CHAPTER TWO: Activation and
Deployment - The 1950s
The Army formed its Army Antiaircraft Command (ARAACOM)
in July 1950, with a mere handful of people stationed at the Pentagon.
During the decade, the new command would experience unprecedented
growth, employ at its height nearly 45,000 soldiers with more
than 240 missile batteries throughout the nation, and advance
from antiaircraft guns to two versions of the NIKE guided missile
system. Moreover, the Army air defenses were only a part of the
overall military juggernaut that started rolling in the 5Os. A
vast air defense network that included supersonic jet fighters,
antiaircraft guns and missiles, radars of all varieties, hundreds
of information-passing nodes, and tens of thousands of soldiers,
airmen, sailors and civilians was established to counter the anticipated
Soviet bomber threat. When the Soviets realized they could not
achieve superiority or even parity with America's offensive might
represented by the SAC bomber forces, they strategically outmaneuvered
the United States by choosing, instead, to compete on the ballistic
missile playing field.
The 1950s saw the United States become increasingly
reactive to a growing Soviet threat, whether perceived or real.
With the Korean War, the bomber gap, Sputnik and Soviet development
of fusion bombs and ballistic missiles providing a sense of urgency,
America's air defenses grew from just notions into a prodigious,
integrated air defense system. U.S. military and civilian leaders
first responded to the Soviet threat by laying out a strategic
vision in a document known as National Security Council (NSC)
68, then revised and refined that vision over the years, maintaining
a decided edge in the nuclear arms race.
The U.S. military continued its competition for resources
on the national level and among the different services. As in
the '40s, the battle lines were drawn between the need for offensive
and defensive forces.
The challenge for ARAACOM, which was later to become
ARADCOM, was to protect vital areas of the nation from direct
attack by air. That mission was broken into integral components:
land acquisition and deployment around major metropolitan areas;
training tens of thousands of soldiers in the latest, most advanced
technology; and maintaining a wartime vigilance in a peacetime
The Soviet Threat
By 1950 it was clear that the Soviet Union was in
the Cold War to win. It gained increasing influence throughout
the world, in many instances by the rule of force. The North Korean
invasion of South Korea in June 1950 was yet another example of
the global expansion of communism. Many saw Korea as a prelude
to another world war, a Soviet diversion that would be followed
by their main effort, to take place in Europe. Soon after the
Korean War, tensions eased a bit upon the death of Stalin in 1953,
when the less bellicose Georgi Malenkov rose to power. Although
Malenkov believed that production of weapons of mass destruction
should be kept to a minimum, other influential Soviet politicians
seized upon the absence of Stalin, who had downplayed the value
of strategic surprise, to strongly advocate the development of
strategic strike forces. When Nikita Khrushchev seized power in
1958, the stage was set for the Soviets to enter the arms race
at full force.
The Bomber Gap
The first attention-getter occurred on Soviet Aviation
Day in July 1955, when 10 Bison jet-powered strategic bombers
flew past the reviewing stand. These same aircraft flew past six
times, creating the illusion that the Soviets possessed 60 aircraft.
This show, combined with the introduction of the smaller Badger
jet-powered bomber the year before, resulted in a deception known
as the "bomber gap." The Soviet tendency to unveil new
weapons during public events, often to the surprise of Western
observers, added to their shock value. Western analysts extrapolated
from the illusionary 60 aircraft, judging that it would take only
a short time for the Soviets to produce 600. Even with 600 planes,
the Soviets could not match the United States plane for plane,
but the mere perception that the Soviets had many planes that
could reach over the northern polar cap to America was enough
to reinforce the American arms buildup that was already underway.
Shortly thereafter, the Soviets introduced another
strategic bomber, the Bear. Soviet Long-Range Aviation (LRA) squadrons
began receiving Bear bombers in 1956 and 1957, and by the end
of the decade, some 150 Bears and well over 1,000 Badgers were
in service. Total production was approximately 300 Bears and 1,500
to 2,000 Badgers. The combined payload of the LRA Bear and Badger
force probably totaled no more than 10,000 megatons.
The Missile Gap
In 1957, the Soviets achieved a significant technological
and psychological breakthrough when they launched the world's
first artificial satellite into space. Called the Sputnik, this
satellite shocked the American public into believing their country
was scientifically second-rate. A month after the Sputnik launch,
the Soviets put a dog in orbit, and the following year, a 3,000-pound
payload, a feat the United States would not match until 1964.
Khrushchev quickly exploited these Soviet successes by emphasizing
that the era of the strategic bomber was past, that intercontinental
ballistic missiles were cheaper to maintain and that that was
where the Soviets would place their emphasis.
In the United States, the '50s started with a policy
statement that, for the first time in U.S. history, defined communism
as a threat to its form of government and recommended a national
strategy to deal with that threat. Called NSC 68, this document
was a landmark in both content and timing. It contained a proposed
outline for American defense of the free world and was printed
just several months prior to the surprise invasion of South Korea
by the communist North.
Upon the change of administrations in 1953, when
Eisenhower succeeded Truman, a follow-on to NSC 68, appropriately
called "New Look," recommended that the United States
strike a balance of forces. The Soviets were numerically stronger
in conventional forces, while the United States held a decisive
advantage in nuclear weapons and the. ability to deliver them
by B47 bombers stationed within striking distance of the Soviet
Union. The New Look recommended building U.S. conventional forces
to offset the eventual increase in Soviet nuclear forces. But
the New Look was overruled by NSC 162, which did not see the need
for more U.S. conventional forces. Secretary of State John Foster
Dulles preferred massive retaliation to prevent war, even though
the Korean War had proved that the threat of massive retaliation
did not prevent warfare. Just three years later, this strategic
vision was once again revisited. The result was the "New"
New Look. Because of the Soviets' success in developing the H-bomb
(as the United States had some years earlier) and their unveiling
of several new intercontinental bombers, a "balance of terror"
existed between both sides. A global war would be disastrous to
The 1950s dawned with the U.S. military fighting
two wars at once: a hot one in Korea and a cold one with the Soviet
Union. The military saw both as real threats and allocated its
finite resources accordingly. Within the military, other wars
were being fought over resources. For example, an internal Air
Force squabble between offensive and defensive forces reached
new heights. SAC forcefully argued that the best defense was a
good offense, while the Air Defense Command countered that the
enemy could bomb anywhere in the United States at any time.
Since the Air Force was responsible for the overall
defense of the United States from air attack, the Air Defense
Command looked to the other services to contribute as well. The
Navy was to assist in the early warning network and the research
and development of new missiles and radars. The Army would play
a major role in providing guns and surface-to-air missiles, and
its units would eventually outnumber their Air Force counterpart
in numbers of fighting battalions compared to interceptor squadrons.
