!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News

Profile: Joint Surveillance System

Joint Surveillance System was a participant or observer in the following events:

At some point during his tenure as commander in chief of NORAD (see August 14, 1998), General Richard Myers expresses concerns about the adequacy of the radar system over the US, which NORAD shares with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in what is called the Joint Surveillance System. Myers will later tell the 9/11 Commission that NORAD is unable to “correlate” over 50 percent of the unknown radar tracks it picks up, either because it cannot launch an interceptor aircraft in time or because it cannot deal with the tracks appropriately. Some of them disappear from radar before NORAD can correlate them with the FAA. Myers makes Pentagon officials aware of the problem, telling them, “don’t think we’re providing 100 percent air sovereignty here… we’re looking outward, and a number of those tracks are never correlated.” He will recall that in connection with the internal radar issue, “I saw a letter I put out talking about a potential terrorist issue… that’s why you would want these radars up… it’s kind of a future issue.” According to Myers, there is talk about the future potential of a terrorist threat as a rationale for “trying to get people to address the FAA/[Air Force] radar funding issue in a more robust way.” Myers also finds NORAD’s command and control software inadequate. He will tell the 9/11 Commission that the “system was very old and was contracted to be replaced, but the contractor did not perform. The issue was how many tracks the system could handle at once; NORAD kept modifying the equipment to allow more inputs but it needed a new system.” However, Myers will also confirm to the 9/11 Commission that “from a technical radar standpoint, NORAD had pretty good coastal range, and that the activity on 9/11 was within the radar area that was accessible to NORAD.” [9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 6/9/2004]

Entity Tags: Joint Surveillance System, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Richard B. Myers

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The Joint Surveillance System (JSS).The Joint Surveillance System (JSS). [Source: Dr. Steven R. Bussolari, MIT Lincoln Laboratory]Military radar in Massachusetts, which is used by NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), is out of use this morning in order to undergo maintenance work. [9/11 Commission, 10/27/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 10/27/2003 pdf file]
Radar Scheduled to Go Down - The J53 radar in North Truro, Massachusetts, is one of a number of radar sites that NEADS receives data from. [United States Space Command, 12/30/1995; Jane's C4I Systems, 9/1/2005; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 10/23/2006 pdf file] It has a range of 250 miles. According to Technical Sergeant Jeffrey Richmond, the assistant air surveillance technician at NEADS, J53 is scheduled to go down this morning for some major repairs to be carried out. [9/11 Commission, 10/27/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 10/27/2003 pdf file]
NEADS Personnel Refer to Radar - A member of staff at NEADS apparently refers to the J53 radar being offline shortly after those on the NEADS operations floor learn of the Flight 11 hijacking (see (8:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and while they are trying to locate the hijacked aircraft. She mentions that NEADS technicians “still should be able to get it” (presumably referring to the plane’s radar track) “without 53.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001] (According to Richmond, the area covered by J53 is overlapped by other radars, “so the need for radar to undergo routine maintenance is accounted for.”) ID technician Shelley Watson will later recall that the NEADS ID desk uses the J53 radar as a point from which it attempts to locate Flight 11. At some time during the morning, Richmond insists that J53 be put back online at some capacity. Whether this happens is unstated. [9/11 Commission, 10/27/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 10/27/2003 pdf file]
Radar Part of 'Joint Surveillance System' - The J53 radar site is part of the Joint Surveillance System (JSS). [Transportation Safety Board of Canada, 9/2/1998; US Department of the Air Force, 11/1/1999 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 2004] The JSS consists of “long-range radar sites around the perimeter of the US, with data shared by the [Department of Defense], FAA, Customs, and others.” A 2003 Department of Defense report will state that, at the time of the 9/11 attacks, US air defense relies “largely on outward looking ground-based radars, specifically, the Joint Surveillance System.” [US Department of Defense, 7/2003 pdf file] According to General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, NORAD has access to the JSS, “which is that system that rings the United States and looks out.” He will say this system “looks for that foreign threat. It looks for someone coming into our airspace that’s not authorized.” [US Congress. Senate, 10/25/2001]

Entity Tags: Joint Surveillance System, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Jeffrey Richmond, Ralph Eberhart, Shelley Watson

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline


Time period

Email Updates

Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database


Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
Donate Now


If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.
Contact Us

Creative Commons License Except where otherwise noted, the textual content of each timeline is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike