CHAPTER THREE: Peak Deployment-The
The decade of the l960s was one of peaks and valleys
for the United States. The confident nation that began the decade
with its eyes on a bright and seemingly unlimited future reached
the end of the I 960s in disillusionment and disarray, its unity,
institution and sense of moral certainty disrupted by its most
unpopular and divisive foreign war. This negative transformation
had a significant impact on the military as a whole and, especially,
the future of ARADCOM.
The Soviet Union continued to build its strategic
might to new heights. Khrushchev's desire to outpace the United
States in ballistic missiles of every variety was significantly
increased when he lost face when he was forced to back down during
the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Soviets, however, did not by any
great measure increase their strategic bomber forces, which left
the massive U.S. defenses guarding against them open to controversy
and eventually to cutbacks.
Early in the decade, the United States elected a
new president who promised a challenging future. John F. Kennedy
was soon embroiled in a direct confrontation with the Soviets
over their Cuban missile deployments. After Kennedy's assassination
in 1963, it was left to Lyndon B. Johnson to wade into the morass
of Vietnam. Despite his spectacular success in pushing a flood
of domestic social legislation through Congress, the storm of
protest over Vietnam so eroded Johnson's ability to govern that
he decided not to run for re-election in 1968. Richard Nixon then
made the critical decisions on the future of the U.S. military.
The part of the military entrusted with defending
the United States against air attack reflected the ups and downs
of the nation. By the early I 960s, NORAD achieved its most robust
capabilities with the advent of new, modern systems. The near
offshore threat of Cuba created a renewed vigilance and sense
of purpose. But the 12-year war in Vietnam that sapped the nation's
will also drained resources that, otherwise, might have gone to
strengthen the country's air defenses.
This decade saw ARADCOM achieve maximum deployment
early in the 1960s, then begin the process of downsizing. It continued
to modernize with the inactivation of its last gun units, upgrading
from NIKE AJAX to NIKE HERCULES, then finally to the Improved
NIKE HERCULES system. It added additional command and control
capabilities. Missile Master systems were used for the large area
defenses, and BIRDIE systems for the medium and smaller defenses.
ARADCOM assumed command of the missile forces deployed to Florida
for the Cuban crisis, and for the first time, brought the long-awaited
HAWK system under its control.
As Vietnam drained the country, it also drained ARADCOM.
Stateside units became the bill payers for the war in terms of
manpower and dollars. As the antiwar, antimilitary sentiments
took hold, the United States began to inactivate parts of the
air defense network.
ARADCOM saw its future in terms of still guarding
against the old bomber threat, but counted on being able to evolve
into ballistic missile defenses as the wave of the future. Therefore,
NIKE ZEUS became the follow-on to NIKE HERCULES, much as HERCULES
was the follow-on to AJAX. But the deployment of antiballistic
missiles became a political football that traveled up and down
the national playing field during the 1960s.
The Soviet Union moved up from a distant second place
in the nuclear arms race at the beginning of the 1960s to a position
of parity with the United States at the decade's end. A primary
stimulus for this growth was the miscalculation on the part of
the Soviet premier who attempted to deploy ballistic missiles
to Cuba. The Soviet Union prepared to deploy medium-range ballistic
missiles to Cuba in 1962, not knowing that the United States would
severely object. That mistake led the world to the brink of war,
caused Khrushchev to eventually be ousted from power and launched
Soviet efforts to build a mammoth nuclear capability to prevent
having to deal ever again from a position of weakness. Meanwhile,
the Soviets erected barriers that restricted movement in the Eastern
Bloc of nations and assisted the communists in Vietnam. All of
these events would ultimately affect ARADCOM.
Ballistic Missile Buildup
The shift from bombers to ballistic missiles that
began in the late I 950s was reality by the 1960s. Intelligence
estimates had made still another reduction in the Soviets' operational
heavy bomber strength, and Khrushchev had strongly implied that
few, if any, future bombers would be produced. While the Eisenhower
administration had begun to reject the "missile gap,"
there seemed little doubt that the intercontinental ballistic
missile (ICBM) would become the predominant threat by the mid-1960s.
The Soviet's strategic plan further emphasized this
point. In a speech to the Supreme Soviet on January 14, 1960,
Khrushchev declared that a future war would begin with missile
attacks deep into a country's interior and that many traditional
military forces should be replaced by nuclear weapons and missiles.
In the year preceding this speech, he created the
Strategic Rocket Forces, which were considered the preeminent
service over the ground, sea, air defense and other air forces.