The Key West Conference of 1948 left a lot of room for interpretation,
and not until the chiefs of staff of the Army and the Air Force
agreed in 1950 did actual duties and responsibilities of both
services jell. Yet even finer details of inter-service cooperation
would be worked on in the '50s, especially after a poor showing
of Army gun units during joint exercises early in the decade.
Many "hostile" aircraft were not engaged because of
over-restrictive rules of engagement. Other interservice competitions
between the Army and Air Force were fought in the missile and
electronic arenas. Surface-to-surface missiles, early warning
and surveillance radars were involved in the dispute, especially
since each service had its own independent research and development
effort. Each service would emerge as victor and loser: the Air
Force won the intercontinental surface-to-surface and early warning
radar fights, but lost the shorter range missiles and surveillance
radar to the Army. The Army won the surface-to-air missile fight,
but the Air Force insisted on and finally deployed several squadrons
of its own missile, the BOMARC. The missile's name came from "BO"
for Boeing and "MARC" for Michigan Air Research Center.
The air defense concept called for a missile with a speed of Mach
2.5 and a range exceeding 400 miles that would strike an enemy
bomber as far from its target as possible. The improved BOMARC
B could be equipped with a nuclear warhead and synchronized with
the semiautomatic ground environment (SAGE) network.
The Early Warning Network
Other major elements of this integrated air defense
network were direct results of the lessons learned from Pearl
Harbor. The United States was concerned about the effectiveness
of early warning and the ability to react in a timely manner.
Much study and investment was therefore devoted to this problem.
Early detection of enemy aircraft was difficult due to the size
of the United States, the lack of enough radars, and the short
range of radars in those early years. The Ground Observer Corps
was called upon to fill the gaps and supplement the radar early
warning coverage. Once enemy penetrators were detected, Ground
Observer Corps observers would pass information to control centers
responsible for alerting fighter interceptors and the antiaircraft
crews. Along with the Ground Observer Corps was a medium-range
radar network known as LASHUP. It consisted of 44 World War II-vintage
radars located near major metropolitan areas of the country. In
the early 1950s, other early warning radar networks were on the
drawing boards. The first to be activated was the Pine Tree Line
in 1954. It consisted of a series of more than 30 radars located
roughly along the U.S.-Canadian border and dedicated solely to
early warning. In 1957, the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line,
a series of 58 radars, became operational along the arctic circle
from Greenland to Alaska. The final land-based line of radars,
known as the Mid-Canada Line, was activated in 1958. This line
extended from Newfoundland across Canada along approximately the
54th parallel, and then ran north along the Alaska
highway before connecting with the Alaska radar system.
These three series of radar lines were oriented to
detect an attack across the polar cap, the most direct route from
the Soviet Union. To supplement defense of the flanks of the continent,
the Navy provided radar picket ships and flew early warning airplanes
and blimps, while the Air Force flew sentry aircraft and also
emplaced four radar towers, called Texas Towers, out in the Atlantic.
ARAACOM, with its 157 radars (AN/TPS-1s) located
throughout the United States, also contributed during this era
to the early warning network. These radars were sited and used
from whatever advantageous terrain the Army could obtain, often
many miles from the defended area. These sites were on property
owned by federal, state or city governments, or on private land
that was borrowed, rented or leased.
When the Army lost the early warning radar battle
to the Air Force, it was forced to give up its advantageous terrain
locations and 10 to 15 minutes of track data time. The Army pulled
its radars back into or near the vicinity of the defended area.
To tie this multi-layered early warning capability
to its own fighter squadrons and the Army's Air Defense Command,
the Air Force, in 1958, deployed a command and control apparatus
called the SAGE. SAGE was the outgrowth of the manual Ground Control
Intercept (GCI) systems used during World War II, which directed
intercepting aircraft to enemy penetrators. SAGE embodied the
latest innovations in computer technology. It linked many parts
of the early warning network and the interceptor network together,
transferring data automatically rather than requiring voice commands.
The Air Force even had SAGE remotely fire its pilot-less interceptor,
One serious flaw in automated command and control
was that newly developed systems were not compatible with other
systems. The Air Force's SAGE system could not pass data digitally
to the Army's Missile Master system because each processed data
at different rates. Further engineering was necessary to produce
a digital data converter.
Continental air defense planners envisioned that the air battle over the United States would be fought by both Air
Force and Army elements. The first step was early
warning. Ground-, sea- and air-based radars would see blips on
their radar screens, warning them of attack. These sentries would
radio or telephone this information to control centers, which
in turn would relay the warning down to interceptor squadrons
and antiaircraft defenses. The fighter interceptors would engage
the penetrators as far from their intended targets as possible.
Those enemy bombers that got through would be engaged by antiaircraft
batteries that were deployed around likely, high-value targets.
War in Korea
The Korean War provided the impetus that got the
air defense program rolling on many levels and in many areas.
The fielding of AAA forces, interceptor squadrons and supporting
elements shifted into high gear. The Communist menace that gripped
a large part of the Northern Hemisphere now confronted the United
States in North Korea It was no secret that the North Koreans
were being supplied by the Soviets and the communist Chinese.
When the Chinese entered the war, direct confrontation
between superpowers ensued. America now girded itself for a possible
attack on its homeland.
Just a few days after the North Korean invasion of
the South, the United States air defenses, consisting mostly of
fighter interceptors, commenced around-the-clock operations. ARAACOM
was formed within a week. National Guard forces, organized in
the late '40s, were called upon to fill in for active Air Force
and Army units that deployed both to Korea and to Germany.
Shortly after the outbreak of the war, the Air Defense
Identification Zone (ADIZ) was established. President Truman authorized
the engagement of unidentified aircraft not positively identified
as friendly. Airlines and private pilots began to file flight
plans with a sense of purpose.
In summary, the U.S. military grew during this decade
due to a national strategy for the Cold War and the realities
of the hot war in Korea. The Army, Air Force and Navy eventually
cooperated in the air defense of the continent and built a massive
system to detect, identify, attack and destroy the Soviet strategic
ARAACOM and ARADCOM
Even before ARAACOM was born in 1950, batteries of
120mm guns had deployed to protect the plutonium production plant
at Hanford, Washington. In March, the first battery of the 518th
AAA Battalion arrived in Hanford, and by May, the entire unit
was in place. That same month, an ad hoc interservice committee
recommended that 60 critical areas be defended by antiaircraft
artillery. The list was cut to 23, and plans called for them to
be defended by 66 AAA battalions. Concurrently, a Department of
the Army (DA) study concluded that a separate AAA command structure
was necessary to control this deployment (at the time, each of
the six armies based in the continental United States controlled
its organic AAA assets).
