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The Texas
Texas
Towers were a set of three radar facilities off the eastern seaboard of the United States
United States
which were used for surveillance by the United States Air Force
United States Air Force
during the Cold War. Modeled on the offshore oil drilling platforms first employed off the Texas
Texas
coast, they were in operation from 1958-1963. After the collapse of one of the towers in 1961, the remaining towers were closed due to changes in threat perception and out of a concern for the safety of the crews.

Contents

1 Planning 2 Design 3 Installations 4 Operational history 5 See also 6 References 7 External links

Planning[edit] Upon re-formation of the Air Defense Command in 1951 to oversee the nation's developing surveillance radar network, there was concern that shore-based radars along the east coast provided insufficient warning time. A 1952 report from MIT's Lincoln Laboratory
Lincoln Laboratory
looked into the possibility of extending radar coverage by building platforms in the Atlantic using offshore oil drilling technology.[1] They concluded that a set of such platforms, equipped with radars, could extend coverage several hundred miles offshore, giving half an hour additional warning of an attack.[2] Funding for design and construction of the towers was approved in January 1954.[1] Design[edit] Each tower consisted of a triangular platform, 200 feet on each side, standing on three caisson legs.[3][4] The structures were constructed on land, towed to site, and jacked up to clear the sea surface by 67 feet.[3] Radar
Radar
and other equipment was then installed on location. The platform itself contained two floors housing the living areas; two of the legs held fuel oil for diesel generators, while the third held the intake for the desalination unit. The platform roof served as a helicopter landing area. A rotary gantry was suspended from the platform to allow servicing of its underside. Each platform was equipped with one AN/FPS-3
AN/FPS-3
(later upgraded to AN/FPS-20) search radar and two AN/FPS-6
AN/FPS-6
height finder radars, each housed in a separate spherical neoprene radome 55 feet in diameter.[4] Originally the towers were to be linked to shore by submarine cable, but this was eventually rejected as too costly; the AN/FRC-56 tropospheric scatter microwave link was installed instead, with an array of three parabolic antennas attached to one edge of the platform.[2] UHF and VHF equipment allowed communication with ships and aircraft as well as providing a backup to the microwave link. Installations[edit] Five towers were planned, in an array off the New England/mid-Atlantic coast. The most northerly two proposed were dropped from plans due to budgetary constraints.[2]

Tower ID Location Staffing unit Mainland station Notes

TT-1 Cashes Ledge off New Hampshire
New Hampshire
coast 42°53′N 68°57′W / 42.883°N 68.950°W / 42.883; -68.950

Not built

TT-2 Georges Bank
Georges Bank
off Cape Cod 41°45′0.00″N 67°46′0.00″W / 41.7500000°N 67.7666667°W / 41.7500000; -67.7666667 762d Radar
Radar
Squadron North Truro Air Force Station decommissioned 1963

TT-3 Nantucket Shoals 40°45′00.00″N 69°19′0.00″W / 40.7500000°N 69.3166667°W / 40.7500000; -69.3166667 773d Radar
Radar
Squadron Montauk AFS decommissioned 1963

TT-4 off Long Beach Island, New Jersey 39°48′N 72°40′W / 39.800°N 72.667°W / 39.800; -72.667 646th Radar
Radar
Squadron Highlands Air Force Station collapsed (1961)

TT-5 Browns Bank south of Nova Scotia 42°47′N 65°37′W / 42.783°N 65.617°W / 42.783; -65.617

Not built

Logistical support for all three towers was provided by the 4604th Support Squadron, based out of Otis AFB
Otis AFB
and specifically constituted for this mission.[2] They were originally equipped with H-21B helicopters,[2] which were replaced with three Sikorsky SH-3 helicopters acquired in 1962.[5] The USNS New Bedford was used to supply the stations, with transfer being effected with a platform called the "donut", consisting of an inflated rubber ring surmounted by a railing, which was lowered from the platform to the waiting ship's deck. These transfers could only take place at slack tide, when the ship could maintain position.[6]

Texas
Texas
Tower 2; note tropospheric scatter dish antennae on edge of platform.