So the stage was set for the proliferation of nuclear-tipped ballistic
missiles to come. But the fact of the matter was that the Soviet
Union was strategically inferior to the United States. For example,
the missile deployed in the late 1950s and early 1960s, while
useful in a theater mode, had no relevance as an intercontinental
system. Furthermore, even when the first ICBM, the SS-6, was deployed,
it was clear to the Soviet leadership that it was vastly inferior
to the U.S. Minuteman. In a nutshell, Moscow was still not in
a position to meet what it perceived as the U.S. threat.
Khrushchev adopted a threefold strategy to deal with
the U.S. "threat." First, he emphasized the deployment
of large numbers of increasingly sophisticated long-range missiles,
as well as augmenting Soviet air defense. Second, the Soviet Union
began to show interest in arms control negotiations, not only
for propaganda purposes, but as a vehicle for retarding U.S. weapons
programs. Thus, despite Khrushchev's heavy use of arms control
for propaganda purposes, he signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty
of 1963. Third, Khrushchev attempted to rectify the strategic
balance over the short term by placing medium-range tactical missiles
in Cuba in the fall of 1962. His view of deterrence was based
on a secure retaliatory capability, and he probably hoped to undercut
his military critics at home by establishing a credible theater
deterrent while effective long-range systems were being developed.
The failure of the plan was one of a number of factors that led
to his ouster in 1964.
Soviet strategic doctrine was far in advance of available
technology. To put it bluntly, Moscow's strategic forces were
not up to the task assigned them, a fact that was made clear to
the Soviet leadership not only by the Cuban incident, but also
by the Berlin crisis, the sharp deterioration of relations with
China and the adoption of a flexible response strategy by NATO.
Nevertheless, the foundation for a massive buildup in strategic
weapons had been laid, but it wasn't until the Brezhnev period
that the strategic Systems called for in Soviet doctrine began
to enter Moscow's weapons inventory in substantial numbers.
Great efforts were made during this post-Cuban crisis
period to build up Soviet strategic forces. The budget for research
and development in strategic weapons was increased significantly.
Work was intensified on the development of an antiballistic missile
(ABM) system, a multiple independent re-entry vehicle (MIRV) and
newer missiles, to cite three cases. In addition, the number of
ICBM launchers was also increased. For example, in October 1966
the Soviet Union had deployed 340 ICBMs. A year later the number
had risen to 720; by 1968 it stood at 900, and by 1969 it was
New types of missiles were deployed in dispersed
and hardened silos. One of these missiles, the SS-9, was liquid
fueled, carried a 20-megaton warhead and had a range estimated
at 6,500 nautical miles.
The Soviet Navy also grew during this period. In
1968, the Soviets introduced a new class of nuclear-powered submarine
with 16 tubes and equipped it with SS-N-6 Sawfly missiles with
a range of 1,300 nautical miles for strike missions against targets
located in the United States' coastal areas.
No new intercontinental bomber was developed during
this period. The Soviet leaders continued to rely on the Bears
and Badgers that had been deployed during the 1 950s. The intermediate-range
Backfire bomber, however, was under development.
Another Soviet capability that became a factor in
the ABM debate was the deployment of the Galosh ABM system around
Moscow. U.S. ABM advocates saw the Galosh as a cogent reason for
deploying a similar U.S. ABM system. The Galosh, which consisted
of 64 missile launchers and associated radars and command and
control apparatus, was first deployed around Moscow in the mid-1960s.
US strategic intelligence anticipated that this Soviet ABM capability
was only the first step in deploying a much more robust ballistic
The Chinese "Threat"
Another communist country that caused the deployment
of a U.S. ABM system was the People's Republic of China, or Red
China, as it was known in the deep freeze of the Cold War. It
became a nuclear weapons state on October 16, 1964. The Chinese
nuclear weapons program had received some nuclear technology from
the Soviet Union before these two nations had their falling-out
in 1960. In 1967, China exploded its first fusion bomb. Consequently,
in 1967, a commitment was made to deploy the NIKE X in the SENTINEL
system to guard U.S. cities primarily from a possible small-scale
nuclear missile attack by Red China.
Another way that the two dominant communist powers
affected ARADCOM was that both the Chinese and the Soviets supplied
the United States' enemy in Vietnam. This limited-war involvement
had a major impact on resources used to carry on other Cold War
activities, like the defense of North America from attack.