Several months later North Korea invaded South Korea.
The Army acted quickly to adopt an AAA command and control structure
as envisioned by the Army staff study. In July, Maj. Gen. Willard
W. Irvine, who at the time was the Army's liaison to ConAC, assumed
command of ARAACOM. The Secretary of the Army gave him the mission
to continue to support the commanding general, ConAC, and when
directed by the JCS or if the United States was attacked, to assume
command of the AAA units allocated to air defense of the continental
Irvine and his small staff initially rendered support
of ConAC from the Pentagon. Not until November did they move to
be near their supported agency at Mitchel Air Force Base, NY.
They were collocated there for only a few months, then moved in
January 1951 to their final home in Colorado Springs, Cob. Although
the ARAACOM staff numbered approximately 20 bodies, there was
not enough room for them at Ent Air Force Base, the new home of
the Air Defense Command. The ARAACOM staff moved into the basement
of the Antlers Hotel, where they remained for several years before
moving to Ent.
Before the initial move from the Pentagon to New
York, two significant actions had taken place. The first one,
in August 1950, saw the Army and Air Force finally agree on how
AAA forces would be controlled when defending the United States.
Both of the services' chiefs of staff signed an agreement that
outlined each service's responsibilities. The Collins-Vandenberg
Agreement provided for joint decision-making at departmental level
on targets to be defended by AAA, mutual Army-Air Force agreement
on the location of defenses (except that tactical dispositions
were to be determined by AAA commanders), and Army staff representation
at each echelon of the U.S. Air Force command structure charged
with air defense. The agreement assigned operational control of
AAA to U.S. Air Force air defense division commanders "insofar
as engagement and disengagement of fire is concerned."
Irvine formed two major subordinate headquarters
to be collocated with the Air Force's air divisions at Stewart
Air Force Base, NY, and Hamilton Air Force Base, California. Called
the Eastern and Western Army Antiaircraft Commands, they started
off smaller than their parent organization, initially having only
two persons assigned.
ARADCOM's mission was to train and deploy antiaircraft
forces in defense of critical areas of the country. The listing
of critical areas would be massaged and changed over the years,
but the initial list included industrial centers, the national
capital region, SAC bases, Atomic Energy Commission sites, and
other key areas such as the narrows and locks at Sault Sainte
Marie, naval bases at Norfolk and Philadelphia, and the electric
power production facilities at Niagara Falls.
There were many more assets to be defended than there were forces to defend them. Even after the initial listing of 60
areas to defend was scrubbed to 23, the Army of 1950
had only 15 usable AAA battalions on active duty. The Army would
expand that number to 45 battalions by the end of 1951, due in
large part to the addition of National Guard battalions federalized
for the Korean War. Although these antiaircraft battalions were
available, the vast majority were not deployed around the assets
they were to defend. Some units had to travel hundreds of miles
to the assets they were to protect. Not until land could be acquired,
facilities built and troops deployed would these critical assets
be protected from a surprise attack.
Several sites enjoyed this type of permanent protection
in 1951, notably the Hanford Atomic Energy plant in Washington
and the Sault Sainte Marie locks in Michigan. In 1952, dozens
of 90mm and 120mm gun batteries, and several automatic weapons
(AW) batteries, deployed in protection of Washington, Baltimore,
Norfolk, Chicago, Detroit, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh,
Boston, Niagara Falls, San Francisco, Limestone Air Force Base
in Maine, and Fairchild, Travis, Castle and March Air Force Bases
in California. In the rush to deploy these units in 1952, soldiers
moved into some areas with few or no facilities. Some units spent
that winter in tents.
Gun units typically occupied sites with the only
advance planning being a reconnaissance. Then a massive self-help
effort was required to overcome the lack of essentials. For example,
Battery D of the 18th AAA Battalion occupied a field
only 10 miles from the center of Detroit. The field lacked drainage,
so after a good rain, the vehicles of this 90mm gun battery sank
to their axles. There was no road from the site to the highway.
Soldiers slogged around in the mud. Field latrines were set in,
along with many tents for sleeping, eating and unit administration.
Showers were only available at the local YMCA or school gymnasiums.
One hundred soldiers lived permanently in the field just outside
Detroit, working in a quagmire. This was a typical site deployment
in the early 1950s.
Little if any sympathy was forthcoming from World
War II leaders still on active duty. Gen. Maxwell Taylor remarked
that it was about time the Coast Artillery got a taste of the
field life. Soldiers took on the non-mission related tasks of
site improvements, if for no other reason than to defeat boredom
and to improve morale. They dug drainage ditches to dry out the
sites. They built gravel roads for vehicles and gravel hardstands
to keep their guns out of the mud. They scrounged materials to
build wooden floors for their tents and erect buildings for sleeping,
dining and administration. They built semi-permanent buildings,
called "James Ways," when the local labor unions didn't
object. Some units, loaded with pride of their own handiwork,
put whitewashed picket fences around the sites to beautify them.
Guns and Gun Directors
ARAACOM soldiers operated a mixture of old and new
gun systems. The old part was the century-old rifled cannon technology
that hurled projectiles at the enemy, and the new was a radar-controlled,
computerized, integrated fire control system that pointed the
ARAACOM had three types of AAA battalions: 90mm,
l20mm and AW. The most numerous were the very accurate, high-velocity
90s. With an altitude capability of 30,000 feet and a range of
14 miles, the 90mm gun was a proven performer that had scored
numerous kills during the Second World War, especially when it
was linked to a fire control computer and fitted with VT proximity
fuses. One 90mm gun could put 20 to 25 rounds in the air every
minute, so a complete battery of four guns firing at an aircraft
could put a lot of steel on target.
The M-9 and M-10 gun director systems, produced during
World War II, were initially fielded with most ARAACOM units,
until the more modern M-33 system could be mass produced. The
M-9 and M-10 consisted of an analog computer and a two-seat directing
apparatus, called the tracker head, in which two soldiers sat
and tracked the target. Information on azimuth, elevation and
range of the target was automatically sent to the computer by
the tracker head and the SCR-584 tracking radar. The computer
then calculated the vertical angle and horizontal direction the
guns should point to hit the target. It also calculated the fuse
setting for the shell to burst near the target, when using other
than VT fuses. This information was transferred electronically
to the guns, which fired as quickly as they could be loaded. During
World War II, this system was so successful that in August 1944,
AAA gunners shot down 89 of 91 German V-I missiles.
The next generation of gun directors was the M-33.
