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CONR’s live-fire test bolsters homeland defense capabilities

  • Published
  • By Lt Col Andrew Scott

Members of Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command Region and the South Carolina National Guard's 263rd Army Air Missile Defense Command gathered at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Sept. 26, 2023, to validate homeland defense capabilities utilizing the National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System in a live-fire test.

The event was a pivotal moment, showcasing the importance of cruise missile defense, the use of Integrated Air and Missile Defense Systems and the overarching homeland defense mission of NORAD.

By gathering experts from multiple organizations and functional areas, the team was able to certify its ability to use systems, test ranges, and personnel to upgrade its air defense capabilities.

"This live-fire event was a joint opportunity to get after multiple technical goals relevant to CONR’s homeland defense mission,” said Maj. Zachary Darnell, chief of First Air Force’s Strategic Programs Division. “It provided a great opportunity to strengthen our partnership with Army air and missile defense partners."

The live-fire test demonstrated the unwavering commitment of CONR to prioritize cruise missile defense, an area of growing concern in recent years. With advances in technology, potential adversaries can now launch long-range cruise missiles from various platforms, including air, ground, maritime surface and sub-surface vehicles, posing a significant threat to both the United States and Canada. This threat extends to all domains, highlighting the critical need for a robust defense strategy.

"We stand at a historic crossroads in our nation's history as we grapple with the unique challenge of facing two strategic peers,” said Lt. Gen. Steven Nordhaus, commander, CONR-1AF (Air Forces Northern and Air Forces Space).  In response, our highly proficient air and missile defense team has undergone a comprehensive augmentation, fortifying our air domain awareness and significantly shortening threat identification times. This new capability equips decision-makers with extended windows to activate an array of defensive response options."


The 263rd AAMDC was a central component of the test, Darnell said. The 263rd AAMDC routinely deploys its Soldiers to safeguard the skies for homeland defense as well as overseas missions. To ensure readiness for these critical tasks, the unit places great importance on the validation process, during which commanders rigorously assess their unit’s preparedness. The successful NASAMS live-fire test provided that confirmation.


NORAD, as the world's only bi-national command charged with aerospace warning, aerospace control and maritime warning for the United States and Canada, recognize the urgency of enhancing its defense against these emerging cruise missile threats. This live-fire test marked a pivotal step in their mission to detect, deter, deny, and if required, defeat such threats.

“Our Joint team of skilled air defense professionals continuously develops, test, and fields modernizations to the IADS, fortifying our air domain awareness and significantly shortening threat identification times. Validation events like this give decision-makers confidence in their capabilities, resulting in extended windows to activate an array of defensive response options," Darnell said.   

The event also shed light on the critical role of IADS in protecting the homeland. IADS play a critical role in detecting, tracking, and assessing potential threats, enabling leaders to make informed decisions swiftly. Timely detection and response are paramount in air and missile defense, and the enhanced capabilities demonstrated in the live-fire test will bolster the effectiveness of IADS.

The 263rd AAMDC is a globally available operational unit, which deploys in the U.S. Northern Command area of responsibility to conduct joint and combined theater air and missile defense operations in support of designated plans and contingency operations. The unit maintains a presence of mobilized personnel providing training and readiness oversight for homeland defense, known as the Integrated Air Defense System mission. The 263rd AAMDC is the only AAMDC in the National Guard and is one of four in the entire U.S. Army.

The recent live-fire test conducted by CONR and 263rd AAMDC personnel reaffirmed their commitment to safeguarding the United States and Canada from emerging threats, specifically long-range cruise missiles. With a focus on integrated deterrence, timely domain awareness, and resilient defense systems, NORAD is well-prepared to confront the complex and dynamic challenges of the modern strategic environment.