To summarize, during this decade the Soviet Union
achieved a robust nuclear capability. The implications of the
massive increase in intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic
missiles opened a great debate over whether or not the United
States should deploy systems to defend against them. In addition,
the aggressive and nuclear-capable Chinese became another factor
in the ABM equation.
Turbulence and change racked the United States during
the 1960s. Besides four different presidents, two of them leaving
office through either assassination or refusal to run again for
a second term, the nation was brought to the brink of nuclear
war over Cuba, became bogged down in the quagmire of Vietnam,
and was emerged in a hot debate over the fundamentals of strategic
nuclear deterrence and defense.
Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon
During President Eisenhower's last year in office,
pilot Francis Gary Powers was shot down over the Soviet Union
while flying a U 2 spy mission. In a complex series of events
that followed, a worldwide alert of U.S. communications was ordered.
This would be a minor prelude to things to come.
President Kennedy's confrontation with the Soviets
was more open, and the alert posture of U.S. forces many times
more severe. Between his inauguration in January 1961 and his
assassination in November 1963, he led the nation in both open
and indirect confrontations with world communism: from the abortive
Bay of Pigs invasion to the Berlin Wall, plus escalation and,
finally, the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The Cuban Missile Crisis cast light on several vulnerabilities
of the U.S. air defense scheme. First, the NORAD defenses were
oriented for a likely Soviet attack over the North Pole, and the
southern flank of the United States was vulnerable. Second, since
the United States had no ABM capability to counter the theater
and intermediate-range ballistic missiles that the Soviets were
attempting to deploy to Cuba, its only defense was to prevent
deployment. The first vulnerability was corrected within days
by deploying radars, interceptors and Army air defense units to
the southern flank. On the second, President Kennedy forced Premier
Khrushchev's hand and prevented deployment.
Lyndon B. Johnson's administration struggled with
building a "Great Society" while simultaneously getting
deeply involved in an undeclared war in Vietnam. His feeling of
impotency in dealing with these and other domestic problems led
to his decision not to run for a second elected term of office.
Richard Nixon won by an overwhelming majority, in large part on
his promise to achieve "peace with honor" in Vietnam.
The ABM Debate
Another thread woven throughout the decade was the
debate over deploying defensive systems against the ever growing
ballistic missile threat overwhelmingly posed by the Soviets and
to a much lesser degree, by Red China. This debate centered on
four basic interpretations concerning the role of ABMs. The first
interpretation projected a genuine defense against the offensive
might of the Soviet Union and China. In this view the ABM system
needed to serve as an area defense (affording protection for thousands
of square miles) as well as offer terminal defense protection
(permitting a more intense coverage for a few hundred square miles).
A second interpretation had ABMs as the protectors
of America's offensive forces around U.S. land-based Minuteman
ICBMs. In the remaining two, ABMs were also viewed by different
camps as a symbol of the arms race and as an alternate avenue
of arms control and disarmament.
ABMs were a political hot potato and attracted the
attention of the antiwar and antimilitary factions later in the
decade. Robert McNamara, the secretary of defense during the Kennedy
and most of the Johnson years, became the center of controversy.
He vacillated between full deployment and no deployment, depending
on the political winds. In a speech on September 18, 1967, he
both denied the need for ABMs and talked of a "light defense"
in case the Chinese attained an intercontinental capability.
In the midst of the heated ABM debate four major
decisions were made: the McNamara decision in April 1961 to defer
production and deployment of the Army's NIKE-ZEUS system; the
McNamara decision in January 1963 to phase out NIKE-ZEUS and to
initiate research and development of a more complex and sophisticated
ABM system called NIKE X; the Johnson decision in September 1967
to deploy the SENTINEL ABM system; and the Nixon decision in March
1969 to deploy the "hard-point" ABM system known as
The role of the U.S. military carne into sharp focus
during the 1 960s. The massive buildup that took place during
the previous decade, coupled with several international crises
and especially the war in Vietnam, brought the military to the
center of national attention and controversy.
The forces of the United States were involved in
many different kinds of operations: a re-emphasis on Europe as
a result of the Berlin Wall construction; an orientation to Florida
and the Caribbean as a result of the Cuban Missile Crisis; and
the deployment of soldiers and marines to the Dominican Republic,
Lebanon and, at home, in Mississippi, Alabama, Los Angeles, Detroit,
and other centers where civil unrest erupted, first over racial
integration, then over antiwar protests. Yet all were minor in
comparison to the war in Vietnam. An undeclared war with no definite
beginning and an even muddier ending, it caused a shift in focus
away from strategic defense and saw those forces become the bill
Improved Air Defenses
Before this massive involvement in Vietnam, improvements
planned a decade earlier came to fruition within the continental
defense community. The 1960s saw the deployment of a very sophisticated
radar network called the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System
(BMEWS). The system employed huge radars, each about the size
of a football field standing on edge, and consisted of eight detection
radars providing two fans of surveillance from four fixed antennas
and a tracking radar. Its fans of radar coverage ranged out for
more than 3,000 miles in twin beams that, when penetrated by missiles,
helped establish trajectories of the ICBMs. BMEWS could give 15
to 20 minutes warning between the recognition of an attack and
the impact of ICBMs. Three BMEWS sites, in Alaska, Greenland and
England, were built.
NORAD now deployed a robust family of interceptor
aircraft. Dozens of squadrons of CF-101s, F-101s, F-102s and the
long-range supersonic F-106 flew as part of the defense. The Navy
integrated their F-4H into NORAD defenses also.
The Air Force completed the installation of SAGE,
with a total of 22 of these advanced command and control nodes
installed. These 22 nodes were tied directly to NORAD's Combat
Operations Center, which moved to Cheyenne Mountain from Ent Air
Force Base in 1966, and maintained surveillance, identified aircraft,
selected and directed intercepting aircraft, coordinated air defense
responses and disseminated air defense intelligence. SAGE systems
were located at Sector Direction Centers. The SAGE automatic data-processing
capability substituted for manual GCI systems in observing, plotting,
transmitting information and assigning targets for air defense
weapons. Since detection and command and control in NORAD grew
more robust, the Navy was able to reduce its participation in
NORAD. The Navy pulled its picket ships and blimps from the DEW
network and disestablished Navy Forces, CONAD in 1965.
As these deployments of forces and new systems ensued,
the National Command Authority struggled with the question of
whether or not to actively pursue a ballistic missile defense.
Opponents dwelled on the technology angle, claiming a BMD was
not possible, and if the technology could finally be achieved,
it could be overwhelmed by more advanced offensive systems. Meanwhile,
scientists and engineers built the NIKE ZEUS missile, which intercepted
an orbiting satellite over the Pacific in 1963.
This decade saw the Army Air Defense Command modernize,
expand to defend Florida and other locales within the United States,
continue the role of the National Guard, become a replacement
pool of sorts for Vietnam, make plans for ABM, and then begin
inactivating defenses in the late 1960s.
In June of 1960, the last Skysweeper battalion in
ARADCOM inactivated at Camp Lewis, Mich., thus completely ending
the gun era. At that snapshot in time, ARADCOM had 88 NIKE HERCULES
batteries and 174 NIKE AJAX batteries, with 52 of the latter manned
by National Guardsmen.
ARADCOM's modernization continued throughout the 1960s. The first-generation AJAX systems were phased out in favor of the HERCULES systems. The commanding general of ARADCOM, Lt. Gen. William Dick, explained the advantages of HERCULES in a speech to the Army War College in 1963:
The HERCULES surpasses the AJAX's capability in range,
velocity, low- and high-altitude performance and general lethality.
It has a range of more than 75 nautical miles, an altitude capability
of more than 100,000 feet and has destroyed targets flying faster
than 2,000 miles per hour. Carrying a nuclear warhead, NIKE HERCULES
can kill close formations of aircraft at a distance greater than
the single target kill distance of NIKE AJAX.
NORAD's emphasis is on nuclear warheads to assure
"weapon" kill as well as "carrier" kill. If
the nuclear weapon in an attacking bomber was equipped with a
"dead man" fuse, killing the weapon carrier would not
necessarily prevent explosion of the enemy weapon. We feel it
is essential not only to knock down the target but to neutralize
its nuclear payload.
Now being deployed is an improvement to the NIKE
HERCULES system. ARADCOM is moving to give the system a capability
against smaller and swifter targets, including missiles launched
by standoff bombers and submarines....
The improvement program essentially adds two new
pieces of equipment. One is the High-Powered Acquisition Radar
(HIPAR), a multi-megawatt radar that is able to detect, at long
range, targets of a small radar cross section, or reflective area.
HIPAR will also enhance HERCULES' capability in an electronic
countermeasures environment. The second piece of equipment is
the Target Ranging Radar, TRR, being added to provide range information
and frequency diversity in the target-tracking function....