Rather than just two tracker operators plus the SCR-584 crew,
the M-33 crew consisted of five soldiers who worked in a trailer.
Within their trailer, they received a video display from one of
their two radars, the acquisition radar. This radar gave them
the general locations of aircraft that flew within approximately
75 miles of their site. They were also linked by telephone to
their battalion antiaircraft operations center (AAOC), which provided
them warning of attack. Once warned, the tactical control officer,
a member of the five-man crew, assigned the target to a radar
operator who aimed the second radar, a tracking radar, at the
target. When he found the target, he had the radar "lock
on" to it electronically, and the radar began tracking the
target automatically, sending range, bearing and deviation data
to the computer. Once the target was in range and determined to
be hostile, the four guns of the battery began firing on it.
Another technological advancement made during World
War II that enhanced the killing power of AAA batteries was the
VT proximity fuse. It caused the shell to detonate, not at a prescribed
time from firing like conventional fuses that needed a clock device,
but when it neared an object such as an airplane or a missile.
The secret program used a small radio and receiver, powered by
a battery in the fuse. When the radio's signals bounced off an
airplane or missile, its receivers triggered a detonation. This
was an astounding development at the time and a great leap in
technology. This technology tremendously increased the target
hit ratio of AAA gun batteries.
These devices enhanced the capabilities of both the
90mm gun and the longer range l20mm gun. Both weapons were deployed
in massive numbers throughout the United States in the 1950s.
Several AW battalions of various weapons and calibers were deployed
Peak deployment of the 90mm gun occurred in 1953,
when 42 battalions were on line. With each battalion having four
batteries, and each battery having four guns, the result was 672
guns pointing skyward to protect the United States. The gun crew
consisted of eight or nine men and included a section chief, loader,
gunner, azimuth pointer, elevation pointer and a three- or four-man
ammo section. The crew both operated and maintained the weapon,
which could fire its 24-pound projectile 30,000 feet into the
The year 1953 was also the peak year for the number
of l20mm battalions. Fourteen were deployed, for a total of 224
guns. The 120mm gun was a trailer-type, mobile weapon weighing
about 31 tons with a 13-man crew. Its maximum vertical range was
about 58,000 feet. Under good conditions a 120mm gun could deliver
20 seconds of effective fire on a conventional airplane flying
at an altitude of 40,000 feet. The rate of fire was from 10 to
15 rounds per minute, depending on three principal factors: state
of training of the gun crews, whether or not mechanical time fuzes
were being used and the magnitude of the fuze being set. The projectile
weighed 50 pounds.
ARAACOM AW battalions defended linear targets, like
locks and airfields, from air attack. A new weapon system was
developed and fielded in the early 1950s to replace their 40mm
guns and .50-caliber machine guns. Called the Skysweeper, it was
the first weapon to emerge in the atomic age with radar, computer
and gun on one carriage, a fully integrated gun and fire-control
system. With its 75mm gun, the Skysweeper could find and track
approaching aircraft as far away as 15 miles and destroy air targets
as far away as four miles. Its automatic loading and firing capability
allowed it to fire 45 rounds a minute. Peak deployment for Skysweeper
battalions was achieved in the mid-1950s when eight battalions
As more and more NIKE missile systems were deployed,
ARAACOM slashed the number of AAA guns in the command in the last
half of 1957. By the end of the year only three 75mm Skysweeper
battalions remained, one at Sault Sainte Marie and two at Savannah
River, plus one 90mm and two Skysweeper battalions at Thule, Greenland.
Description of the Command
In April 1951, ARAACOM was transformed from a planning
headquarters to an active command with combat units. A total of
42 units were initially assigned. Of these, 12 were National Guard
units federalized for the Korean War. Of all these units, only
a few were in firing positions: several gun battalions at Hanford
and an AW battalion protecting the locks at Sault Sainte Marie.
The remainder of the units were at Army posts at varying distances
from the installations they were to defend.
Of the 66 battalions required, only 23 were available,
and 12 of those would likely be inactivated once the Korean War
ended. So ARAACOM's task was twofold: first, provide sufficient
battalions to replace the National Guard, and second, arrange
units geographically so that they could best be utilized for defense.
To solve the sufficiency problem, DA was busily activating
battalions and associated headquarters to control them. In the
18 months following ARAACOM's assumption of command of all required
AAA forces, 42 additional battalions of various types were activated.
Even with all of these battalions, locating them
away from the areas they were to defend rendered them useless
in the event of a surprise attack. Irvine pleaded his case to
the Army staff and argued that the Army component of continental
air defense must be a force in being, operationally ready to engage
the initial --and likely the most critical-- attack. He wanted
all of his units to be in position to engage the enemy, around
and near the assets they were to defend so the guns, and later
the missiles, could fire without further movement.
As of April 1951, the plan had some units in Michigan
set to defend critical assets in California, so many adjustments
and movements were necessary to meet Irvine's recommendations,
including building permanent sites for gun positions. In June
1951, the ARAACOM staff estimated Irvine's plan would cost $71.4
million. Since only roughly a third of that amount was available,
an interim solution was reached. The "six-hour program"
and the 25-percent on-site rotation plan were the initial steps
that transformed ARAACOM from a nominal force to a force actually
capable of carrying out its mission. The six-hour program required
each unit to be located within six hours of its tactical site.
The 25-percent on-site rotation plan called for one battery of
the four in each battalion to occupy its battle position around
Irvine's goal was a near-reality by September 1952,
when 200 of ARAACOM's 220 batteries were stationed at their firing
positions. Land acquisition and site construction became a part
of doing business in ARAACOM. Many communities that had not experienced
a permanent military presence got their opportunity with ARAACOM,
and many more would follow with the deployment of NIKE missiles.
ARAACOM's major subgroupings in 1950 were the East and West Army
AA Commands. In 1951 the Central Army AA Command was established
with headquarters in Kansas City, Mo. However, the preponderance
of forces were split between East and West. East ARAACOM had 10
major area defenses. JCS directed protection of two of them, the
Washington, DC, defense and the Sault Sainte Marie defense. ARAACOM
deployed six battalions of guns on a radius of 8,000 yards centered
on the Washington Monument. Their planning was based on the assumption
that enemy bombers would attack from 30,000 feet at a speed of
300 knots with either conventional or nuclear bombs. Sault Sainte
Marie was considered a linear rather than an area target and,
therefore, likely to be attacked with low-level bombing and strafing
runs, so an AW battalion consisting of 40mm and quad-5O calibers
was deployed along the south side of the locks. This sole battalion
was to be supplemented with National Guard and Canadian battalions
in the event of a national emergency.
