Sieben AFBs auf QRA

1. Etwas Begriffsklärung

Der Ausdruck “readiness” stammt aus dem Sprachgebrauch der US-Luftwaffe und bezieht sich zunächst ohne spezifischen Inhalt jeweils auf die Aufgabe, die einer Luftwaffeneinheit zugeschrieben ist – ist sie in der Lage, dieser Aufgabe nachzukommen, befindet sie sich im Zustande der „readiness“.

SORTS is DOD’s automated reporting system that identifies the current level of selected resources and training status of a unit–that is, its ability to undertake its wartime mission. Units report their overall readiness status as well as the status of four resource areas (personnel, equipment and supplies on hand, equipment condition, and training).\1 Overall readiness status is generally reported at a level consistent with the lowest rated resource level, but commanders are allowed to subjectively upgrade or downgrade the overall rating. SORTS is an internal management tool used by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, services, and combatant commands. It provides the Chairman with the necessary unit information to achieve an adequate and feasible military response to crisis situations and participate in the joint planning and execution process.
In viewing SORTS information, it should be noted that there are significant differences in the way each service manages readiness. For example, the Air Force’s goal is to maintain all units at the C-2 level or better. In contrast, the Army uses a tiered resourcing system that maintains contingency units at the C-1 or C-2 level but allows later-deploying units to fall to the C-2 or C-3 level. The Navy and the Marine Corps manage readiness so that deployed units are C-1 or C-2. Units deployed or preparing for deployment have higher resource allocation priority than nondeployed units. Therefore, reported readiness fluctuates with deployment and maintenance cycles.
\1 Readiness status of a unit is reported by assigning “C” levels that are defined as follows: C-1–Unit can undertake the full wartime mission for which it is organized or designed. C-2–Unit can undertake the bulk of its wartime mission. C-3–Unit can undertake major portions of its wartime mission. C-4–Unit requires additional resources and/or training to undertake its wartime mission, but if the situation dictates, it may be required to undertake portions of the mission with resources on hand. C-5–Unit is undergoing a service-directed resource change and is not prepared to undertake its wartime mission.

US GAO, Military Readiness Briefing Report 1996

Each Service has a different approach to assuring force readiness. These different readiness approaches are driven by a number of factors, including unique force characteristics, major theater war and smaller-scale contingency response requirements, peacetime forward deployment levels, the availability of training infrastructure, perishable skills, and the need for flexibility. Less tangible factors such as morale, leadership development, and team building are also important considerations. The Army manages resources to achieve the highest possible state of readiness in its “first-to-fight” units, while maintaining the ability to deploy later-arriving units within prescribed timelines. The Navy and Marine Corps meet overseas presence and forward engagement responsibilities through cyclical readiness to maintain the high readiness requirements of forward-deployed forces. Forces not deployed are engaged in training, maintenance, resupply, and personnel turnover in preparation for the next rotational deployment. The Air Force maintains a high state of overall readiness due to the rapid response requirements for air assets in the initial phase of a major theater war or smaller-scale contingency.
Although readiness remains a top departmental priority, not all units, active or Reserve, are resourced to the highest levels. Resources are prioritized by each of the Services among major units to sustain different levels of readiness based on missions, response requirements, and force characteristics. This resource prioritization reflects the fact that transportation capacity and equipment maintenance cycles put constraints on our ability to respond. The variability in the levels of readiness that results from this prioritization is closely monitored to ensure we have the capability and flexibility to respond to changing requirements.
The current readiness approach provides a varying degree of resources to units according to the likelihood that the unit will be required to respond to a military conflict and the time in which the unit will be required to respond. Later deploying units receive fewer resources because the response time would allow the unit to get ready before it is required in theater. In fact, each Service uses readiness concepts tailored to its requirements in developing current readiness resource prioritization plans.