As is evident from the discussion above, new developments have made profound impacts both upon NORAD doctrines and NORAD operations. Our existing anti-bomber system is rooted deeply in the austerity of the 1950s. When HERCULES units came into the inventory, they were deployed, principally because of budgetary restrictions, to sites formerly occupied by NIKE AJAX units. Assuming the role of Monday-morning quarterbacks, we can say now that this decision was not sound. While anti-
bomber defenses were measurably strengthened, the
full potential of the new HERCULES system was not harnessed. Moreover,
imperceptibly at first then with astonishing rapidity, the threat
was becoming more and more sophisticated. Today, we find our NIKE
HERCULES units sitting right on top of likely targets where, if
these areas are hit by enemy ICBMs, anti-bomber NIKE forces will
Two other Army air defense missile systems are worth
mentioning here. First, the HAWK low- to medium-altitude system
came on the scene in 1959. ARADCOM actively sought to have HAWK
battalions integrated into its NIKE defenses. They saw HAWK as
keeping the bomber threat from sneaking under its defenses, and
therefore requested that HAWK be sited in nearly every defense.
Due primarily to lack of funds for such a widespread deployment,
HAWK was never fielded as ARADCOM planners had envisioned, although
two battalions were allocated to ARADCOM as a result of the Cuban
Another missile system on the drawing boards was
the AADS-70, later called SAM-D and finally called PATRIOT. With
its phased-array radar and ability to simultaneously engage multiple
targets, it was to have a dual capability against aircraft and
ballistic missiles. This latter requirement was dropped as a result
of the ABM Treaty, then added again as a result of the Strategic
Defense Initiative of 1983. This system was seen as the successor
to the single-kill HERCULES and HAWK systems.
In addition to upgrading each HERCULES battalion's
capability to acquire, intercept and destroy, command and control
improvements were made also. This was made possible by significant
advances in radar and electronic countermeasure and electronic
counter-countermeasure technology fields.
The initial concept was to have SAGE automatically
pass information to the Army's Missile Master Systems, located
in each major area defense. Like SAGE, Missile Master was found
costly to install, operate and maintain. It also suffered from
being overly capable since it could handle 24 batteries at one
time. When defenses deployed fewer batteries because of the transition
from AJAX to HERCULES (for example, from 12 AJAX to three HERCULES
batteries in the Niagara-Buffalo defense), the maximum capabilities
of Missile Master were not required. Missile Master also experienced
a siting problem, usually in the center of a defense, close to
ground zero of an incoming ballistic missile strike.
The solution to this dilemma was found in the BIRDIE
system, which handled fewer units and was less expensive to install
and maintain. A follow-on system to Missile Master was also developed,
designated the AN[TSQ-5 I, or a long title, CONUS Air Defense
Fire Coordination System. The Florida defenses used yet another
system, called the Missile Monitor, which they inherited from
their days with a field army.
But whether the fire distribution system was a Missile
Master, one of the two versions of the BIRDIE, an AN/TSQ51 or
a Missile Monitor, all were assigned to the AADCP. This was the
command and control heart of any Army area air defense network.
An AADCP employed any one of these automatic fire distribution
systems and manual backup systems, consisting of Plexiglas tracking
boards, overhead projectors, radios and telephones.
Although none of the Army air defense battalions
that rushed to Florida in October 1962, during the Cuban Missile
Crisis, were from ARADCOM, only five months after their arrival
they were permanently assigned to the command. Much like the rush
deployment of gun battalions in 1950 during the Korean War, these
HAWK and HERCULES battalions occupied unprepared positions. "Hurricanes
and humidity, coral and glade, snakes and mosquitoes: all of these...
posed special problems for the isolated defenders of Homestead-Miami
and Key West."
The 6-65 HAWK Battalion, which defended Key West,
was less than 100 miles from Cuba. The 8-15 HAWK and 2-52 HERCULES
Battalions ringed the Homestead-Miami area. All were elements
of the 13th Group. These two HAWK battalions presented
unique challenges to ARADCOM, "in mission assignment, as
well as in operational, logistical and personnel matters - hitherto
foreign to a command armed solely with the NIKE HERCULES system."
As ARADCOM had done the previous decade, it took
on the task of organizing makeshift defenses and integrating them
into the fold. It analyzed the threat, focused great emphasis
on command and control (because of the short distance from Cuba
to the United States), constructed permanent housing to get the
soldiers out of tents and weathered several severe hurricanes.
