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Strategic Air Defense Radars

Sensors conduct constant surveillance of the airspace around North America to provide threat warning. That data is passed over space and ground based communication lines to the AWACS and ROCC/SOCCs for display and identification. Based on that identification and other available information the threat is characterized, necessary actions taken, and warnings sent. Strategic aerospace defense systems are a key part of overall Integrated Tactical Warning and Attack Assessment (ITW/AA).

Major elements of the air defense network were results of the lessons learned from Pearl Harbor. The United States was concerned about the effectiveness of early warning and the ability to react in a timely manner. Early detection of enemy aircraft was difficult due to the size of the United States, the lack of enough radars, and the short range of radars.

The backbone of strategic air defense sensor segment is the Joint Surveillance System (JSS). Within the JSS, the FAA/Air Force Radar Replacement (FARR) program replaces current radars with new air route surveillance radars (ARSR), specifically the ARSR-4. Other sensor systems tying into the strategic air defense network are the North Warning System (NWS) with AN/FPS-117 long range radars and AN/FPS-124 short range, unattended radars; the Iceland Air Defense System (IADS) with AN/FPS-117 long range radars; the Caribbean Basin Radar Network (CBRN) with AN/TPS-70 and AN/FPS-67 long range radars; the Over-the-Horizon Backscatter (OTH-B) and Relocatable Over-the-Horizon Radar (ROTHR) systems; and the Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS) with short range radars. 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%.

All of the sensor, fusion, control, and combat systems work together to provide CINCNORAD and his commanders with the capability to defend North American airspace from threat, regardless of alert levels. The sensor systems augment one another to some degree to provide varying levels of geographic, altitude, and range coverage. The Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) augments both the sensors and the Region/Sector Operations Control Centers (R/SOCC) in providing a highly flexible command and control platform for long range detection and engagement of airborne threats. Sensor data from all available sources is fed to command, fusion, or intelligence centers where it is processed and correlated with available flight planning data from several US and other government sources. Applicable data is then displayed to allow operational commanders to make decisions as to level of response required, if any, from monitoring to neutralizing or destroying the target. Ground based systems are usually fixed although some are technically mobile. AWACS is used based on need and availability. In addition to long range detection, it is used to provide higher confidence level identification and monitoring of ambiguous threats. It can also be used as a gap filler in case of problems with primary systems.

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