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Canadian Forces Snowbirds performed stunning aerobatic manoeuvres 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 of May 11 to 12 heralded a unique bi-national 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-188 Hornet following a ceremony May 11 to honour 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-188, F-15C and F-16 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 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 centre withstand a nuclear blast. The centre 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 bi-national military command is an enduring symbol of the important partnership between Canada and the United States–one that is essential to us both,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement.
“The key to NORAD’s success has been its ability to evolve and meet new challenges, and to take advantage of new opportunities. We can trust in its ability to continue to adapt as needed to meet the needs of the future.”
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.
“This milestone serves as a reminder of the unique and lasting defence relationship of our nations,” said Harjit Sajjan, Canada’s minister of national defence.
“It is not only a testament to our longstanding and shared commitment to the safety and security of our citizens, but also the unbreakable bond between allies. Put simply, NORAD demonstrates we are stronger when we work together.
“Since its inception in 1958, NORAD has been unwavering in its vigilance, closely monitoring North American aerospace for potential danger. In 2006, NORAD expanded its mission to include maritime warning to help increase the security of waterways and ports in Canada and the United States. NORAD continues to adapt to changing landscapes and evolving threats as our two nations continue to collaborate on innovative ways to keep North Americans safe for decades to come.
“As part of Canada’s defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, we are committed to continuing to work in partnership with the United States on the security of our shared continent. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the brave women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces who have proudly and tirelessly helped keep us strong at home and Secure in North America.”