Quadrennial Defense Review Report 1997

Zur Feststellung von „readiness“ existieren feste Regelungen:

This NORAD directive provides policy on readiness assessment specifies concept, frequency of inspection, command relationships, scheduling responsibilities, notification, and general scenario description. It applies to assigned and gained air defense units and to command and control units to include Region Operations Control Centers (ROCC), Sector Operations Control Centers (SOCC), and the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC). This policy directive will be used in conjunction with a proposed NORAD instruction which implements this policy. This policy directive applies to the Air National Guard and does not apply to the AF Reserve.
1. Concept. The readiness of forces made available to CINCNORAD will be assessed by the appropriate parent command/service inspection agency on a regular and recurring basis to prompt them to go through the preparation process which leads to increased readiness; and give CINCNORAD a validation of their readiness posture as reported on a monthly basis in the Status of Resources and Training System (SORTS) report. Readiness will be assessed via two kinds of inspections. The first assesses unit readiness to perform NORAD wartime  issions and is called the NORAD Operational Evaluation (NOE). The second assesses ability to perform the peacetime mission. For air defense units, SOCCs, and ROCCs, this is called the Alert Force Evaluation (AFE). For the CMOC, this is normally a combined NORAD/USSPACECOM evaluation of all CMOC peacetime activities and is called the CMOC Readiness Evaluation (CRE). A list of units, centers, and alert sites subject to evaluation is at attachments 1 and 2.

NORAD Readiness Assessment 1996

Viele Staffeln der USAF befinden sich im Zustand der “combat readiness”, d.h. sind gefechtsbereit für den Kriegsfall. Ein Blick über die Seiten der USAF bietet eine Vorstellung vom Umfang dessen, was der Ausdruck „combat ready“ umfasst:

The announcement officially makes Langley’s F-22 squadrons combat ready.
“After years of collaborative effort, a key milestone for the F-22A has been reached,” said General Corley.  ”The integrated 1st Fighter Wing and 192nd Fighter Wing team at Langley possess sufficient Raptors, equipment and trained Airmen to provide Air Dominance for the Joint Force for many years to come.”
FOC for the F-22 means the aircraft are now ready for global engagement, said Lt. Col. Mark Hansen, Air Combat Command F-22 Integration Officer. “Crews are now [fully] organized, trained, equipped and ready for the joint fight.”
Since the F-22s reached Initial Operational Capability two years ago, the 1st Fighter Wing and the Air National Guard’s 192nd Fighter Wing have dedicated time and resources into finding how to best use and maintain the world’s most advanced fighter. The fighter has deployed and trained across the world to define and refine its capabilities and tactics.
The 1st FW has been training for the wartime mission since the F-22 went IOC, said Brig. Gen. Mark A. Barrett, 1st FW commander. Langley’s Raptors were declared IOC in December 2005, making them capable of some combat operations such as homeland defense.

Langley AFB 2007

Crew chiefs keep 442nd FW A-10s combat ready.

9/26/2009 - WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. – Crew chiefs from the 442nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron perform varied, but routine, maintenance on the 442nd Fighter Wing’s 27 A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft.
Each of the 442nd FW’s A-10s is painted with the name of the plane’s assigned crew chiefs.  It’s often said that crew chiefs “own the airplanes, while pilots borrow the jets to go fly.” In addition to maintenance, crew chiefs launch and recover the aircraft for daily training sorties from here. The 442nd FW is an Air Force Reserve Command unit based here. The unit has deployed aircraft, pilots and maintenance personnel four times to support operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Whiteman AFB 2009

AMC IG Team: 910th Airlift Wing is Combat-Ready.

4/25/2008 - YOUNGSTOWN AIR RESERVE STATION, Ohio – After more than 18 months of deep planning and preparation, the 910th Airlift Wing deployed about 400 Air Force Reservists to the Gulfport, Miss., Combat Readiness Training Center March 29 to April 5 for the wing’s Operational Readiness Inspection, which was conducted by members of Air Mobility Command’s Inspector General Team.
The 910th members joined about 400 others from the Air Force Reserve’s 934th Airlift Wing at Minneapolis-St. Paul Air Reserve Station, Minn. to form the 922nd Air Expeditionary Wing as part of the inspection scenario.
The ORI provided an opportunity to test the 910th on its ability to deploy a large portion of the wing into a chemical threat, wartime environment, and effectively operate.  The major graded areas fell within the following areas: Initial Response, Employment, Mission Support, and the Ability to Survive and Operate (ATSO.)

Youngstown ARS 2008

41st and 43d Electronic Combat Squadrons.

