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Air defense (naval and air force)

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Old September 18th 04, 04:42 PM
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Default Air defense (naval and air force)

od piece plus letter to the editor:

The Washington Times
June 21, 2004, Monday, Final Edition
OPED; Pg. A19
HEADLINE: Rebuilding air defenses; September 11 and
the 'peace dividend'

In the movie "Independence Day," the aliens finally were defeated by a
worldwide, coordinated air attack directed from an air-defense command
center at "Area 51." The events of September 11 provided a sobering
look at the reality of the air-defense situation in the United States
and the woeful
extent to which an already weak system had been cut back in the wake
of the Cold War. I am a former senior director at the Northeast Air
Defense Sector, which controlled the fighter aircraft on September 11.
From the final hearings of the September 11 commission, I take real
pride in the actions
of the air-defense crew on duty that day. The mission commander, in
particular, should have received praise for the actions he took, such
as his decision to put fighters over New York City and to order jets
to fly at supersonic
speed and "not worry about how many windows we break," violating
long-standing peacetime rules about going supersonic over populated
areas. The public needs to understand that the U.S. air-defense system
at that time was a shell of the massive continental system that
existed in the late 1960s to combat the Soviet bomber air threat. Any
bomber attack on the United States would have been beaten back with
catastrophic losses because of the robust air-defense system
in place at that time. It consisted of fighters such as the F-102
[flown by President George W. Bush], the F-101 and F-106, and Army
air-defense missiles such as the Nike Hercules - all commanded by a
massive computerized air-defense system called the Semi-Automatic
Ground Environment, or SAGE. SAGE was
truly the first Internet - able to pass commands to air bases and army
missile sites and to fly the fighter aircraft from the ground via
data-link. In the late 1960s, the Johnson-McNamara defense
establishment decided that the
intercontinental missile threat was paramount and that air defense
against bombers was largely irrelevant. While true to an extent, the
Johnson administration also was looking for money to fight the war in
Vietnam, and the huge and costly continental air-defense system was a
tempting target. In
1968, the year I joined the Air Force and was assigned to a SAGE
direction center in Oregon, the cutbacks began. My direction center
and many others across the country were closed. The entire Backup
Intercept Center system was shut down. All Army air-defense missile
batteries surrounding
American cities were closed. The only Army batteries remaining were in
Alaska. Even at its height, the Navy was never a player in continental
air defense except on paper. The old SAGE system, based on vacuum-tube
soldiered on until the early 1980s. In the 1970s, a replacement system
was designed that provided few of the war-fighting capabilities of the
SAGE system. It was aptly called the Joint Surveillance System,
indicating that the role of
air defense would be largely to monitor air sovereignty and not be a
primary air-combat system. Air-defense fighters were kept on alert,
but most other capabilities of the system, such as radars that could
combat severe jamming, were not made available. Data-link control
reverted back to voice control of the interceptors. When the Reagan
administration came into office, an attempt was made to put some
war-fighting capability back into the system. Plans called for linking
tactical air-control radars to the continental air-defense system. New
interceptors, such as the F-15 and F-16, were added to the system.
Canada adopted the F-18 as an air-defense interceptor. For the most
part, however, budget priorities elsewhere hindered bringing the
air-defense system back up to where it had once been. And then came
the end of the Cold War, and the public clamored for a "peace
dividend." Air defenses were once more cut back. On September 11, this
country received its "peace dividend" when it was attacked
catastrophically for the second time from the air. The first was, of
course, Pearl Harbor. Since September 11, many changes have been made.
Most importantly, we have learned that the threat may come from inside
the country. The public has seen the deployment of Army air-defense
batteries around
certain targets, such as Washington, and these batteries are closely
integrated with NORAD. I hope the Navy finally will have been brought
into the air-defense picture with its very capable aircraft and
missiles. New technologies have been put into place, and the Federal
Aviation Administration will now view itself as an integral part of a
possible air battle and not just as an air-traffic-control system. The
commission hearings proved all too well that the FAA did not provide
adequate information to NORAD on September 11 about the
situation at hand. Never again can this nation take continental air
defense for granted. No matter how rarely it might have to be
exercised, air-defense personnel must stand duty around the clock and
be given the proper tools to
counter any threat. Emerging threats will be cruise missiles that even
small powers might be able to obtain and launch from surface ships.
This country cannot afford a third disaster from the air.
Darl Stephenson is a retired lieutenant colonel in the Air Force
Reserve. Before his 1995 retirement, he was stationed at the Northeast
Air Defense Sector, which controlled the fighters on September 11.