It also had to conduct tough training and maintenance of missile
systems assaulted by salt-laden and often high-intensity winds
while maintaining morale. But ARADCOM's previous 13 years of experience
on fixed Sites allowed its programs, this time, to proceed at
a rapid pace.
By 1960, ARADCOM defended 23 vital areas consisting
of about 250 communities in 30 states of the union. Defenses varied
in size, depending on the nature and importance of the areas to
be protected. Some defenses had as few as two batteries while
others had more than 20 batteries. Some 35,000 officers and enlisted
men manned these batteries.
ARADCOM continued to expand its coverage of the United
States in the early 1960s. In addition to the Florida defenses,
the 64th Group, with its five battalions, was activated
in Camp Wolter, Texas. Three battalions were located in Texas
metropolitan centers, including the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex,
Austin and Abilene. The other two battalions were located at Shreveport,
La., and Roswell, NM. Also, the first above-ground NIKE HERCULES
site became operational at Byron, Ga., near Robins Air Force Base.
At its peak in 1963, ARADCOM deployed a total of 134 NIKE HERCULES
The National Guard
National Guard units continued to play a key role
in operating the systems of ARADCOM. The 1966 version of the Air
Defense School's Digest summarized the role of the Army National
Guard in ARADCOM in these words: "The Department of the Army
authorized the Army National Guard to convert 32 AAA battalions,
then equipped with conventional guns, to NIKE AJAX missile battalions
in 1957. The 4th Missile Battalion NIKE AJAX), 251st
Artillery, California Army National Guard, was the first National
Guard surface-to-air guided missile battalion integrated into
the active continental United States defense mission. This unit
assumed around-the-clock operations at four battery sites in the
Los Angeles area on 14 September 1958. At the completion of the
phased training program, the Army National Guard was furnishing
76 batteries in 14 states, defending 15 areas. These were the
first U.S. Reserve forces with modern surface-to-air missiles."
In May 1962, the first of the Army National Guard
NIKE AJAX units were phased out and started retraining to operate
and maintain the second-generation NIKE missile, the nuclear-capable
NIKE HERCULES. Four units of the Maryland National Guard were
selected for the initial conversion to NIKE HERCULES, becoming
operational on December 11, 1962.
The last four NIKE AJAX sites manned by the National
Guard were phased out in May 1964 at Norfolk, Va. The final stages
of the NIKE HERCULES conversion program were completed in 1965
with 48 Army National Guard batteries, representing 16 states
and defending 18 areas, participating in the on-site program.
Guardsmen assumed full operational responsibility
for manning the sites around the clock. Full-time personnel manned
the equipment 24 hours a day, keeping it in constant readiness.
This cadre of full-time specialists was capable of initiating
effective fire on the enemy without additional personnel. Remaining
members of the units were citizens of the community who kept up
their military skills by attending regular drills with their units.
If an air attack occurred, they were to report immediately to
their assigned units.
These Army National Guard units, although an integral
part of the air defense system when they became operational in
wartime, retained their identity as state units under the command
of the governors of their respective states in peacetime. ARADCOM
was assigned responsibility for training supervision and support
of these units. In event of an emergency requiring use of these
units in a combat role, operational command would be exercised
Replacements for Vietnam
Unlike most other Western nations, the U.S. Army
did not assign a new replacement to a unit and then leave him
there for his career. The Army reassigned soldiers to different
units at least every three years. The war in Vietnam, and the
policy of rotating individuals in and out every year, disrupted
the Army's three-year norm.
ARADCOM became a replacement pool of sorts, having
to ante up its fair share of personnel resources. Some of the
soldiers in NIKE units did not have NIKE-specific military occupations.
Besides missilemen, there were truck drivers, cooks, mechanics,
clerks, supply men, etc., who, naturally, were needed and rotated
Signal Corps personnel were particularly hard hit.
They manned communications centers that were never adequately
staffed even before the war. They often worked seven days a week
and pulled double shifts. Vietnam only added to their disruption.
A vast majority opted not to reenlist.
The war also affected the unit leadership. Many of
the company and field grade officers who were assigned to Vietnam
served not in their air defense field but, usually, as advisors
to the South Vietnamese Army. Consequently, junior officers back
in ARADCOM got an opportunity to command units and hold down staff
positions. Before long, many right sleeves, the authorized location
for a combat patch, were adorned with the insignia of MACV - the
Military Assistance Command, Vietnam - and other combat commands.
Volumes have been written on antiballistic missiles.