The 41st Electronic Combat Squadron was activated at D-M in July 1980 and the 43rd Electronic Combat Squadron was activated at D-M April 1, 1992.
Accomplishing the Compass Call mission, both squadrons provide vital capabilities in the realm of electronic warfare for the Air Force and are poised for immediate deployment to specific theater contingencies. The unit’s combat mission is to support tactical air, ground and naval operations by confusing the enemy’s defenses and disrupting its command and control capabilities. However, they each have a different area of responsibility.
Both squadrons operate the EC-130H aircraft, a specially configured version of the Air Force’s proven C-130 transport. To execute its unique missions, the aircraft were modified with electronic countermeasures systems, specialized jamming equipment, the capability to aerial refuel, as well as upgraded engines and avionics. Modifications made to the aircraft vary between the two squadrons, to help each squadron meet its specific
mission-oriented needs.
Since coming to D-M, the 41st and 43rd ECS have played a vital role during several successful contingency and combat operations. These include Operations Southern Watch, Just Cause, Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Uphold Democracy, Deny Flight, Vigilant Warrior, Provide Comfort, Decisive Edge, Deliberate Force, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

41st Combat Aquadron Factsheet

38th Rescue Squadron
The 38th Rescue Squadron maintains combat-ready status as a Guardian Angel rescue squadron. This squadron trains, equips and employs combat rescue officers, pararescue, survival, evasion, resistance and escape (SERE) specialists and supporting personnel worldwide in support of U.S. national security interests and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Its members accomplish all five execution tasks of Personnel Recovery, specializing in survivor contact, treatment and extraction in denied, uncertain and hostile territories.

41st Rescue Squadron
The 41st Rescue Squadron maintains combat-ready status as an HH-60G combat search and rescue (CSAR) squadron. This squadron specializes in combat rescue of downed aircrews using night vision goggles (NVG), low-level formation, air refueling, and survivor recovery. Members assigned to this squadron rapidly mobilize, deploy and employ to provide combat and peacetime search and rescue in support of U.S. national security interests and the NASA space shuttle.

71st Rescue Squadron
Maintains combat-ready status with 10 HC-130P aircraft. Provides rapidly deployable, expeditionary personnel recovery forces to theater commanders for contingency/crisis response operations worldwide. Specializes in the rescue of isolated personnel from austere, denied objectives using night vision goggle (NVG)/adverse weather low-level, airdrop, airland, helicopter air refueling (HAR), and forward area refueling point (FARP) operations.

347th Rescue Groop factsheet

Weitaus weniger Staffeln befanden sich im Zustand der „alert readiness“. „24hour alert“ bedeutet, dass ein Kampfflugzeug auch in Friedenszeiten betankt, bewaffnet, mit warmgelaufenen Systemen auf der Air Force Base bereit steht, die Piloten in ihren Anti-g-Anzügen bereit sitzen und innerhalb von 5-15 Minuten nach Startbefehl (je nach Bereitschaftsgrad) starten können.

Auch hierfür einige Beispiele:

The military mission of the 210th was Combat Search and Rescue — picking up downed aircrew members during wartime. Beyond that, the 210th had an important peacetime mission: to stand on constant 24-hour alert, ready to rescue military personnel and civilians stranded in Alaska’s unpredictable wilderness. The 210th became the first U.S.-based rescue unit to receive the new MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter when its first one arrived in June 1990. (They would be redesignated HH-60Gs in 1992.) Three others arrived by August.

176th Wing factsheet

Another vital mission the Air Force supports in the region is search and rescue operations for all branches. C-130 Hercules maintainers play a vital role in this mission to keep the HC-130Ps ready to go on a moment’s notice.
“We provide the maintenance to keep the C-130s in the air. We’re on 24-hour alert, to answer the call” said Master Sergeant Patrick Melady, the HC-130P/N production supervisor. “Coming out here without knowing what you’re doing would make it a little harder,” said Senior Airman Michael Ruehrwein, an instrument and flight controls technician for the C-130.

USAF in Djibouti

In 1956 the Ace-In-the-Hole Squadron, as the unit is affectionately called, moved to Ellington Field, and in 1958 the 147th Fighter Interceptor Squadron was formed and almost immediately placed on 24-hour alert guarding America’s skies.
From 1968 through 1970, the unit served in Vietnam and Thailand and in 1968 started training Air National Guard F-102 pilots. One of those pilots, of course, became president of the United States, then Lt. George W. Bush.
In September 2000 the first Air Expeditionary Forces deployed to Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, during Operation Southern Watch. On Sept. 11, a day no one alive at the time will ever forget, four 111th Fighter Squadron aircraft escorted President Bush onboard Air Force One.
In August 2005 members of the unit deployed to Balad Air Base, Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. During repeated deployments since then, the unit has remained on 24-hour alert and passed every inspection.
During the 90 years of flying history, the unit flew the Curtiss JN-4 Jenny, Douglas 2C, Stinson 49, Curtis 52, A-20, P-39, Allison P-51, F-84 Thunderjet, F-15 Mustang, T-6 Texan, F-80, T-33, F-86, F-102, F-101, F-4 Phantom, C-26 Merlin, F-16A and C and now the MQ-1 Predator Unmanned Aerial System (UAS).
During 54 years of being on alert status, the unit worked in concert with the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), now the North American Aerospace Defense Command. The current deputy commander of NORAD, Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard, delivered a few brief remarks at Saturday’s event.

