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Air defence is defined by NATO as "all measures designed to nullify or reduce the effectiveness of hostile air action." They include ground-and air-based weapon systems, associated sensor systems, command and control arrangements and passive measures (e.g. barrage balloons). It may be used to protect naval, ground, and air forces in any location. However, for most countries the main effort has tended to be 'homeland defence'. NATO refers to airborne air defence as counter-air and naval air defence as anti-aircraft warfare. Missile defence is an extension of air defence as are initiatives to adapt air defence to the task of intercepting any projectile in flight.
In some countries, such as Britain and Germany during the Second World War, the Soviet Union and NATO's Allied Command Europe, ground based air defence and air defence aircraft have been under integrated command and control. However, while overall air defence may be for homeland defence including military facilities, forces in the field, wherever they are, invariably deploy their own air defence capability if there is an air threat. A surface-based air defence capability can also be deployed offensively to deny the use of airspace to an opponent.
Until the 1950s, guns firing ballistic munitions ranging from 20 mm to 150 mm were the standard weapon; guided missiles then became dominant, except at the very shortest ranges.
The essence of air defence is to detect hostile aircraft and destroy them. The critical issue is to hit a target moving in three-dimensional space; an attack must not only match these three coordinates, but must do so at the time the target is at that position. This means that projectiles either have to be guided to hit the target, or aimed at the predicted position of the target at the time the projectile reaches it, taking into account speed and direction of both the target and the projectile.
Info are from Wikipedia.org
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