. We must use this type of device beyond the range of radar. It can track a small object at 30,000 miles, and photograph it. What we do then is examine the stars in the background and determine very precisely its position when the shutter was snapped.

Now let us turn to Major Bill Stewart of the Canadian Forces. He will talk about his favourite subject, airplanes, and show you how we keep the Russians and anybody else who might want to come in at bay, how we prevent them from intruding into our air space, and how we might conduct a defence against a manned bomber.


Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. This part of the NORAD mission goes back to World War II; that is the job of maintaining surveillance of our sovereign air space. We have a limited capability against the manned bomber in a time of crisis. It still requires the same three related capabilities: surveillance (warning provided by radar), the defensive forces to provide the deterrent, and the Command Control to coordinate the two. We will discuss each of those areas.

First, take a quick look at the Soviet bomber force. Although it has been overshadowed in recent years by the ballistic missile, it hasn't changed much. The Soviets have about 140 of what we would class as a true long-range intercontinental bomber. They have over a hundred turboprop Bear aircraft which have sufficient range to reach any target in North America and return to home base without inflight refueling. They carry either free-fall bombs or air-to-surface missiles.

They also have the Bison, a four-engine turbojet very similar to the Strategic Air Command's B-52. About 50 of their $5 Bisons are maintained as tankers.

There are over 600 medium bombers in the Soviet long-range aviation inventory. We feel that they are probably oriented primarily toward targets in Europe and Asia, but with in-flight refueling or one-way missions (recovering in Cuba for instance) they do pose an intercontinental threat and have to be taken into consideration by the NORAD planners.

The Badger is a subsonic medium bomber which is inflight refuelable. Another is the Blinder, which has a supersonic dash capability and is also in-flight refuelable.

The Soviets are introducing a new supersonic bomber called the Backfire. It is a swing-wing aircraft, very similar in plan to the United States Air Force prototype B-1, which is still several years away. The Backfire is in production and is now entering operational service in limited numbers. The fact that the Soviets are adding this aircraft to their inventory supports our view that the manned bomber will continue to be a potential threat.

On an average day within Canada and the United States, there are about 200,000 domestic flights, with another 1,500 flights inbound from overseas areas, so you can appreciate that surveillance of our airspace is an enormous task. It is accomplished through flight-plan correlation, using computers, or failing that, visually through using fighter interceptor aircraft.

On an average day throughout the North American continent, there are two or three events which require visual identification, using a fighter interceptor aircraft. These are usually the result of lack of a flight plan, late flight plans, that sort of thing, but occasionally Soviet aircraft come down close to Alaska or through the Greenland- Iceland-U.K. gap where this photograph was taken. Because of the magnitude of the problem, we have decentralized our command and control to eight NORAD regions. These regions overlap the international boundaries. These are where the day-today surveillance, and if necessary, the air battle would be managed. NORAD headquarters would merely monitor the over-all situation and co-ordinate where necessary.

This picture is of a typical regional headquarters. They are all above-ground quarters, as you can see, with the exception of the one at North Bay, Ontario, which is underground. I point this out because these stations were built in the '50s, when the threat was from the manned bomber, and they are now extremely vulnerable to the ballistic missile, so we are looking for more survivable means of regional command and control.

In order to detect aircraft, NORAD's radar sites transmit their information into the control centres. High altitude coverage from these radars gives good coverage of most of the continental United States and Canada. The shaded area at the northern rim represents the coverage from the Distant Early Warning Line. This coverage extends out across Iceland. There are two heavy radars there which are not part of the DEW Line, but they do fill in the gap.

Radar is "line-of-sight" and cannot see over the horizon. Therefore the low level coverage is not nearly so comprehensive. We are looking at means of improving that coverage, and we are developing a new radar called "Over-the-Horizon-Backscatter" or OTHB. This system promises to extend our warning capability against the bomber to close to 2,000 nautical miles from our coasts at both high and low altitudes. It will give us a very broad type of return--not the kind of precise data we need for interceptor control, but this we expect to come from the airborne warning and control aircraft which we will talk about in a moment.

A limited-coverage prototype OTHB is being built up in the northeastern United States. It will undergo a test period when it is completed to validate the system concept. If it is successful, it will be expanded to full coverage and we will deploy a northwest site.

We have carried out prototype tests in the Canadian Arctic to determine the performance of this system up in the extreme electrical disturbances of the Aurora Borealis. The test data in that area has not been encouraging, so with regard to the northern approach we still plan to maintain the DEW Line until such time as we can perfect an OTHB or some other system that will operate successfully up in the Canadian Arctic area.

In the United States they are well advanced in the joint use of civilian and military radar. Indications are that Canada is going to go for some modified version of this joint-use system in the future.

The military mission of peacetime surveillance will be carried out from reconfigured NORAD regions. The main difference is that there will be no more overlapping of the international boundary. This new structure will facilitate national activity in the support of peacetime air traffic and still permit co-ordination of our air defence resources.

Each of those regions would have a headquarters that would be co-located on an air base capable of handling the airborne warning and control system, the "AWACS" aircraft. The NORAD concept is that, in conjunction with the long-range warning that we should receive from these new radars, these aircraft will become airborne before the bombers or missiles arrive, and provide the necessary intercept control.

Four pre-production aircraft have been produced. They are modified Boeing 707 320B airframes.

The Westinghouse Doppler radar, mounted on top of the aircraft, is capable of detecting targets at very long ranges, and it has an excellent look-down capability. It is a real breakthrough in that area. It has been demonstrated tracking speeding traffic on the freeway, which will give you some idea of its capability. However, at $100 million plus per copy, I don't think you will see it used in that capacity. Of course, by being airborne, it will give us survivable command and control in any crisis situation.

Let's take a quick look at the defensive weapons. They have been in our inventory for a number of years so there will be no surprises.

