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NORAD Celebrates 60th Anniversary Defending North America
by U.S. Northern Command
July 20, 2018

Canadian Snowbirds performed stunning aerobatic maneuvers to cap off 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 in Colorado Springs was marked by tributes from the countries’ highest military and civilian leaders, displays of precision aviation and a glimpse into NORAD’s Cold War beginnings behind the 23-ton blast doors of the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station.

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

The command has evolved from its Cold War infancy to face new threats that include intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and terrorism, 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 on May 11-12, 2018 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 performed 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, 2018 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 air power that included F-22, CF-18, F-15C and F-16 aircraft.

U.S. and Canadian military aircraft assigned to the North American Aerospace Defense Command mission perform a flyover during the command’s 60th Anniversary Ceremony at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado on May 12, 2018. (DoD photo by Lewis Carlyle)
U.S. and Canadian military aircraft assigned to the North American Aerospace Defense Command mission perform a flyover during the command’s 60th Anniversary Ceremony at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado on May 12, 2018. (DoD photo by Lewis Carlyle)

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 Gen. 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,” she said.

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.

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

“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.

U.S. President Donald J. Trump also lauded NORAD for its success. “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,” the president said.

U.S. Department of Defense

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