147th Fighter Wing

Gebräuchlich ist auch der Ausdruck “quick reaction alert” (QRA):

Alarmrotten (Quick Reaction Alert, QRA) bestehen jeweils aus zwei Jagdflugzeugen vom Typ „Eurofighter“ oder F-4F “Phantom”, die betankt und bewaffnet in einem besonders gesicherten Bereich des Fliegerhorstes am Rande der Startbahn positioniert sind.

Dt. Luftwaffe QRA

Sobald zu einem Flugzeug längere Zeit kein Funkkontakt hergestellt werden konnte, oder es seine geplante Flugroute verlassen hat, steigen zwei Kampfjets vom Typ Eurofighter oder Phantom F-4F in die Luft, um die Lage aufzuklären. Eine der “Quick Reaction Alert”-Alarmrotten ist im Herzen Bayerns beim Jagdgeschwader 74 in Neuburg stationiert. Im Ernstfall sind sie die Ersten, die reagieren. Sie sind binnen weniger Minuten in der Luft und an Ort und Stelle. 24 Stunden am Tag, 365 Tage im Jahr sind sie in Bereitschaft, die Quick Reaction Alert “Interceptor” (QRA “I”) der Luftwaffe. Eine zweite ist in Wittmund stationiert – zusammen sichern sie den Luftraum Deutschlands.

Dt. Luftwaffe QRA


2. Etwas Geschichte

NORAD wurde im Kontext des Kalten Krieges 1958 als Konter der Gefahr eines sowjetischen Luftangriffs gegründet. Sowjetische Langstreckenbomber zählten eine Weile zu der als besonders gefährlich erachteten Bedrohung. Eine NORAD-Broschüre aus den Sechzigern beschreibt die Befürchtungen und Abwehrstrategien:

The threat posed by the manned bombers has existed the longest, and still remained formidable. In order to detect a manned bomber attack, a system of land and air based radars surrounds the North American continent.
The second function of air defense, to determind intent, is complicated by the fact that 600 to 1000 aircraft approach this continent from overseas each day. The pilot of each such flight must file a flight plan prior to departure indicating a place and time at which he will cross the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) which surrounds the continent. If he makes good his flight plan, he is considered identified and determined to be peaceful; however, if he is out of correlation limits, he must be positively identified. This is normally done by radio or by scrambling fighter-interceptor aircraft whose pilots visually identify the errant aircraft.
If aircraft are determined to be hostile, NORAD has a formidable arsenal of defensive weapons to meet them. Both the U.S. Air Force and the RCAF provide supersonic fighters armed with a variety of air to air missiles and both commands also have Bomarc surface to air missiles. In addition, the U.S. Army provide point defense for major cities and military targets in the form of Nike Hercules and Hawk surface-to-air missiles.

NORAD-Broschüre, S. 9f.

Im Laufe der Jahre änderte sich die als primär erachtete Gefahrenlage: Die Gefahr sowjetischer Langstreckenraketen ergänzte nach und nach die Befürchtung eines Angriffs durch Langstreckenbomber.

The Soviet Union is the only nation at this time with missiles able to strike North America. [...]
NORAD´s first and perhaps most important problem is the fact that we have no active defense against the ballistic missile. One hope we have for a missile defense within this decade lies in the United State´s Armys Nike X anti-missile system. However, it is still in the research and development stage.

NORAD-Broschüre, S. 12f.

During the 1960s and 1970s the character of the threat changed as the Soviets focused on creating intercontinental and sea-launched ballistic missiles, and developing an anti-satellite capability.