Like East ARAACOM, the West was commanded by a one-star
general. Although he was tasked with eight area defenses, the
JCS had great concern for the protection of the plutonium production
plant at Hanford. Four 120mm battalions were permanently deployed,
and they were to be supplemented by two 90mm battalions from the
National Guard in case of a national emergency.
ARAACOM was no exception to the rule that problems
occur when organizations expand. Irvine's 1951 command report
listed six major problems. There was a serious shortage of certain
items of equipment and a critical shortage of certain specialists,
especially radar repairmen. There were few firing ranges and insufficient
funds to put units on permanent sites. No tactical communications
linked ARAACOM headquarters through field commands to defended
areas, and finally, operational procedures were lacking within
ARAACOM and between ARAACOM and the Air Defense Command.
While many of these problems could be solved within
the Army, perhaps the thorniest issue, and the one that would
take the longest to solve, was the last. Now that gun battalions
were being deployed in defensive positions, the Air Force feared
that, during an actual air battle or an inadvertent civilian flight
over these defended areas, engagement would result in loss of
friendly air-craft and pilots, especially passengers in the case
of an airliner gone astray. A series of agreements between the
two services resulted in rules of engagement, alert statuses and
conditions of readiness; however, the issue of releasing units
to fire at hostile aircraft was never adequately addressed. Consequently,
in July 1952, during an integrated air defense exercise called
SIGNPOST, ARAACOM successfully engaged only five of 25 air strikes
at areas they were to defend. Commanders held their fire due to
a "guns tight" condition imposed by their local Air
Force air defense division commander. This meant AAA units could
fire only at aircraft positively identified as hostile or observed
committing a hostile act. With aircraft flying at altitudes of
30,000 feet, visual identification could not be made, and electronic
identification was not effectively used, so identification was
out of the question. By the time the enemy penetrators had committed
a hostile act, in this case dropping imaginary bombs, AAA was
not likely to engage. In the event of a real attack, most AAA
would turn into weapons of revenge, if they survived the bombing,
since the enemy would have already accomplished their mission.
This problem was never solved to the satisfaction of Army air
Following the cessation of major hostilities in Korea
in 1953, National Guard battalions that had been federalized for
the war were quickly inactivated. Regular Army battalions replaced
them. But the role of the National Guard in the scheme of ARAACOM
was far from over. The Army chief of staff eventually saw the
Guard as a source of economy, both in dollars and manpower, if
they were used to man defenses. Rather than federalize every member
of these AAA outfits, a certain core of technicians and leaders
were selected and designated Special Security Forces (SSF). Each
firing battery had 15 such SSF personnel who worked full time.
The additional personnel required to round out the battery were
ordinary guardsmen who drilled one weekend a month and attended
a two-week camp once a year, a period AAA units usually spent
on a firing range.
Generally the National Guard followed behind the
Regular Army units. When a Regular Army battalion turned in guns
for missiles, the Guard assumed responsibility for the guns. Similarly,
when the Regular Army battalions progressed from NIKE AJAX to
NIKE HERCULES, the National Guard took over NIKE AJAX until it
was removed from the inventory. Finally, in the 1960s, the National
Guard manned the premier systems of the time when only NIKE HERCULES
units were left in the inventory.
The Ever-Changing Command Structure
Although the command's motto was "Vigilant and
Invincible," its motto could just as easily have been "Always
in Transition." The National Guard usually was either phasing
in or out of a new system, and Regular Army units were doing likewise.
During the gun era, the 40mm and quad-50s of the AW battalions
were replaced by the automatic 75mm Skysweepers, which acquired,
tracked and fired on aircraft from the gun's position. The older
M-9 and M-10 fire direction systems were replaced by the M-33.
ARAACOM headquarters were also in constant transition.
Periodically, boundaries were redrawn as the units and areas needing
protection expanded or contracted. This was never an easy fit
since the East, West and Central Army Antiaircraft Commands changed
to regions in 1955, and separate brigades often reported directly
Command and Control
As the command grew, more intermediate headquarters
were required. The division of the country into East, West and
Central was no longer practical. In 1955, numbering started to
replace geographic locations to designate regions. The 1st,
2nd and 5th Regions (plus the 53rd
Brigade) now covered the area once called Eastern ARAACOM. In
1956, Western ARAACOM became 6th Region, and the following
year, Central became the 4th Region.
Areas of responsibility between regions and brigades
continued to shift throughout the life of the command. At one
period, it was important to have ARAACOM regions mirror their
North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) region counterparts.
This alignment facilitated liaison, operational control and reporting
procedures between the Army and the combined command.
Each headquarters had different responsibilities.
ARAACOM was initially commanded by a major general. As the command
grew in the early 1950s, the position was upgraded to lieutenant
general, or the equivalent of an Army corps commander. Like any
corps commander, the ARAACOM commander had a general staff that
included the usual sections. This unique headquarters continued
to grow in the late 1950s to an authorized strength of 222 personnel.
The headquarters included sections for the adjutant general, aviation,
engineer, ordnance, public affairs and signal, as well as the
normal personnel and administration (G-l); intelligence and security
(G-2); operations, plans and training (G-3); and logistics and
supply (G-4). Although he worked directly for the Army chief of
staff, the ARAACOM commander was responsible to other headquarters
as well. His operational mission, providing air defense to critical
areas of the United States as part of a much larger air defense
operation, made his duties as a part of the unified command team
paramount to his direct ties to the Army staff. The ARAACOM commander
eventually became the deputy unified commander, and as such, of
the forces of NORAD if called could command all upon to do so.
The next headquarters in the chain were the sub ARAACOM,
later regional, commands. They were commanded by either major
generals, brigadier generals or colonels, depending on the location
and year. They were equivalent to division commanders, but unlike
regular division commanders, did not have a G-staff. Their primary
responsibility was to interface with their air defense force or
air division counterpart. This interface included providing liaison
to air battle control centers that passed early warning and other
control statuses to control centers at subordinate headquarters.
Brigades were commanded by either brigadier generals
or colonels. They were responsible for defending areas that usually
covered several states or major metropolitan areas, such as the
Washington-Baltimore defense. As stated earlier, depending on
the year and the location, some brigades reported directly to
headquarters at Ent Air Force Base.
