Western Air Defense Sector

Western Air Defense Sector
Western Air Defense Sector
Western Air Defense Sector Emblem
Active 1995 - Current
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Role Air Defense
WADS Region shown in NORAD Region/Sector Configuration

The Western Air Defense Sector (WADS) is a United States Air Force unit and a component of the Washington Air National Guard. It is stationed at McChord Field, Washington



Battle Control System – Fixed (BCS-F) display, used at the WADS Sector Operations Control Center (SOCC) at McChord AFB.

The Western Air Defense Sector (WADS) is one of two Sectors responsible to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and the Continental NORAD Region for peacetime air sovereignty, strategic air defense, and airborne counter-drug operations in the continental United States. The other sector is the Eastern Air Defense Sector (EADS).

It operates a Sector Operations Control Center (SOCC) at McChord AFB, as part of the Joint Surveillance System (JSS) which had replaced SAGE in 1983. This system enjoins state-of-the-art air defense systems and cutting-edge computer technology to significantly increase surveillance and identification capabilities, and better protect the nation's airways from intrusion and attack. It relies on digitized radar inputs from Air Route Surveillance Radar (ARSR) sites jointly operated by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Air Force, and tethered aerostat radar balloons. It is fully integrated with the E-3A Airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) system and the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (E-8 Joint STARS).

The SOCC employs 27 NORAD contingency suites, and 31 Battle Control System-Fixed (BCS-F) displays. A next-generation air sovereignty system, BCS-F fuses data from airborne, ground and naval elements and civil air traffic sensors into an integrated air picture. This allows commanders to surveil and monitor the airspace above, beyond and within U.S. and Canadian borders, providing a major component for homeland defense.

It also incorporates a newly-developed situational awareness system that gives WADS unprecedented tools and technology to assist state and local responders in dealing with natural disasters. It has the redundant capability to cover the EADS if the call arises.

WADS is a Washington Air National Guard unit which reports directly to AFNORTH/1st Air Force at Tyndall AFB, Florida. The Sector reports to Air Combat Command (ACC) and to NORAD headquarters, in Colorado Springs, Colorado in its federal role. NORAD is a bi-national United States and Canadian organization charged with the missions of aerospace warning and aerospace control for North America.

Other NORAD air defense organizations include the Eastern Air Defense Sector (EADS), the Hawaii Region Air Operations Center (HIRAOC), the Alaska Region Air Operations Center (AKRAOC) and the Canada Air Defense Sector (CADS).[1]


The Sector’s primary mission is Guarding America’s Skies. This 24/7 guardian role involves the use of radar and communications systems to monitor air traffic from the Mississippi River west to the Pacific Ocean, and from the Canadian border south to the Mexican border.

The WADS works closely with other federal agencies including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Secret Service and U.S. Customs Service as well as its sister military services – the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army and U.S. Coast Guard.

As part of the Washington Air National Guard, WADS reports to the Governor through the Washington National Guard offices at Camp Murray. The Sector works with state agencies to provide rapid response in the event natural or manmade disasters, and participate in disaster preparedness exercises. The Sector is able to provide an air picture to help in rescue operations in the event of disasters.


Air National Guard units aligned under 1AF (AFNORTH) with an air defense mission under WADS are:


Historical map of Seattle Air Defense Sector, 1958-1966
Historical emblem of the Southwest Air Defense Sector
File:California ANG F-16s over San Francisco Bay.jpg
California Air National Guard 144th Fighter Wing F-16s Falcons over San Francisco Bay.
Oregon Air National Guard 142nd Fighter Wing F-15 Eagles at Portland Air National Guard Base

Cold War

It was established in January 1958 with a mission to train and maintain tactical flying units in state of readiness in order to defend the Southeastern United States, assuming control of former ADC Western Air Defense Force units located in western Washington west of the Cascade Range. The Sector was inactivated on 1 April 1966 as part of an ADC consolidation and reorganization; and its units were reassigned to the 25th Air Division.