NORAD at 40, Historical Overview

Die Dokumentation “First Strike” von 1979 beschreibt die damaligen Ängste.
In Reaktion auf die neue Gefahr wurde ein umfangreiches Raketenabwehrsystem entwickelt

The northern radar warning networks could, as one commentator put it, “…not only (be) outflanked but literally jumped over.” In response, a space surveillance and missile warning system was constructed to provide worldwide space detection and tracking and to catalog objects and activity in space. When these systems became operational during the early 1960s, they came under the control of Commander-in-Chief, NORAD (CINCNORAD). The evolving threat broadened NORAD’s mission over the years to include tactical warning and assessment of a possible air, missile, or space attack on North America. The 1975 NORAD Agreement acknowledged these extensions of the command’s mission and the 1981 NORAD Agreement changed the command’s name from the North American “Air” Defense Command to the North American “Aerospace” Defense Command.
[…] There were some efforts at improvements, however, which helped reduce the vulnerability to ICBM attacks. Two hardened underground combat operations centers were set up; one, inside Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs, and an alternate Combat Operations Center at North Bay, Ontario. These facilities became the nerve centers for integration and assessment of data gained from the broad network of early warning systems being established.
By the early 1970s, as a result of changes in US strategic policy which had come to accept the concept of mutual vulnerability to ICBM attack, the need to spend about $1 billion a year on air defense was challenged. In 1974, US Secretary of Defense Schlesinger stated the primary mission of air defense was to ensure sovereignty of air space during peacetime. This shift in mission was accepted by Canada and confirmed in the 1975 NORAD Agreement. There followed further reductions in the size and capability of the air defense system and delays in its modernization. By the late 1970s, the remaining components–some 300 interceptors, 100 radars and eight control centers–had become obsolete and uneconomical to operate.

NORAD at 40, Historical Overview

Die Fokusänderung von den Bombern zu Raketen führte jedoch nicht nur zum Ausbau eines Raketenabwehrsystems auf der einen, sondern auch zu einer Reduktion der Kampfflugzeuge auf der anderen Seite:

The ballistic missile threat prompted policy makers to reassess the effectiveness of the air defense system. Economy moves begun in 1963 reduced aircraft fighter-interceptor forces and closed portions of the land based radar network.

NORAD at 40, Historical Overview

From 1963, the size of the U.S. Air Force was reduced, and obsolete sections of the radar system were shut down. However, there was increased effort to protect against an ICBM attack.

NORAD History

Mit dem Ende des Kalten Krieges verringerte sich die Gefahr eines Bombenangriffs immer weiter. Forderungen nach der Komplettauflösung der verbliebenen alert-Basen wurden 1993 laut:

Feb 93 — CINCNORAD announced the implementation of a “flexible alert” concept. The strategy gave regional commanders the authority to raise and lower readiness in their alert fighter force according to the perceived threat. This marked a radical change from the 24-hour alert status performed by NORAD alert fighters during the Cold War.

NORAD Chronology

Ein Strategiepapier aus dem Jahr 1994 sprach sich für weitere Reduktionen aus:

The continental air defense mission evolved during the Cold War to detect and intercept Soviet bombers attacking North America via the North Pole. The continental air defense force that carries out that mission is within the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NOM), which is a joint U.S. and Canadian command. The U.S. portion of that force is currently comprised of 180 Air National Guard F-15A/B and F-lGA/B aircraft located in 10 units and 14 alert sites in the United States. In addition to the 10 dedicated units, 2 F-15 dual-tasked general-purpose units stand alert for NORAD-an active unit at Elmendorf, Alaska, and an Air National Guard unit at New Orleans, Louisiana-part of which is on 24hour alert. Because it does not have a wartime mission outside North America, the continental air defense force is not counted as part of the Air Force’s %-l/Z fighter wing equivalent base force or the 20 fighter wing equivalent force recently proposed by the Secretary of Defense as a result of the Bottom-Up Review.’ The Air Force currently budgets about $370 million annually to operate and support the continental air defense force.
As required by the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended in early 1993 those role and mission changes necessary to achieve maximum effectiveness of the military services. The Chairman determined that the United States no longer needed a large, dedicated air defense force because of the near disappearance of the Soviet threat. Consequently, the Chairman concluded that the dedicated force could be significantly reduced or eliminded and that existing active and reserve general-purpose combat and training forces could be tasked to perform the continental air defense mission.