Operational history[edit] Texas
Texas
Tower 2 was the first to become operational, starting limited service in May 1956.[7] It became fully operational in 1958, as did Tower 3; Tower 4 followed in April 1959.[8] The original plan to integrate these radars into the SAGE system had to be modified when the direct cable connection was eliminated; instead, they were used to provide manual inputs. All the towers were noisy and prone to vibration from the equipment. The relative flexibility of the supports also caused them to shake and sway in response to wind and waves.[6] The frequent and sustained sounding of the platform's foghorns was also an annoyance to the crew.[2]

Texas
Texas
Tower 4 before installation of crossbraces

Main article: Texas
Texas
Tower 4 Tower 4 was plagued with structural problems from the start. It stood in much deeper water than the other two (185 feet, compared to 80 feet for Tower 2), and it was held that the simple cylindrical leg design would not be sturdy enough given the length of the legs. Therefore, three sets of cross braces were added between the legs, attached with pin joints.[2][9] These made it impossible to tow the platform on the level; instead, the structure was laid on its side for transport and then tipped upright at the site.[9] These braces proved to be frail and the joints prone to loosening: two braces broke loose during transport, and a third was lost when the tower was being placed on the bottom.[10] Divers were brought in several times to inspect the structure and to perform repairs, and an additional set of crossbraces was installed immediately below the platform, above the waterline, in 1960.[11] Crewmen were frequently seasick from the swaying, and Tower 4 was nicknamed "Old Shaky".[2] On September 12, 1960, Hurricane Donna
Hurricane Donna
passed over Tower 4, causing severe structural damage, including the loss of the flying bridge hanging beneath the platform, and one of the communications dishes.[12] After assessment of the damage and initial repairs it was decided to reduce staffing to a skeleton crew and prepare to dismantle the station.[12] The site could not simply be abandoned for fear that the Soviets would board it and remove sensitive equipment and documentation.[12] Dismantling of the tower was therefore protracted. At the approach of another storm in January 1961, evacuation of the station was impeded by the inability of the commander to make contact with any of his three immediate superiors; nonetheless the New Bedford set out for the platform.[13] As the storm built, USS Wasp, which was in the vicinity, was also dispatched with the intent of evacuating the station via helicopter, shore aircraft being unable to take off.[13] Both ships reached the vicinity but could do no more than watch the station disappear from their radar. No survivors were recovered, though divers were sent down on the chance that some might have been trapped in the wreckage.[13] Twenty-eight airmen and civilian contractors perished.[14] The loss of Tower 4, together with the increasing emphasis on ICBMs as the predominant threat, led a reassessment of the remaining towers. Escape capsules were added to the two remaining towers, allowing rapid evacuation.[2][4] Shortly thereafter it was decided to close the remaining towers, and the electronic equipment was removed. Both platforms were expected to be returned to shore for scrap, but Tower 2 sank and could not be recovered. Tower 3 was then filled with foam before being knocked off its support, and it was successfully returned to shore and dismantled. The wreckage of Towers 2 and 4 remains in place on the ocean floor. Radar
Radar
coverage was taken over by alterations to EC-121
EC-121
airborne early warning flights based out of Otis Air Force Base.[2]

patches of tower units

Tower 2 patch 

Tower 3 patch 

4604th Support Squadron
4604th Support Squadron
patch 

See also[edit]

PAVE PAWS Sea-based X-band Radar SAGE Other Cold War
Cold War
era radar networks:

Lashup Radar
Radar
Network Pinetree Line Mid-Canada Line Distant Early Warning Line

References[edit]

^ a b Keeney, L. Douglas (2011). 15 Minutes: General Curtis LeMay and the Countdown to Nuclear Annihilation. Macmillan. p. 100.  ^ a b c d e f g h i j Ray, Thomas W. "A History of Texas
Texas
Towers in Air Defense 1952-1964". Texas
Texas
Tower Association. Retrieved 2012-01-23.  ^ a b Howe, Hartley E. (October 1955). " Radar
Radar
Island Rises 110 Miles at Sea". Popular Science: 126–129, 268. Retrieved 2012-01-22.  ^ a b c Kaufmann, J. E.; Kaufmann, H. W. (2004). Fortress America: The forts that defended America, 1600 to the present. Da Capo Press. pp. 371–372. Retrieved 2012-01-22.  ^ "Rotary Wing Aircraft". Flying: 117. November 1962. Retrieved 2012-01-22.  ^ a b Wylie, Evan McLeod (July 26, 1963). "Farewell to the Iron Bastards: Texas
Texas
Towers Await the Wreckers". Life: 7, 9. Retrieved 2012-01-22.  ^ Leonard, Barry, ed. (2011). History of Strategic and Ballistic Missile Defense: Volume II: 1956-1972. DIANE Publishing.  p. 305 ^ Leonard, p. 312 ^ a b Keeney, pp. 150-152 ^ Keeney, p. 190 ^ Keeney, pp. 226-228 ^ a b c Keeney, pp.229-232 ^ a b c Keeney, pp.262-275 ^ Southall, Ashley, "Obama Recognizes Men Who Died in the Collapse of a Radar
Radar
Tower in 1961", New York Times, 9 February 2011; retrieved 14 February 2011.

