The Alaskan NORAD Region (ANR) was activated 5 August 1958, as a region of the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) which had been established on 12 September 1957. The Region assumed control over an air defense system that had existed in Alaska since the early 1940s. Staffing came from the headquarters of the Alaskan Command and Alaskan Air Command on a dual function basis. The Army provided a limited number of full time personnel to support the ANR mission. The Commander-in-Chief, Alaskan Command, served as Commander, ANR. When the Alaskan Command was disestablished for the first time in 1975, the Commander, Alaskan Command assumed the additional duty.
The Alaskan NORAD Region was responsible for the air sovereignty of Alaska and exercised control at the time over eighteen aircraft control and warning radar sites, an Aleutian DEW Line Sector, six fighter interceptor squadrons, and two Nike Hercules air defense missile battalions. The Alaskan Air Command operated and maintained all the air defense forces except for the Nike Hercules battalions which were assigned to United States Army, Alaska.
Air defense forces in Alaska, as elsewhere, experienced a significant reduction in forces during the 1960s as the result of the Soviet Union switch from bombers to missiles as its primary nuclear weapons delivery system. The demands of the Southeast Asia conflict and the need to reduce military spending resulted in further reductions. The number of radar sites were reduced to thirteen and the Aleutian DEW Line Sector shut down. Five of the six fighter interceptor squadrons were inactivated. The Nike battalion defending the Fairbanks area ceased operations in 1971 followed by one defending the Anchorage area in 1979. The system had become obsolete.
The Alaska air defense forces were modernized during the 1970s and 1980s. New state of the art minimally attended radars were installed at the remote radar sites and turned over to a contractor to maintain. Radar information was relayed via satellite to a Regional Operations Control Center on Elmendorf AFB via satellite. This allowed the reduction of personnel from approximately 120 military personnel at each site to twelve or less civilian contract personnel. F-15 Eagles were assigned in the early 1980s and the E-3 airborne control and warning aircraft arrived in 1986.
Canadian Forces personnel were assigned to ANR beginning in the early 1980s and Brig Gen Ronald Bell arrived in 1986 as the first Canadian general to be assigned to Alaska. He became the Deputy Commander, ANR. The Region gained Air Force full-time manning during the early 1990s as the result of a reorganization of Headquarters, 11th Air Force.
As a result of the modernization and the increase in Soviet aircraft flight activity, the number of intercepts increased dramatically during the 1980s reaching a peak in 1987, when 31 Soviet flights were intercepted.
With the end of the Cold War, the number of Russian aircraft flights near Alaska declined significantly. The end of the Cold War also marked a broadening of the Air Force’s responsibility in Alaska as reflected in a change in its motto, “Top Cover for North America,” to “Top Cover and Global Power.” While ANR retained its traditional air sovereignty mission, the Eleventh Air Force also began deploying its forces to other world locations.