GAO Report 1994, S. 1

In diesem Strategiepapier von 1994 werden 1518 scrambles zwischen 1989 und 1992 aufgelistet, die sich auf 28 Basen verteilen, von denen einige 1994 bereits geschlossen und andere nie QRA-Basen waren. Diese 28 Basen sind (vgl. S. 17):

Atlantic City, NJ.
Burlington, VT.
Langley AFB, VA.
Duluth, MN.
Tyndall AFB, FL.
Ellington, TX.
Holloman AFB, NM.
Fargo, ND.
Kingsley AFB, OR.
Fresno, CA.
Castle AFB, CA.
George AFB, CA.
March AFB, CA.
Great Falls, MT.
Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ.
Jacksonville, FL.
Homestead AFB, FL.
Key West, FL.
Niagara Falls, NY.
Charleston, SC.
Otis, MA.
Bangor, ME.
Loring AFB, ME.
New Orleans, LA.
Portland, OR.
McChord AFB, WA.
Selfridge, MI.
Seymour Johnson AFB, NC.

Ein umstrittener DoD-Report aus dem Jahr 1997 forderte zur Reduktion der QRA-Basen auf ganze vier Stück auf:

The total fighter inventory will be restructured and modestly reduced from current levels. This will be accomplished by retiring older Air National Guard aircraft and replacing them with approximately 60 fighters from the active component and by converting six continental air defense squadrons to general purpose, training, or other missions. These changes will result in a more modern and flexible force of just over 12 active fighter wing equivalents, eight reserve fighter wing equivalents, and four air defense squadrons (0.8 fighter wing equivalent).

Quadrennial Defense Review Report 1997

Bis Dezember 1999 sank die Zahl der QRA-Basen immerhin auf sieben Basen mit vierzehn Jägern:

The Air National Guard exclusively performs the air sovereignty mission in the continental United States, and those units fall under the control of the 1st Air Force based at Tyndall. The Guard maintains seven alert sites with 14 fighters and pilots on call around the clock. Besides Homestead, alert birds also sit armed and ready at Tyndall; Langley AFB, Va.; Otis Air National Guard Base, Mass.; Portland International Airport, Ore.; March ARB, Calif.; and Ellington Field, Texas.

Artikel “Guardians at the Gate”, Dez. 1999

Die o.g. Liste wurde demnach weiter gekürzt. Übrig blieben:

US AFBs auf QRA, Stand 1999

Otis ANGB, MA.
Langley AFB, VA.
Tyndall AFB, FL.
Ellington Field, TX.
Homestead AFB, FL.
March AFB, CA.
Portland International Airport, OR.




Maj. Gen. Larry Arnold kommentierte die Reduktionen in einem Militärmagazin im April 1998:

The professionals throughout 1st Air Force perform the air sovereignty mission with great skill and finesse. The results of the most recent Quadrennial Defense Review, however, will affect our mission. The QDR called for reducing 1st Air Force’s dedicated structure to four fighter wings. The Air Force adjusted this number upward to six fighter wings with seven alert sites — 14 pilots alert and ready to serve when called upon.
Are seven alert locations enough to perform the air sovereignty mission? Certainly there is greater risk with seven sites than with ten alert sites. The leadership in the Air Force and in the Department of Defense believes we have a window of opportunity based on a real reduction in threat to our country that warrants this risk. I am confident 1st Air Force can and will do the job despite the QDR results.

Cherie Gott, Operations Research Analyst für HQ NORAD-NORTHCOM, bestätigt die Angaben in der Retrospektive:

•From 1975 1990, we maintained a fairly steady state of 25-29 Alert Bases
•Drastic cuts in 1991 reduced the number of Alert facilities to 17; by 1999, there were only 7 Alert Facilities

NORAD Base Reduction, S. 3

Die Diskussionen zu der folgenreiche Entscheidung werden in Leslie Filsons Air War Over America, Kap. 1 & 2, und Rebecca Grants The First 600 Days of Combat, Kap. 2, näher ausgeführt.

3. Die QRA-Basen 9/11

Die genannten sieben Basen standen NORAD auch 9/11 noch zur Verfügung.

At the time of the attacks, only seven locations—around the perimeter of the United States—were engaged in the air defense mission. Each was assigned a pair of Air National Guard fighter aircraft ready to scramble if US airspace were threatened. These alert locations had F-15 or F-16 fighters on the runways, fueled, and ready to take off in fewer than 15 minutes.

Artikel “The Return of NORAD”, Feb. 2002, S. 52

On the morning of September 11, fourteen ANG interceptors located at seven air alert sites scattered across the country had stood ready to defend the country.

(Doubler, The National Guard, S. 123)

[…] by 9/11 there were only seven alert sites left in the United States, each with two fighter aircraft on alert.