Groups, commanded by colonels, operated separately
or as part of brigade. They covered large defenses of metropolitan
areas like Cleveland or vital areas like Hanford where multiple
battalions were assigned for protection. Brigades and groups were
operationally linked to higher and lower units through their Army
air defense command posts (AADCPs). On rare occasions, when separate
from a brigade or group, a battalion would operate an AADCP. Battalions
were commanded by lieutenant colonels and normally had four firing
batteries and a headquarters battery assigned to them. They were
the lowest headquarters with staffs. The staffs consisted of the
basics for personnel, intelligence, operations, logistics and
The battery was the primary killing element of the
defense. The captain or lieutenant in command led the soldiers
who manned the guns or missiles, radars and control gear that
accomplished ARAACOM's mission of meeting the enemy head on. Most
had responsibilities far beyond those of normal company, battery
or troop commanders. They usually ran a small military post and
community. This post often had its own mini-PX, dining facility
and other amenities that required constant attention. in the NIKE
HERCULES era, they were responsible for the strict custody requirements
of nuclear warheads. These responsibilities, coupled with the
awesome mission of guarding the country from air attack, made
battery command a formidable undertaking. Separate detachments
included command, control and communications (C3), security, aviation
and maintenance elements. They could be assigned at any level
of the command, depending on mission and location.
A vital part of any viable air defense network is
communications. Many would argue that it is the most essential
element, for without it the other elements would have to work
independently and would consequently be much less effective. Communications
provided the connectivity necessary for the whole air defense
system to work.
In the case of ARAACOM, communications consisted
of leased telephone lines that transmitted both voice and data
and connected all of the command and control elements mentioned
above (GCI, SAGE, AADCP, firing units, etc.). Other elements that
were too remote for telephone cables, such as the early warning
radar sites in Alaska, used the White Alice network. White Alice
consisted of a series of 33 sites throughout Alaska that employed
microwave relays and "over-the-horizon" or "forward
propagation tropospheric scatter" transmissions. Huge antennas
would bounce UHF waves off the troposphere to communicate to other
ground stations up to 200 miles away.
Of course, picket ships and early warning aircraft
relied on radios to pass information. Many other elements that
used telephones as their primary communications means also employed
radios as backup.
By 1951, testing of the next generation of ground-based
air defense weapons had proven very successful. In the preceding
six years, the NIKE project had gone from the drawing boards to
the intercept of dozens of remotely piloted B- 17 bombers over
the desert of southern New Mexico. A contract was let with the
Bell Telephone, Western Electric and Douglas Aircraft team to
produce 1,000 missiles, 60 sets of ground-based equipment (such
as launchers, radars and control consoles) and 20 sets of missile
assembly equipment for the NIKE-I, later renamed the NIKE AJAX.
In early 1951, the director of guided missiles informed
the secretary of defense that immediate acceleration of production
processes for the NIKE-I Project was considered necessary to get
that missile system out of research and development and into the
tactical weapon stage at the earliest practicable date. Following
were objectives for this effort: production of 1,000 missiles
by December 31, 1952; production of facilities capable of producing
1,000 missiles per month by December 31, 1952; production by December
31, 1953, of sufficient ground support equipment for 20 tactical
battalions; and establishment of production facilities that, by
December 31, 1953, would be capable of producing sufficient NIKE-I
ground support equipment for three tactical battalions per month.
The major elements of the NIKE system were a radar
to track the target, a radar for tracking and communicating with
the NIKE missile, and the ground guidance computer for developing
guidance commands to bring about interception of the target by
the missile and for issuing a warhead burst command at the time
of closest approach. The search acquisition radar required to
complete the system was already under development as part of the
M-33 radar-controlled, computerized, integrated fire control system.
Another important radar feature responded to the
need for obtaining high transmitter power, with a wide range of
tunability, to obtain the maximum protection against jamming.
So Bell developed two tunable magnetrons for the NIKE and M-33
track and search radars. One was a 250kw X-band magnetron, the
other a 1,000kw S-band magnetron tunable over a 12-percent band.
Both target- and missile-tracking radars were identical,
except that the missile track radar was equipped for tracking
an X-band beacon in the missile. This radar sent pulse commands
with a specific missile address that triggered the beacon, provided
pitch and yaw guidance orders and issued the burst command.
The Western Electric North Carolina Works produced
358 ground batteries (sets of equipment) and delivered 14,000
missile control and guidance units to Douglas for assembly in
a similar number of NIKE-AJAX missiles. Although the NIKE system
was the state of the art at the time, it was not what one would
consider "user friendly." As a matter of fact, it could
be downright unfriendly. For example, to fuel the missiles with
their liquid propellant, which happened to be extremely toxic
and flammable, fuel handlers required protection in the form of
protective suits made of heavy rubber that covered them from head
to toe. These awkward suits were particularly uncomfortable on
hot days. However, there was no alternative since fueling operations
could result in death or serious injury if something went amiss.
To train soldiers to operate and maintain this new
generation of antiaircraft technology, the Army established a
guided missile department at the Antiaircraft School, Fort Bliss,
Texas, just south of where the NIKE testing was taking place in
New Mexico. The overall objective was to train a small cadre of
officers and soldiers to run a NIKE battalion. Once this cadre
arrived at its permanent location, its numbers would be supplemented
with other soldiers who would then be trained on the job.
One of the major challenges facing the Army in deploying
dozens of NIKE battalions in just a few years was training the
thousands of soldiers needed to man these systems. The NIKE Package
Training Program at Fort Bliss met this challenge. The First Guided
Missile Group, better known as the NIKE Group, had as its subordinates
the First and Second Training Battalions. Their responsibilities
included training "packages" of 14 officers and 123
enlisted men to be the nucleus of each NIKE battalion. Prior to
this five weeks of package training, individual groupings had
specialized training of differing degrees. Eighty-nine of the
package would graduate from the eight-week Specialist Training
Program, which prepared them for the routine operation of the
NIKE system from emplacement, energizing and alignment to missile
loading and target tracking.
The remaining 34 enlisted men of the package and
the 14 officers were trained in the maintenance and repair of
the NIKE system. Two of the officers graduated from a 31-week
course at the Artillery School, the highly technical 1181 Course,
and were awarded the title of guided missile systems officer.
Another essential course was the 1177 Course that trained guided
missile maintenance officers. The remaining 12 officers attended
a 15-week course.
Once these groups came together, they spent five
weeks on integrated system training as a team. They were issued
two sets of battery control equipment, one of which they took
165 miles north of Fort Bliss to Red Canyon Range, NM, to culminate
their training by firing a live missile. After this final phase
of their training was complete, they returned to Fort Bliss and
usually moved their equipment via the railroad to its final destination
to protect one of the nation's vital areas.
Trained mechanics and operators, coupled with NIKE
system production, resulted in the first deployment of a NIKE
unit to Fort Meade, Md., in December of 1953.