And although ARADCOM officially inactivated before the United
States' ABM system was fully operational, the ARADCOM staff played
a vital role in developing plans for fielding the system they
Much like the NIKE Systems that preceded it, the
ABM system evolved through many stages. The same Bell Labs that
produced NIKE AJAX and NIKE HERCULES spearheaded the ABM effort,
although many more subcontractors were involved.
America's ABM system was the result of a research
and development effort started in 1956. It began with the Army's
NIKE ZEUS system, a concept very similar to the other NIKE systems.
ZEUS had radars to acquire and track the target and also a radar
to track the intercepting missile, as well as a computer. Another
radar not found in other NIKE systems was a discrimination radar
used to determine which objects being tracked were threatening,
because of decoys being mixed with incoming warheads. However,
this system suffered from the same problem as other NIKE systems
and the HAWK system: it could track and intercept only one target
at a time.
The system demonstrated its ability to intercept
single objects successfully with its first live intercept at Kwajalein
in July 1962.
ZEUS was severely limited by several factors that
made its operational deployment impractical. Decoys, chaff, balloons
and other means of confusing such an elementary system were conceived
or developed. It was limited by its low traffic handling capability.
Exoatmospheric discrimination of the incoming objects was impossible
and atmospheric discrimination resulted in commitment altitudes
that were too low for practical use.
The development and introduction of phased array
radars and a high acceleration SPRINT interceptor went far to
overcome the NIKE ZEUS system deficiencies. The new radars, using
electronic beam steering, relieved almost completely the traffic
handling problem of the old radars. The SPRINT, because of its
very high acceleration, could now withhold fire until the incoming
objects entered the atmosphere. This made possible the use of
atmospheric filtering for discrimination of lightweight objects
such as chaff, balloons and tank fragments.
These advantages were so desirable that, in January
1961, the old ZEUS was canceled and a new development, NIKE X,
The NIKE X system had two phased array radars, the
very large Multifunction Array Radar (MAR) for long-range detection,
acquisition and discrimination, and the short-range Missile Site
Radar (MSR) for guiding the SPRINT and ZEUS interceptors (the
ZEUS interceptor was the only carryover from the NIKE ZEUS).
Defense technology continued to advance in 1964 and
1965. One newly evolved concept used a large nuclear warhead for
out-of-atmosphere kills at long ranges (where its effect on the
ground would be negligible). To take advantage of this characteristic,
a new long-range interceptor was required.
To support this long-range missile a long-range surveillance
and tracking radar was introduced, much cheaper than the MAR.
The new radar later became known as the Perimeter Acquisition
Radar (PAR). It was determined that the PAR and MSR radars and
the SPARTAN and SPRINT interceptors could be assembled in many
combinations and their deployments could be tailored to meet various
threats. Also, it became apparent that the addition of the new
interceptor (SPARTAN) with its large warhead permitted, for the
first time, a 'thin" defense of the entire United States
against small threats.
At the request of the Secretary of Defense (McNamara),
the U.S. Army worked up a deployment plan aimed specifically at
the supposed Chinese threat. It was believed then (1967), based
on the Chinese nuclear test program, that China could have a few
operational ICBMs in the early 1970s.
This deployment plan was presented in July 1967. It consisted of several PARs across the northern boundary of the United States and Alaska to perform the long-range detection and acquisition function; MSRs and SPARTAN batteries in the continental United States and Alaska, and one MSR and SPRINT battery in Hawaii. The deployment required several hundred SPARTANs for overall defense and a lesser number of SPRINTs to defend the PARs.
The entire country was thus given en area defense
against a first-generation threat. Deployment of some of the complement
of MSRs in Minuteman fields provided an option to give some of
the Minuteman forces a high quality terminal defense by installing
SPRINTs in these fields later.
The investment costs (excluding research and development
and tactical operation and maintenance) were estimated to be in
the vicinity of $5 billion. In September 1967, McNamara announced
a decision to go ahead on this deployment. It was subsequently
The SENTINEL proposal was widely criticized, and after the presidential election the incoming administration Nixon's set up a review of the whole defense concept. The 1976 version of Jane's Weapon Systems continues the history of ABM:
SAFEGUARD is the name that was given to the antiballistic
missile system proposed by the Nixon administration as a replacement
for the five-billion-dollar SENTINEL program.... The SAFEGUARD
proposal involved the deployment of up to twelve sites, of long-range
and short-range ABM missiles to provide a limited defense in depth
against incoming ballistic or fractional-orbital bombardment missiles.
