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December 2-4, 1998: NORAD Runs an Exercise in Which Simulated Information Is Injected into Its Radar Systems

John Hamre.John Hamre. [Source: R. D. Ward / US Department of Defense]The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) conducts an exercise, called Vigilant Virgo 99-1, in which simulated missiles are injected into its radar systems, apparently similar to the way simulated information will be injected onto its radar screens for a training exercise on the morning of September 11, 2001. [US Department of Defense, 1/15/1999; Toronto Star, 12/9/2001; Arkin, 2005, pp. 546] In August 1998, Secretary of Defense William Cohen directed the commanders in chief who are responsible for the Department of Defense’s unified combatant commands to plan, carry out, and report on a series of simulated Year 2000 “operational evaluations.” [United States General Accounting Office, 6/1999, pp. 8 pdf file; United States General Accounting Office, 11/1999, pp. 15 pdf file] Vigilant Virgo is the first in a series of NORAD operational evaluations that are going to be held in response to this order. [US Department of Defense, 1/15/1999; United States General Accounting Office, 6/1999, pp. 2 pdf file; Military Operations Research Society, 6/22/1999, pp. 193 pdf file]
Exercise Tests NORAD's Year 2000 Preparedness - The three-day exercise is intended to evaluate if NORAD’s systems are vulnerable to the Year 2000 (Y2K) computer problem, which would be caused by computers being unable to properly read dates at the start of the new millennium. [US Department of Defense, 1/15/1999; New York Times, 2/9/1999] It evaluates the capability of NORAD’s systems to track and forward information about missile and space air threats when the command’s clocks are rolled forward to January 1, 2000. [United States General Accounting Office, 6/1999, pp. 8-9 pdf file] The exercise is a collaborative effort in which NORAD is supported by personnel, equipment, and facilities belonging to the US Space Command and the US Strategic Command. [US Department of Defense, 1/14/1999; US Department of Defense, 1/15/1999]
'Missile Events' Are Injected into NORAD's Sensors - Vigilant Virgo focuses on the missile warning element of NORAD’s integrated tactical warning and attack assessment function. [United States General Accounting Office, 6/1999, pp. 11 pdf file; Military Operations Research Society, 6/22/1999, pp. 193 pdf file] It involves “well over 30 missile events” being “injected” into NORAD’s sensors, according to Lieutenant Colonel Warren Patterson, a member of the Joint Staff Year 2000 Task Force. These simulated events involve data that is injected “as though it [is] being sensed for the first time by a radar site,” Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre will later describe. Some of the simulations involve mass attacks, while others involve attacks by a single missile. [US Department of Defense, 1/15/1999] The Y2K preparedness of the entire ground radar array network is analyzed during the exercise. [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 3/1999]
Exercise Finds No Vulnerabilities in NORAD's Systems - Vigilant Virgo will be considered a success. The exercise will find that there is “no degradation in any of the systems, whether they were in the Year 2000 environment, the virtual Year 2000 environment, or whether they were in the real world, 1998 environment,” Patterson will say. “We are highly confident now, at this point, that CINC [commander in chief] NORAD can do his early warning mission,” he will conclude. [US Department of Defense, 1/15/1999]
Exercise on 9/11 Will Use Simulated Radar Information - NORAD is the military organization responsible for monitoring and defending North American airspace. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 16; Department of National Defence, 7/25/2017] Personnel at its Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), based in Rome, New York, will be responsible for coordinating the military’s response to the 9/11 hijackings. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 203] It will be conducting an exercise on the morning of September 11, 2001, which, like Vigilant Virgo, involves simulated information being injected onto its radar screens (see (9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001, 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001, and 10:12 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Toronto Star, 12/9/2001] NORAD will conduct a follow-on exercise to Vigilant Virgo from February 15 to February 28, 1999, called Amalgam Virgo 99-2, which will involve a comprehensive evaluation of its systems for aerospace control, air warning, missile warning, and space warning. [United States General Accounting Office, 6/1999, pp. 11 pdf file; Arkin, 2005, pp. 253-254] Whether that exercise will involve simulated information being injected onto radar screens is unclear.

Entity Tags: US Strategic Command, Vigilant Virgo, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Warren Patterson, John J. Hamre, US Space Command

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline


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