In less than a year from that date, 17 battalions
of NIKE would be deployed throughout the States, with full deployment
realized just three years later when 244 batteries would be in
Land Acquisition and Site Construction
Rather than deploy the NIKE batteries to open fields
that lacked permanent facilities, like many of the gun battery
deployments in 1950, ARAACOM had the Army Corps of Engineers busily
involved in land acquisition and construction prior to moving
soldiers and equipment on sites.
An insight into the problems associated with the
construction of NIKE sites can be gained from an Army Corps of
Engineer officer who wrote an article titled "NIKE Deployment."
"On many of the hilltops surrounding the industrial and strategic
centers of the United States," he wrote, "fenced-in
assemblages of whirling radar antennae, small buildings and olive
drab trailers have appeared." He described the layout of
a battery as: "The ground control guidance equipment is located
in a plot of six to eight acres --the Control Area-- which includes,
basically, three radars and a computer. A Launcher Area is located
one to four miles away from the Control Area. It consists of approximately
42 acres, of which 15 acres are required for the operating facilities
and the remainder as a surrounding safety zone. The battery comprises
six officers, two warrant officers and 101 enlisted men who man
and operate these facilities continuously."
Site planning and construction, he continued, required
"a multiplicity of activities: enactment of legislation to
provide funds for acquisition of land and construction of battery
positions and servicing facilities; dissemination of public information
to assist in acquiring NIKE battery sites; construction of permanent
sites involving hundreds of construction contracts and material
suppliers. An architect-engineer con-tract was then awarded to
prepare standard plans of a typical battery installation. Considerable
progress had been made by ARAACOM, with the assistance of the
Corps of Engineers real estate personnel, in the selection of
battery sites." A decision was made to move the batteries
closer to the center of the areas they were to defend, therefore,
"toward the more highly developed suburban fringes of major
cities, the problem of locating sites became more difficult."
So an underground missile storage magazine with a
hydraulic elevator was designed and installed on a majority of
the sites, thus minimizing the amount of land required from 103
acres to 40 acres in the launcher area. With the missile on the
elevator, four missiles per magazine would be made ready for firing
prior to the engagement and the original idea of a central battalion
assembly area was abandoned.
Selection of sites and land acquisition were major
problems. Maximum use was being made of public lands, even though
using such sites often violated tactical considerations and resulted
in less than optimum defense. By far the greatest number of battery
sites had to be located on privately-owned land and, in most instances,
high real estate costs and adverse reaction by owners made the
acquisition problems acute. The general public often thought that
site selections were made either arbitrarily or capriciously and,
while almost everybody favored NIKE, almost nobody wanted a unit
located next door. It was found to be wiser to construct facilities
of a higher architectural standard, thus reducing maintenance
and operating costs, improving troop morale and providing buildings
acceptable to park commissions and residents of suburban areas.
Normally, the impact of a military construction project
on the public is confined to a small area or region. This one,
however, extended across the United States and involved countless
municipal officials, civic groups, members of Congress and private
citizens. Valuable property (including park-ways, recreational
centers, private estates and industrial lands) was being sought.
Public relations was fixed with the Army commanders of the respective
Several factors made it necessary to provide personnel
accommodations and related facilities of better quality than those
originally planned. Taken into account was low troop morale, causing
a low re-enlistment rate, and the long, tiresome hours of troop
duty at NIKE units without the opportunities for recreation and
diversion common to other service installations. It, therefore,
became imperative to provide the troops with good living quarters
and mess halls, day rooms, hobby shops, post exchanges and athletic
facilities. Access roads, hardstands and walkways, originally
designed for unfinished gravel surfaces, had to be redesigned
for paving with blacktop.
Consideration was given to the architectural appearance
of the structures and judicious use of screen and shade planting.
This meticulous planning and preparation for construction paid
off in the long term, since many of the sites were in use 24 hours
a day for the next 20 years.
Once trained soldiers and tested missile Systems
were joined and deployed to newly constructed tactical sites,
keeping them ready to fire at a moment's notice was another challenge
that the command faced. Gun and missile crews had to maintain
a vigilance in peacetime not previously experienced by the Army.
Since each battalion consisted of four batteries,
the readiness posture was shared and rotated among each. One of
the four had no more than 15 minutes from notification to fire
a missile, two of the remaining three had 30 minutes to fire,
and the last had two hours. These different times to fire were
called states of readiness (SORs) or, in soldiers' parlance, "pulling
state." This meant that at any one time, 75 percent of all
the Army air defense forces had crews on site pulling state, ready
to activate their systems in case of a surprise attack. This sense
of vigilance, purpose and mission lasted for 20 years and gave
the soldiers a real sense of protecting their country. They took
this responsibility professionally and seriously.
To ensure units remained ready to fire, higher headquarters
performed a series of inspections. One "no-notice" type
of inspection was the operational readiness evaluation (ORE).
An ORE team would arrive any hour of the day or night and tell
the crew to prepare to fire by using the code phrase "Blazing
Skies," a peacetime term that represented the wartime "Battle
Stations." The crew then had the prescribed SOR time to get
the system ready for firing. Crews seldom walked through these
drills, because the unit's reputation lay on the line. Good units
could pass OREs if the system didn't fail them, and those that
couldn't were usually locked on their site for retraining until
they could pass. These measures, designed to improve operational
readiness, had a far-reaching effect. Because of them, NIKE batteries
assumed an almost combat like role. Fifteen-minute status permeated
the atmosphere of a NIKE site. A siren meant an exercise, a readiness
test or an attack; one never knew. As ARAACOM units met these
statuses 24 hours a day, they assumed an ever-increasing feeling
of responsibility for the nation's defense.
Other training events included monthly air defense
exercises, lasting 24 hours, where the command and control network
from the early warning radars to the firing units was tested and
exercised. Another major event had each firing battery annually
returning to New Mexico's Red Canyon Range to fire a missile.
During the annual service practice (ASP), the soldiers had to
perform thousands of individual checks, operations and adjustments
nearly flawlessly to achieve the "Honor Battery" rating,
a coveted prize.
The ASP was an anticipated event. Units knew the
dates they would be firing and practiced hard during the weeks
preceding travel to the firing range. To make it more challenging
and, in theory, have the units practicing year-round, the "Short
Notice" Annual Service Practice, or SNAP, was adopted. Like
an ORE, it was a surprise to the unit, and they had only a few
hours before traveling to New Mexico for evaluation and firing.