(9/11 CR, S. 17)

9/11 Commissioner John Farmer fasst den Reduktionsvorgang in „The Ground Truth“ zusammen und liefert Zahlen:

As the Cold War progressed, the superpowers came to rely less and less upon intercontinental bombers and more on intercontinental ballistic missiles; accordingly, the threat from a bomber attack over the North Pole diminished even before the Cold War subsided. The number of fighter jets under NORAD command was gradually phased down, from 750 in 1959, to 325 in 1976, to 200 in 1990, to 175 in 1997, to 14 in 2001. When the Cold War ended, Pentagon analysts recommended in 1992 that NORAD´s mission be phased out entirely.

(Farmer: The Ground Truth, S. 84f.)

Der Hintergrund der starken Reduktionsmaßnahmen ist laut NORAD-General Richard Myers (und banalerweise) das Einsparen überflüssiger Kosten – eine Alarmrotte kostet schlicht mehr Geld als keine Alarmrotte:

MR. LEHMAN: Assets. I understand that there was a great argument during the period before 9/11 about whether NORAD should exist at all, and the reduction from 23 to seven sites. Why, given the increasing threat discussion of the possibility of hijackings and the intentions of al Qaeda, was this such a big issue? Because with so many fighter aircraft based around the country — Reserve, Guard, Navy, Marine, Air Force — why is it an asset issue? Why can’t there be a much broader allocation of assignment, of alert, throughout the country to deal with the threat that was becoming so evident?
GEN. MYERS: I think it’s because the threat was not perceived to be so evident, and we were following the same guidance that we got right after the fall of the Soviet Union: “Where is the dividend from this?” And so forces were scaled down. Alert facilities, which are expensive to maintain, were closed. And we wound up with those seven sites. And I think you all know –
MR. LEHMAN: Why is that so — I mean, why do they have to be owned assets? Why is it so expensive just to require rotating units to sit on alert and keep aircraft armed, as opposed to their normal training cycle?
GEN. MYERS: Well, it’s just the kind of — it’s the priorities that the Defense Department goes through to balance risk. And, again, the threat perception was not there to balance that risk.

Myers-Hearing Juni 2004

Die vier Flugzeugentführungen 9/11 fanden im Nordosten Nordamerikas statt, dem Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS). Den Verantwortlichen bei NEADS standen regional bedingt zwei der sieben AFBs mit Jägern im alert-Zustand zur Verfügung: Otis und Langley.

Die 2 QRA-AFBs des NEADS 9/11

Die NORAD-Tapes, MCC Op (Kanal 2), geben Aufschluss über das Prozedere – nachdem Major Nasypany die Flieger der alert-Basen Otis und Langley abgesendet hat (Otis für NYC, Langley zum Schutz Washingtons), greift auf weitere Basen zurück und versucht, Jäger in die Luft zu bekommen, die nicht für den QRA-Betrieb gedacht waren, darunter Toledo:

I’m talking to Toledo right now, and they maybe able to get somebody airborne.


What about Duluth?
Duluth you got no fighters.
We’ll call in units and ask anybody in that area that we have a possible hijack.
I talked to the Great Lakes [unverständlich] and Toledo, they’re gonna get somebody out there. And Duluth has night flying, so there’s nobody available.


Okay. We’re getting two from Alpino with guns. Confirm. I’m working that right now. We’re getting it.
In about 15 minutes. Okay. No.
We got –
Okay. We have a deployment out – Springfield F16s are deployed up at Alpino. They’re doing like a little exercise up there.

Atlantic City:

MCC I have a check at E3. How many aircrafts just got off of Atlantic City?
Supposedly four, but I don’t know if they’re airborne yet.
Four. Scramble PAT.


Oh, okay. We have fighters down at Andrews under our control? CONR’s asking? No.
I just picked up scrambling right now.
They’ll come under our control then? Okay.



Doubler, Michael D.: The National Guard and Reserve. A Reference Handbook. Westport: Praeger Security International 2008

Farmer, John: The Ground Truth. The Untold Story of America under Attack on 9/11. New York: Penguin 2009

Filson, Leslie: Air War over America. Sept. 11 alters Face of Air Defense Mission. Tyndall AFB 2003

Grant, Rebecca: The First 600 Days of Combat. The US Air Force in the Global War on Terrorism. Washington: IRIS Press 2004

Thanks to Andrew Burfield and Mike Williams for sources.

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