NORAD Boss: Over the Horizon Radar ‘Not the Finish-All, Be-All’ For Defending Homeland 

The pinnacle of North American Aerospace Protection Command (NORAD) advised lawmakers that over-the-horizon radar (OTHR) will assist his troops detect threats from farther away, however additionally they want different surveillance methods—and to have the ability to talk shortly with a purpose to neutralize these threats. 

OTHR “just isn’t the end-all, be-all,” Air Drive Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, who additionally leads U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM), advised the Senate Armed Companies’ subcommittee on strategic forces on Might 9. “There needs to be area consciousness between the over-the-horizon radars that hyperlink the info from there to an end-game effector. … We have to look extra broadly at the remainder of the infrastructures, the radar as nicely, and make sure the information from these methods is included in an built-in air and missile protection system that may result in effectors.”

These effectors could take the type of kinetic weapons reminiscent of missiles or non-kinetic results reminiscent of digital warfare, VanHerck stated. The NORTHCOM boss famous that the Division of the Air Drive has invested a number of billion {dollars} within the data expertise networks that permit his troops to share data internally and with the remainder of the army and overseas allies, however the cyber side of the community nonetheless troubles him.

“Candidly, my most regarding area consciousness drawback is … the restricted data of cyber vulnerabilities for the important infrastructure that we depend on to venture energy from our homeland, to defend our homeland, to do command and management inside our homeland,” VanHerck stated. “So I proceed to advocate for that to the division.”

NORAD discovered itself within the highlight earlier this yr after the revelation that Chinese language surveillance balloons and different unidentified objects slipped into U.S. airspace undetected by the Pentagon. VanHerck has used the chance to advocate for over-the-horizon radars; integrating space-based and undersea surveillance to kind a extra complete protection image; and accelerating the event course of to place these capabilities within the area extra shortly.

“I’ve considerations, as I’ve articulated for 3 years, about my capability to supply risk warning and assault evaluation with the threats to our homeland,” VanHerck stated throughout a listening to with the Senate Armed Companies Committee on March 23. “That will increase the danger of escalation and strategic deterrence failure. These are vital challenges for me.”

OTHR is a “confirmed, inexpensive expertise“ that may “considerably enhance” NORTHCOM and NORAD’s capability to detect threats all the best way to outer house, VanHerck stated in written testimony, however it is just one piece of the surveillance puzzle.

One other piece is the North Warning System, a sequence of radar stations that displays northern aerospace approaches into Canada and the U.S. The issue is that NWS was constructed between 1986 and 1992, and its radar capabilities could not be capable of maintain tempo with trendy cruise missiles and hypersonic weapons, in keeping with the Canadian authorities. VanHerck stated the Air Drive has to resolve learn how to resolve that drawback.

“The division hasn’t decided on modernization of the North Warning System or additional substitute of the radars related to the North Warning System, however that needs to be a dialogue,” he stated. “Like I stated, over-the-horizon radar just isn’t the be-all, end-all.”

The discussions on over-the-horizon radar, data networks, and the North Warning System are all a part of a basic reevaluation of homeland protection that VanHerck stated is at the moment underway. The overall can also be growing what he calls Homeland Protection Design 2035, which can current a paradigm shift for the mission. The design proposes “a brand new approach of defending the homeland that’s vastly totally different from the best way we do it immediately with fighters, tankers, AWACs, these sorts of issues,” VanHerck stated.

Although VanHerck didn’t present specifics on what that imaginative and prescient could entail, he did point out later in his remarks that autonomous or unmanned platforms might generate area consciousness or protection within the electromagnetic spectrum each on the ocean and within the sky. These platforms would then want a quick data community to detect and talk about fast-moving threats reminiscent of hypersonic missiles.

In previous remarks, VanHerck stated the info generated by such platforms would must be fused into “a globally built-in image that permits us to see threats globally earlier than they turn into threats right here within the homeland.”

Much more than over-the-horizon radar, cybersecurity, or hypersonic missiles, VanHerck stated he was most dismayed by the tempo at which the U.S. develops and deploys methods to defend in opposition to new applied sciences being produced by adversaries. 

“I consider that the best strategic danger for america stems from our personal incapability to adapt at a tempo required by the altering strategic setting,” he wrote. “In an period of unbelievable innovation and technological achievement, rigid, outdated processes are a larger obstacle to success than lots of our rivals’ functionality developments.”