A firing unit's schedule included much more than
pulling state, OREs, ASPs and SNAPs. The commander of the 3rd
Battalion of the 5th ADA, located in Massachusetts
and Rhode Island, listed the following events, in addition to
those above, as taking place during a typical year in a NIKE unit:
"Tactical evaluations, command maintenance management inspections,
radar bomb scoring, annual general inspections, annual training
inspections, annual command inspections, technical proficiency
inspections, technical standardization inspections, security inspections,
annual penetration attempts, and support of command programs such
as safety, cost reduction, etc." Although these tasks were
performed to check certain aspects of unit readiness, every one
depended on troop performance. But all work and no play would
soon wear out a unit and the result could be more failures than
successes. So sports programs and recreation were an important
part of unit activities. Competition in swimming, volleyball,
flag football, basketball, marksmanship, bowling, golf, softball,
pool, tennis and archery took place between batteries within a
battalion and at the group, brigade and regional levels. One site
at Grand Island, NY, even had its own miniature golf course. At
Red Canyon Range, soldiers spent their spare time, weekends and
holidays scrounging materials to build a chapel. They salvaged
steel rails from Southern Pacific for the frame and cut bracing
from the steel doors of the Lincoln County jail. The interior
walls and roof came from the tips and sides of NIKE booster crates.
They quarried rock from a nearby canyon or the exterior walls
and used plastered telephone poles as the pillars on the front
entry. Using cellophane and shellac, they simulated stained glass
windows. For bells they hung three NIKE boosters in the steeple.
The boosters had been fired and the heat gave them a pleasant
Automated Command Posts
As long as the numbers of enemy aircraft remained small, all that was envisioned was to bring up the air defense network and defend those areas assigned. However, when the threat grew and became more sophisticated, command and control of air defense forces posed new; problems. With the enemy flying multiple sorties at different altitudes and many different directions, and our own aircraft flying to intercept, how could they all be sorted out? The Army's answer was special command and control operations centers that had soldiers monitoring different early warning devices, then communicating both automatically and by voice to those units that would actually engage the enemy.
As background, Army air defense operations throughout
the years pointed up the need for a system that would provide
timely and continuous information to the fire units about the
location of friendly and hostile aircraft and for rapid exchange
of information between fire units and the AADCP. Immediate collection
and dissemination of target data were required to ensure rapid
fire unit response and concentration of effort directed toward
the enemy threat. During World War II and until the mid-1950s,
this was accomplished by using voice, telephone and radio systems
to pass information from one element to another. Manually operated
plotting and status boards were used to develop and portray the
air defense situation to Army air defense commanders at various
echelons. Such slow and cumbersome Systems did not meet the need
for rapid transmission of information required for quick defense
reactions needed to destroy jet aircraft by surface-to-air guided
To meet this need, the U.S. Army developed the electronic
fire distribution system, Missile Master, which became operational
in 1957. It provided a rapid and accurate flow of information
between the AADCP and its associated missile fire units. Interchange
of information was also made between adjacent AADCPs and the Air
Force's SAGE system. Target track information and commands were
transmitted as digital data via automatic data link (ADL) between
the AADCP and missile fire units. At the fire units, track information
and commands were converted from digital data and presented on
the fire unit commander's display console. Using electronic displays
and controls at the AADCP, the air defense commander (usually
a group commander) could monitor or direct the actions of 24 fire
units against targets.
Major items of equipment in the Missile Master system
included a defense acquisition radar (DAR) or similar radar, two
height-finder radars, a tracking subsystem, a tactical display
subsystem, ADL transmitters and receivers, and computing and storage
Two other fire distribution systems were developed:
the BIRDIE and the Missile Monitor systems. BIRDIE was a compact,
transportable system that functioned in a manner similar to Missile
Master. Missile Monitor was developed to coordinate the fire of
batteries with the Army in the field.
Note: On March 27, 1957, the Army Antiaircraft
Artillery Command (ARAACOM) changed its name to the US Army Air
Defense Command (USARADCOM). On May 1, 1961, it adapted a simplified
acronym, ARADCOM. To avoid confusing the reader, the text hereafter
refers to the command as ARADCOM.
In June of 1958, the first NIKE HERCULES battery
became active in the Chicago defense. By strapping four of the
AJAX boosters together, HERCULES increased the range of the NIKE
nearly threefold. The top stage of the missile was also larger
to accommodate more propellant and bigger warheads, including
nuclear munitions. With NIKE HERCULES, ARADCOM could destroy hostile
aircraft at greater distances in greater numbers. The atomic warhead
could allow one missile to destroy entire formations of bombers.
The Army asked Bell Laboratories in 1953 to continue
to study possible improvements in the NIKE system so that its
effectiveness might be increased against all types of future bomber
attack strategies. An important concern was the danger that closely
spaced bombers could degrade the ground target angle accuracy
and present high-traffic levels that could saturate the NIKE-AJAX
system. The Army wanted a larger missile that would be capable
of carrying a nuclear warhead and also wanted to extend the range
of the system from 25 to 50 miles. (As it turned out later, the
missile developed had a range of 100 miles and improvements in
ground equipment alone actually increased the system range from
25 to 100 miles.) The kill radius of such a warhead would force
any enemy to space its attackers to avoid multiple losses. The
resulting system change in NIKE-AJAX, initially called NIKE-B
and later NIKE-HERCULES, was made so that the ground system could
fire both NIKE-AJAX missiles and the larger, longer range NIKE-HERCULES
missiles from the same battery. The NIKE-HERCULES system was designed
for continental United States and field operation in three different
modes: surface-to-air, low-altitude and surface-to-surface. Modifications
were made to the radars to give them greater range than their
AJAX counterparts. Communication between the missile tracking
radar and the HERCULES missile was also improved. Another significant
improvement was the replacement of liquid fuel with solid propellant.
As mentioned previously, the most hazardous operation in a NIKE
unit was to fuel up the rocket motor. Eliminating liquid fuels
improved maintenance, safety and availability of missiles.
Unlike AJAX, HERCULES contained no vacuum tubes,
only solid state components except for the beacon transmitter.
This enhanced the reliability of the system and eliminated thousands
of tubes that had to be carried in supply.
Western Electric North Carolina Works produced a
total of 393 NIKE-HERCULES ground systems and more than 9,000
guidance units for the Douglas HERCULES missile. Although the
majority of these systems were used in the United States, some
were deployed in Europe and the Far East, primarily South Korea.
To summarize this decade in terms of threat, the
nation, the military and ARADCOM, this phase of deployment and
growth in ARADCOM saw a leap from the post-World War II propeller-driven
bomber threat to jet-powered intercontinental bombers and the
early stages of a ballistic missile threat. A national strategy
was formed, reworked and massaged in the light of competing domestic
needs. The military now saw continental defense against air attack
as a top priority and allocated resources accordingly. ARADCOM
had moved from the gun era to the missile era with a massive deployment
of hundreds of sites manned by thousands of highly skilled soldiers.