Beginning on 1 July 1958 it began operations of a SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment) Direction Center DC-1247°07′18″N 122°30′14″W / 47.12167°N 122.50389°W / 47.12167; -122.50389 (SeADS-SAGE DC-12, CC-03) at McChord AFB. It also operated a SAGE Combat Center (CC-03). SAGE inactivated 31 August 1983

On 1 April 1966, SEADS was inactivated, as did the other 22 sectors in the country. Most of its assets were assumed by the 25th Air Division. The DC-12 SAGE Direction Center was assigned to the 25th Air Division, remaining in operation until 31 December 1969. Today it is used as the Western Air Defense Sector (WADS) Joint Surveillence System (JSS) Sector Operations Control Center (SOCC)

Modern era

On 1 July 1987, the Seattle Air Defense Sector (SEADS) became the Northwest Air Defense Sector or NWADS, and was assigned to 25th Air Division, co-locating with the 25th AD. The 25th Air Division was inactivated on 30 September 1990, transferring its assets and responsibility for atmospheric defense to NWADS.

On 1 January 1995, the Northwest Air Defense Sector consolidated with the Southwest Air Defense Sector, its counterpart at March AFB, California, to become the Western Air Defense Sector (WADS). WADS assumed responsibility for the air sovereignty of the western United States from Texas around the west coast and across to North Dakota. Its area of responsibility is approximately 1.9 million square miles, about 63% of the continental United States.

On 1 October 1997, the Western Air Defense Sector completed a seamless transition from the active duty Air Force to the Air National Guard. Citizen-soldiers of the Washington Air National Guard are currently guarding America’s skies. The Continental NORAD Region (CONR) has responsibility for the Western Air Defense Sector and Eastern Air Defense Sector. It is headquartered at Tyndall AFB, Florida.


  • Established as Seattle Air Defense Sector on 8 January 1958
Inactivated on 1 April 1966
  • Redesignated as Northwest Air Defense Sector (NWADS) and activated, 1 July 1987
Re-designated as Western Air Defense Sector (WADS), 1 October 1997


  • 25th Air Division, 8 January 1958-1 April 1966
  • 25th Air Division, 1 July 1987
  • First Air Force, 1 October 1990-Present


  • McChord AFB (later McChord Field), Washington, 8 January 1958–1 April 1966; 1 July 1987–Present



McChord AFB, Washington, 10 February 1960 – 1 April 1966
  • 57th Fighter Group (Air Defense)
Paine Field, Washington, 1 April 1961-1 April 1966
  • 326th Fighter Group (Air Defense)
Paine Field, Washington, 10 February 1960-1 April 1961
Interceptor Squadrons
  • 5th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, 1 December 1987-1 July 1988
Radar Squadrons
  • 635th Radar Squadron (SAGE)
Fort Lawton AFS, Washington, 11 June 1960-1 January 1963
  • 636th Radar Squadron (SAGE)
Condon AFS, Oregon, 1 June 1963-1 April 1966
  • 637th Radar Squadron (SAGE)
Othello AFS, Washington, 1 September 1963-1 April 1966
  • 757th Radar Squadron (SAGE)
Blaine AFS, Washington, 1 March 1960-1 April 1966
  • 758th Radar Squadron (SAGE)
Makah AFS, Washington, 1 March 1960-1 April 1966
  • 759th Radar Squadron (SAGE)
Naselle AFS, Washington, 1 March 1960-1 April 1966
  • 822d Radar Squadron (SAGE)
Cottonwood AFS, Idaho, 1 June 1963-25 June 1965
  • 917th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron
Puntzi Mountain AS, British Columbia, 1 March 1960-1 February 1963
  • 918th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron
Baldy Hughes AS, British Columbia, 1 March 1960-1 March 1963

See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  • A Handbook of Aerospace Defense Organization 1946 - 1980, by Lloyd H. Cornett and Mildred W. Johnson, Office of History, Aerospace Defense Center, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado
  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947–1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.
  • Radomes.org Seattle Air Defense Sector

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