In the United States, there are five squadrons of the 101 Voodoo, flown by the Air National Guard. They will phase out completely through 1977, so by that time the only 101s left in air defence will be the three Canadian squadrons, Comox on Vancouver Island, Bagotville, Quebec, and Chatham, New Brunswick.

In the United States are twelve squadrons of the F-106, the Delta Dart. Six are flown by the Guard, and six by regular Air Force units. It is the newest interceptor aircraft, and the last ones came off the production lines in 1961.

The F-4 Phantom is on alert for NORAD fn Alaska. We also support a squadron of F-4s in Iceland.

Those aircraft are on alert twenty-four hours a day around the periphery of the United States and along the Canadian-United States border.

This picture shows the de-emphasis that has occurred in atmospheric defence since the early '60s, when we were peaking out against the manned bomber. The column on the right is where we are today. It shows a dramatic run down in numbers. Keep in mind, however, that they can be augmented with sufficient strategic warning. It is interesting to make a comparison with the Soviet Union, because they remain today very heavily postured in atmospheric defence. Our fifteen batteries of surface-to-air missiles represent just over 400. The Soviets have about 10,000. Our total of twenty dedicated interceptor squadrons represent just over 300 aircraft. The Soviets have about 2,500. Obviously, they view atmospheric attack as a potentially greater threat than we do.

As we look to the future, and to new Soviet aircraft that we might have to contend with such as the Backfire, we will require a follow-on interceptor that has improved speed, altitude and weapons capability. Our interceptors were all built in the mid '50s and early '60s. They are still capable aircraft against the current potential threat, but they will require replacing.

Two possible contenders that we are looking at both have thrust-to-weight ratios greater than one to one: that is, the engines produce thrust that exceeds the weight of the aircraft. This promises a very exciting period in fighter aircraft performance.

The F-15 Eagle is built by McDonnell Douglas for the U.S. Tactical Air Command as an air superiority fighter. It is in the Mach 2.5 class (2'h times the speed of sound), powered by two Pratt and Whitney engines developing 50,000 pounds of thrust in afterburners. This aircraft was demonstrated at the Farnborough Air Show in England about a year and a half ago after a non-stop unrefueled flight across the Atlantic, in itself very exceptional performance for a fighter. It can fire an improved radarguided spiral missile, an infra-red sidewinder, as well as the M-61 cannon. It could be adapted to the Air Defence Mission, with very little modification. The first operational wing is being built up today on the east coast of the United States.

The General Dynamics prototype, YF-16, is a good illustration of the increase in performance over previous-generation aircraft. It has excellent thrust-to-weight ratio. In this film we see the YF-16 passing 7,000 feet and accelerating before the F-4 got off the runway. It is powered by the same engine as in the F-15. It is Mach 2, just slightly better than twice the speed of sound, capable of firing an infra-red sidewinder as well as an M-61 cannon, and is inflight refuelable. Some modification would be required to the fire-control system to give this aircraft an all-weather capability. Either the F-15 or the YF-16 could, with some modification, fill our requirement for a replacement interceptor.

That is a quick over-view of a rather complex twonations command. I hope we have given you some idea of where we are and where we think we are going in the strategic defence of this continent. I will now ask General Stovel for some closing comments.


Ladies and gentlemen: I often have to give this presentation by myself, but when the pros are here, I think you will agree, you in the audience get the break. The team and I will be available here for any of you who might like to ask questions.

I would like to leave you with one or two thoughts. Remember, I am biased. Remember, I will have when I retire this September spent over 35 years in the old Royal Canadian Air Force and now the Canadian Armed Forces, and I will have had six years involved in this tremendous partnership.

Some think that a Canadian is over-run by a four star American General. There is no truth to such a thought. My present boss is away probably more than half the time, which places the Canadian in command of the entire system that we discussed today. Canadians are intertwined throughout the whole system. I wish that many of you could go to the U.S. sites in the radar field to find how highly respected are the Canadians, the corporals and the sergeants, who work in those regions. They are the pros of the co-manned units.

The five-year agreement on NORAD was signed last May, as you know. I am told that the government at the time was even considering an open-ended agreement where if one or the other partner decided "No Go", one could opt out. To me, that shows a healthy change from the time when the agreement was renewed for a mere two years. It allows us, as Canadians, through the use of those tremendous new developments in equipment, to see precisely and immediately what is going on in the entire world. Without this NORAD partnership, that would not be possible.

General James, as some of you may have seen, spent some time with Patrick Watson a month or so ago. He has come to Canada twice, and he is programmed to come three times more in this next year. As you can imagine, he is asked by everyone to come and speak, not only on behalf of NORAD but on behalf of his race in the United States. It is a great privilege for me to have, in my last days, an opportunity to work for him. It has been a pleasure and an honour to attend this Empire Club luncheon. Thank you for your hospitality.

Our distinguished guests and speakers were thanked, on behalf of the audience, by Brig. Gen. Reginald W. Lewis, C.D., Third Vice-President of The Empire Club of Canada.

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NORAD: Current Operations and Future Plans

An introduction by Lieutenant General Richard Stovel, followed by a review of NORAD by Lieutenant Colonel Povilus, United States Air Force. Responsibilities of NORAD: To provide warning of an attack of any nature; to keep track of everything that happens in space—the only military command so tasked; to protect the physical integrity of the air space over North America. Why early warning is needed. The users of the information. A brief look at the Soviet missile threat. Soviet submarine missiles. How NORAD provides warning. Reliability. Defence, or lack thereof, against missiles. Diverse programs run by NORAD. Next, Major Bill Stewart of the Canadian Forces talks about airplanes, and how intruders into our air space are prevented. How to defend against a manned bomber. Closing comments by General Stovel.