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In both the original version and the remake of Red Dawn, the US — or, at least, the West coast — is invaded by contemporary communist forces (the Soviet Union in the original release, and a mostly North Korean, but also Chinese and Russian force in the remake).

In the remake especially, there's a scene where dozens of transport planes are clearly seen overflying Washington state. This made me wonder, would such an invasion tactic be remotely plausible in either the original (1984) Red Dawn or the remake?

My considerations:

  • By 1984, the US had a fairly well-developed early warning network against many types of attack on itself and its overseas assets. The States also operated Air Force bases in Japan at that point, which would likely serve as a reliable source of information about this kind of mobilization.

  • The US had also started using satellite reconnaissance at that point; primitive Corona satellites had been used as early as 1959, and had seen applications including surveillance of both the USSR and China. Its more-advanced successors were no doubt in use by 1984.

  • Currently, the US (and many of its Cold War-era allies) has a well-developed network of photographic, electronic, and radar reconnaissance and early warning satellites and over-the-horizon radars, on top of allied fleets and groups deployed in the Pacific which could surely also act as early-warning outposts.

Is there an in-universe explanation, both in the original movie as well as the remake, for how the invading forces managed to get around these measures?

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    Because a huge volley of missiles blowing every bit of the invading force out of the sky or water thousands of miles before its arrival at the mainland U.S. wouldn't have made as interesting of a movie, even if it would have been a much more realistic one. A more realistic scenario would be something like this. – reirab Oct 7 '16 at 20:16
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    @reirab that's pretty clear. That's why I'm asking for an in-universe answer. – Jules Oct 7 '16 at 20:19
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Both wikipedia articles on each version's plot refer to an alternate history (or preceding events) where America has become isolated and weakened as the reason why it is vulnerable to invasion, specifically:

The film is set in an alternate history timeline in which the United States is invaded by the Soviet Union and its Cuban and Nicaraguan allies. However, the onset of World War III is in the background and not fully elaborated... The United States has gradually become strategically isolated after several European nations (except the United Kingdom) withdraw from NATO. At the same time, the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact partners aggressively expand their sphere of influence. In addition, the Ukrainian wheat harvest fails while a Communist coup d'etat occurs in Mexico. from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Dawn

and

An introductory montage shows the fallout of the economic crisis in the European Union and a weakened NATO alliance, amid increasing co-operation between an increasingly militant North Korea and controlled Russia. The increased deployment of U.S. troops abroad (and the highlighted threat of cyberwarfare) leaves the mainland vulnerable. from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Dawn_(2012_film)

  • North Korea LOL – Shiz Z. Oct 7 '16 at 22:19
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    @ShizZ. Oh, you'll love the plot of the Homeland video games then, where someone in North Korea essentially invents what could be described as a gang-bang between Microsoft, Apple and Google, so North Korea becomes the entire worlds economic power house then invades the US. – SGR Jan 6 '17 at 11:32
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I haven't seen the remake but I recall in the original something about the troops coming over in planes disguised as commercial air carriers. I guess it may be sort of feasible for the time for large transport planes to just get in regular commercial airlanes then when over target veer off to drop paratroopers, followed closely by tactical nukes that were a lot more accurate than they were expected to be.

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