William Stoecker / April 26, 2016

Air Defense

As I have pointed out before, our misnamed “Department of Defense” engages in undeclared and unconstitutional foreign wars, and we seem to lack any will to win or have any plan for victory, or even any clear strategic goals. While our troops defend nations like Germany (the Germans face no credible military threat) and Japan, our own borders are wide open, and terrorists and criminals stream across, many of them invited here by our own government. We continue to be vulnerable to ICBMs, to EMP, aircraft, cruise missiles, and to the emerging threat of hypersonic glide missiles. We still have NORAD, a joint U.S./Canadian command for air defense of North America, but the USAF no longer has a command like the old Air Defense Command (ADC), indicating a lack of commitment to air defense. To be fair, the Soviet Union no longer exists, and the manned bomber threat has diminished as ICBM forces have increased, but there has been no corresponding large increase in the resources we devote to ABM (anti-ballistic missile) systems. As a percentage of our military forces, our assets for air and missile defense of the CONUS have diminished over the years.

NORAD Headquarters were moved some years ago from the secure Cheyenne Mountain Complex back to Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, and the underground complex is now merely an alternate site. Presumably, HQ personnel would try to move there after a nuclear war began, when, number one, they would be busy controlling defense forces and unable to stop what they were doing and relocate, and, number two, it would be too late, for they would probably be vaporized before they could get inside the complex even if they tried. In the olden days, the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line gave warning of the approach of Soviet bombers over Alaska and northern Canada, so by the time they entered the area of positive control (covered by the large search radars shared by NORAD and the FAA and its Canadian equivalent), we could have our dedicated interceptors (F101s, F-102s, and F-106s) waiting in “orbit” to shoot them down, guided by SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment) controllers. The BMEWS (Ballistic Missile Early Warning System) would alert us to the approach of ICBMs perhaps thirty minutes before we were vaporized.

In 1993 the DEW Line was replaced with the NWS (North Warning System), using over the horizon backscatter radar. No problem there. In 1998 BMEWS was replaced by SSPARS (Solid-State Phased Array Radar System). Again, no problem, and BMEWS itself used an early version of phased array radar (which scans electronically and doesn’t have to rotate an antenna). SAGE was long ago replaced by superior computer systems, and this is all to the good.

But it is not good that, as the ICBM threat has increased, we have devoted such scant resources and so little research to defense against the missiles. Our NMD (National Missile Defense) system is designed to stop only a very small ICBM attack; even China’s force is rapidly growing too large to counter. Our system mainly uses non-nuclear “kinetic kill” missiles for Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD). In other words, if the madmen and women in D.C. blunder into an unnecessary war with Putin, most of us will be burned alive and Western Civilization will die. Half-hearted research is being done on airborne laser systems to destroy ICBMs in their boost phase, when they are relatively large, slow, and vulnerable, and before they deploy multiple warheads, decoys, and chaff (tiny strips of aluminum foil to blind our radars). But the systems are far from perfected and may never be deployed.

As far as actual fighter planes in the U.S., not counting A-10s, which are for ground attack, and F-117s, which, although designated “F” for “fighter,” are actually bombers, the USAF, USMC, Navy, and Air National Guard (ANG) have about 1,854 fighter planes (not counting Harriers flown by the USMC) that are theoretically based in the U.S. But at any given time a large number of Navy fighters are on carriers halfway across the world. The Canadian contribution to NORAD is two squadrons of FA-18s. If, say, all but about 90 of the USAF’s 252 fighters based overseas were brought home, and the Navy’s force of ten vulnerable carriers was reduced to seven and the other three carriers’ planes were brought home, we would have roughly 1,695 F-15s, F-16s, and FA-18s in the U.S., added to the Canadian NORAD FA-18s. And all of these aircraft, though not specifically designed for intercepting manned bombers, are more than adequate for the task.

But in fact no active duty U.S. squadrons are dedicated to and trained for air defense of the CONUS. The job is left to roughly 486 ANG aircraft. The ANG pilots and Weapons System Operators (WSOs) are quite well trained, but, despite the reduction of the manned bomber threat, this number is hardly adequate. A large number of the active duty squadrons should be dedicated primarily to air defense, and weapons and tactics should be designed for intercepting cruise missiles and hypersonic glide missiles, both of which will be in the air, not in space, as they near the US. The cruise missiles are entirely “air breathing,” and the hypersonic glide missiles are launched by rocket into space, but glide for a considerable distance after reentering our atmosphere. If suitable missiles were designed, fighter planes might even be able to destroy enemy ICBMs.

The low number of U.S. based fighters devoted to air defense is but one part of the larger problem — a lack of commitment by our rulers to actually defending the U.S. And it looks like as long as the current elites hold power this problem will never be remedied.

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