The Washington Times
June 24, 2004, Thursday, Final Edition
HEADLINE: Air defense
I must take exception to several items mentioned in the otherwise
correct assessment of the state of the nation's air-defense system in
the column by Lt. Col. Darl Stephenson ["Rebuilding air defenses,"
Op-Ed, Monday]. Having served as a radar operator and intercept
technician between 1957 and 1963, I find his history of the U.S. Air
Force operation of the air-defense system to be accurate. However, his
statement that the Navy was never a player in continental air defense
is not correct. The Navy operated a key extension to the land-based
air-defense radars during the height [as he put it] of
the defense system in the form of radar picket ships off both the East
and West Coast. My direct experience with these very able [at the
time] radar platforms is based on contact with these ships while
assigned to two coastal land-based Air Force Global Coastal
Infrastructure [GCI] sites. Their "stations" were located
approximately every 100 miles, from the southernmost station [70 miles
east of Key West, Fla.] to the northernmost station between Labrador
and the
southern tip of Greenland. The Navy operated an identical setup off of
our West Coast. These ships were converted World War II destroyers and
destroyer-escorts [DDR/DER], and they would remain on station for 30
days at a stretch. The Navy
also pioneered and operated an extensive airborne early-warning [AEW]
system [what is now called AWACS, for airborne warning and control
system] from the early 1950s through the late 1960s with its
well-known Willie Victors, or as they were officially known, WV-2s.
While the Air Force operated an identical aircraft, the RC-121, the
Navy operated a total of five numbered air wings of the WV-2s while
the Air Force operated just two wings. At our Air Force GCI site, the
only fighter squadron we had to call on for the role of an all-
weather air-defense interceptor was the Navy's outstanding All-Weather
Fighter Squadron 3 [VF[AW]-3], whose personnel stood the two-minute
alert duty 24 hours a day for the two years I was assigned to the
radar site. This was a unique
unit, as it was a bit larger in the number of assigned aircraft, the
Douglas F-4D-1 Skyray, as the unit stood at the two-minute alert both
at Key West as well as San Diego and was assigned directly to the Air
Force Air Defense Command
[ADC] for continental air defense. In fact, VF[AW]-3 was a multiple
winner of the Air Force ADC "A" award, given only to the most
outstanding air and ground units assigned to the Air Force air defense
force. To my knowledge, it is the only Navy unit to have received the
award. In my experience, the Navy was a big player in the nation's
air-defense network. It is unfair not to give it credit for the
outstanding effort of the thousands of officers and men who served
aboard radar picket ships, AEW aircraft and front-line fighter
Oak Hill, Va.

The Washington Times
June 27, 2004, Sunday, Final Edition
HEADLINE: Navy deserves credit
Mike O'Rourke's correction ["Air defense," Letters, Thursday] of
the role of the Navy during the time mentioned is appreciated and my
apologies to the Navy for that omission. I was aware of the picket
ships, but in my haste to reply to some of the September 11 commission
testimony it just went by me. For space reasons I also did not mention
the deployment of Hawk Army air-defense missiles in the South Florida
area after an embarrassing defection of a Cuban MiG
pilot in South Florida that went undetected by air defense radar. For
several years this deployment stood alert, but it was also eventually
abandoned. I think the thrust of my article is that eventually both
the Navy and the Army opted out of continental air defense and it may
have become a "stepchild" of other Air Force commands with higher
priority missions. Even during the Reagan administration's attempts to
put some war-fighting capability back in continental air defense, the
Army and Navy never returned to the mission in any meaningful way. The
stale operations plans were on paper and never exercised. Even within
the Air Force, the tactical control system was nearly incompatible
with the NORAD system. For decades the command, control and
communications systems of U.S. military systems had real problems
communicating with one another because they were developed for
separate missions. In recent years this has changed to an extent and
after September 11 all of these systems need the capability to link
with each other in a timely fashion. Once again, my thanks to Mike
O'Rourke and apology to the Navy.

The Washington Times
July 1, 2004, Thursday, Final Edition
HEADLINE: Naval contributions
To give the Navy its complete due in the historic air defense mission:
Its "picket ships" and WV-2 "Willie Vickers" aircraft also were
supplemented by the ZPG-2W and ZPG-3 Navy blimps of the Airship
Airborne Early Warning Squadron
1[ZW1], flying out of Lakehurst, N.J. The airships normally patrolled
the Atlantic Inshore Barrier off the northeastern coast of New Jersey.
They were equipped with a search radar in the gas envelope and a
height-finding radar on top. They carried a crew of 21 and had an
endurance of more than 200 hours. The 2W was about 342 feet long, and
the 3W was 404 feet long. The Navy terminated its airship program on
Aug. 31, 1962.During the height of the Cold War, these historic Navy
assets [picket ships, WV-2 "Willie Vickers" and the airships]
sent their radar signals to a coastal radar station and to an Air
Defense Sector like the one where Lt. Col. Darl Stephenson
["Rebuilding air defenses," Op-Ed, June 21] worked.
Rome, N.Y.

Mike O'Rourke's contribution, "Air defense" [Letters, June 24], needs
a supplement. The Navy's seaward extension of the DEW Line included 16
Liberty Ships from the Maritime Administration's reserve fleet.
Designated AGR [first YAGR], eight ships stood far off each coast and
were called Radron 1 and Radron 2. For details and ships' histories,
see http://members.tripod.com/YAGRS/.

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