May 1st, 2021 marked the 60th anniversary of the beginning of NATO’s Integrated Air Defence system that started when the UK’s national Integrated Air Defence system came online as the first NATO Air Defence region.
The Central region went live on July 1, 1961 and the Southern region followed on July 10, 1962; the final region to be established was the Northern Region on the January 15, 1964.
The following is an excerpt from an article published by NATO, written by Sqn Ldr Peter Singlehurst, Royal Air Force Media Operations and exercises.
“This new NATO integrated air defence system was originally agreed at a NATO Atlantic Council meeting and was announced on 10 September 1960. It would soon grow and evolve to the system that is recognised today that covers the entire air space of the European NATO allies with the air defence being controlled from the Combined Air Operations Centres at Uedem, Germany and Torrejón, Spain.
In 1961, however what was a new system for NATO, was for the UK a long-established concept. The British system had its origins during the First World War where it was quickly recognised a system to effectively defend against the air attacks conducted against the UK was needed. Following the end of the war the question of national air defence continued to be worked on and by the 1930s a system that is now the ‘Dowding System’ named after Sir Hugh Dowding the then RAF Fighter Command commander was created.
This system was the world’s first wide-area ground-controlled interception network and covered the entire UK airspace. Initially, the system was based on a widespread dedicated land-line telephone network that could be used to pass information that was collected from newly developed radar stations and the Royal Observer Corps. This information was used to build a single image of the entire UK airspace and direct defensive interceptor aircraft and anti-aircraft artillery against enemy targets. ”