tem (BMEWS) and, later, the Perimeter Acquisition Radar Characterization System (PARCS). An Air Force general officer historically has served as NORAD commander, operating from a command center inside Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Because of its experience of World War II in Europe, the Air Force expressed little faith in the ability of America's defenses to stop a determined air attack, nuclear or otherwise. The only defense was deterrence, made possible by a protected force of bombers and missiles. Any strike at the United States would result in immediate, overwhelming retaliation and a smoking, radioactive wasteland. This "countervalue" strategy targeted cities. Because accuracy was limited, especially with early model ICBMs, and thermonuclear warheads were few, the Air Force targeted large, easy-to-hit cities to inflict the greatest possible damage. A countervalue strategy was at odds with the Air Force's traditional commitment to precision bombing, but consistent with Dulles's doctrine. Reliance on it and massive retaliation created three problems for the Air Force and the DOD.
The first problem had to do with the increasing vulnerability of manned bombers to improved enemy ground defenses when airborne and, when not, to a surprise nuclear first strike. The Air Force's solution to ground defenses was the production of standoff weapons (including the Hound Dog and eventually the SRAM short-range attack missile and ALCM air-launched cruise missile) to keep bombers at a distance from their targets. "Airborne alert" helped offset the threat of a surprise first strike against the United States. Beginning in 1957, part of SAC's bomber force always remained on ready alert, its crews on standby, poised to take