Whereas the original SENTINEL proposals were for
a comprehensive defense system giving substantial protection both
to the civilian population and to the deterrent forces, SAFEGUARD
had more limited aims. Emphasis was placed on the protection of
the Minuteman sites and only light overall protection of the population
would have been provided even when all sites had been completed.
In making these proposals the US defense authorities
were anxious to avoid giving the impression - especially to the
Soviet Union authorities- that they were seeking to alter the
strategic balance. By proposing only limited protection for the
major population centers - adequate perhaps to deal with a minor
or accidental attack but totally inadequate to defeat a major
attack - they hoped to make it clear that they were seeking only
to protect their deterrent forces. Many experts at that time took
the view that the development and deployment of ABM Systems would
have a destabilizing effect on the relationship between the United
States and Soviet Union. In August 1969 the U.S. Senate approved,
by only one vote, the Phase I deployment of the system, thereby
authorizing the commencement of construction work on two sites
at Malmstrom AFB, Montana, and Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota.
So an ABM system for defense of the continental United
States was ready for deployment. ARADCOM, over the years, carried
the ABM fight for the Army. Since its commanding general was the
senior air defense officer in the Army, he had considerable clout
within the bureaucracy. An example was Lt. Gen. S. R. Mickelsen
who, in 1955, urged DA to make the ABM weapon a "firm Army
requirement" and assure its development at an optimum rate.
His position was not abandoned by his five successors (to 1966).
Subsequently, ARADCOM steadily increased the command's participation
in ABM development. The quest continued despite periods of intra-service
and interservice rivalry, national controversy and sheer frustration.
Although the command's inherent interest in the ABM
spanned the distance from drawing board to deployment, this interest
did not become a specific area of staff jurisdiction until the
establishment on May 31, 1957, of the Plans and Requirements Section
at ARADCOM headquarters. Enjoying G-staff status, the activity
was redesignated Combat Developments Section before being integrated
into the G-3 staff structure.
ARADCOM formed the NIKE-ZEUS Task Management Group
in 1960, consisting of members from the command's Signal, Ordnance,
Chemical and Engineer sections. The command's Director of Combat
Developments also organized the NIKE ZEUS Test Unit USARADCOM
at the Army Air Defense Center, Fort Bliss, Texas. Both the Task
Management Group and the Test Unit continued operations well into
the late 1960s.
DA assigned nine specific tasks for ARADCOM related to ABM. Six of the most critical tasks were to
- formulate and document doctrine,
- monitor research and development,
- provide guidance regarding user objectives and requirements,
- execute the tactical site selection program,
- formulate on-site training plans and
- prepare and coordinate logistic support plans.
Obviously, ARADCOM leaders were deeply involved in
fielding the ABM system, not standing on the sidelines and waiting
for some research and development organization to hand it to them.
This would have made for a smooth transition and integration if
an ABM system had been fielded.
The decade closed with ARADCOM showing signs of decline. Units had inactivated at the SAC bases and in several city defenses. ARADCOM's command historian summarized the reductions in these words:
In 1963, ARADCOM had reached its peak deployed strength
of 134 NIKE HERCULES batteries and eight HAWK batteries on site
in the defense of the population centers and SAC bomber bases
in CONUS and Greenland. After withdrawal of the Greenland air
defense in 1965 and the inactivation of SAC base defenses in 1966,
the total of NIKE HERCULES batteries had dropped to 112. By the
end of 1968, two more cuts had reduced even this total to eighty-seven,
and a further reduction to eighty-two batteries for 1969. When
the latter cut was completed, NIKE HERCULES would stand at only
61 per cent of the 1963-64 figure.
Just one year previously, the same author wrote a rationale for the cutbacks:
The conflict in the Republic of Vietnam continued,
however indirectly, to exert a major influence upon ARADCOM throughout
1968. The mounting cost of operations in Southeast Asia and the
associated threat of uncontrolled inflation in the United States
created a demand for Federal - and especially military- economy
which contributed to a partial dismantling of ARADCOM in this
year and carried a potential for disaster in the longer term.
Words frequently used to describe the '60s are "change,
confusion, disillusion." The '60s were no less for ARADCOM.
ARADCOM changed through the constant buildup and transition to
new, more modern systems. It reached its peak in firepower, leveled
off, then started tb decline. ARADCOM was confused over ABM, its
hope for the future, being hotly contested and downgraded. It
became disillusioned at having provided a deterrent for so many
years, then being reduced even while the threat continued to expand
its strategic nuclear forces to all-time highs.