External links[edit]

The short film Georges Bank
Georges Bank
Radar
Radar
Station (1957) is available for free download at the Internet Archive http://www.texastower.com/ The Texas
Texas
Towers Association website. http://www.radomes.org/museum/documents/TexasTower.html More information about the Texas
Texas
Towers from http://www.radomes.org. United States
United States
Senate Committee on Armed Services (1961). Inquiry into the Collapse of Texas
Texas
Tower No. 4. United States
United States
Government Printing Office.  Analysis on the collapse of Texas
Texas
Tower 4

v t e

Aerospace Defense Command
Aerospace Defense Command
(ADC)

Bases

CONUS

Amarillo Beale Charleston Davis-Monthan Dobbins Dover Dow Duluth Eglin Edwards Ellington Ellsworth England Ent Ethan Allen Fairfax Fallon Fort Heath Fort Lee Geiger George Glasgow Grand Forks Grenier Griffiss Gunter Hamilton Hancock Homestead Hurlburt Hunter Imeson Key West Kincheloe Kingsley Kirtland Lackland Laredo Larson Luke MacDill March Malmstrom McCoy McChord McClellan McGhee Tyson McGuire Minneapolis-St. Paul Minot Mitchel New Castle Niagara Falls Norton O'Hare Otis Oxnard Paine Perrin Peterson Pittsburgh Portland Presque Isle R.I. Bong Richards-Gebaur Robins K.I. Sawyer Selfridge Seymour Johnson Sioux City Stead Stewart Suffolk County Tinker Travis Truax Tyndall Vandenburg Vincent Walker Webb Westover Wright-Patterson Wurtsmith Youngstown

Overseas

Ernest Harmon Frobisher Bay Goose Bay Keflavik McAndrew Pepperrell Thule

Stations

CONUS

Adair Aiken Almaden Alpena Antigo Arlington Heights Baker Bedford Bellefontaine Belleville Benton Blaine Brookfield Brunswick Bucks Harbor Burns Calumet Cambria Cape Charles Cape Cod Carmi Caswell Chandler Charleston Cheyenne Mountain Claysburg Clear Colville Condon Continental Divide Cottonwood Cross City Crystal Springs Curlew Custer Cut Bank Dallas Center Dauphin Island Dickinson Duncanville Eldorado Empire Finland Finley Flintstone Fordland Fort Fisher Fort Lee Fortuna Gettysburg Grand Marais Grand Rapids Guthrie Hanna City Havre Highlands Houma Hutchinson Joelton Keno Killeen Kingman Kirksville Klamath Lake Charles Lake City Las Cruces Las Vegas Lewistown Lockport Lufkin Lyndonville Madera Makah Mica Peak Miles City Mill Valley Minot Montauk Moriarty Mount Hebo Mount Laguna Mount Lemmon Naselle North Bend North Charleston North Truro Oklahoma City Olathe Omaha Opheim Osceola Othello Owingsville Ozona Palermo Point Arena Port Austin Port Isabel Pyote Red Bluff Rochester Rockport Rockville (Indiana) Roslyn Rye Saint Albans San Clemente Island Santa Rosa Island Saratoga Springs Sault Ste Marie Shemya Snelling Snow Mountain Sweetwater Texarkana Tierra Amarilla Thomasville Tonopah Topsham Two Creeks Wadena Walnut Ridge Watertown Waverly West Mesa Willow Run Winnemucca Winslow Winston-Salem Woomera Yaak Zapata

Overseas

Armstrong Baldy Hughes Beausejour Cape Makkovik Cartwright Cut Throat Island Elliston Ridge Fox Harbour Hofn Hopedale Kamloops La Scie Langanes Latrar Melville Puntzi Mountain Ramore Red Cliff Rockville Saglek St. Anthony Saskatoon Mountain Sioux Lookout Spotted Island Stephenville

Air Defense units

Forces

Central Air Defense Eastern Air Defense Iceland Western Air Defense First Fourth Tenth Fourteenth

Air Divisions

8th 9th 20th 21st 23d 24th 25th 26th 27th 28th 29th 30th 31st 32d 33d 34th 35th 36th 37th 58th 64th 73d 85th

Sectors

Albuquerque Bangor Boston Chicago Detroit Duluth Goose Grand Forks Great Falls Kansas City Los Angeles Minot Montgomery New York Oklahoma City Phoenix Portland Reno Sault Sainte Marie San Francisco Seattle Sioux City Spokane Stewart Syracuse Washington

Wings

Fighter 1st 4th 23d 32d 33d 50th 52d 56th 78th 81st 325th 328th 507th

Detection and Control 71st 73d 551st 552d

Air Defense 46th 4620th 4621st 4622d 4624th 4625th 4627th 4628th 4683d 4700th 4702d 4703d 4704th 4705th 4706th 4707th 4708th 4709th 4710th 4711th 4750th 4751st 4752d 4756th 4780th

Groups

Fighter 1st 4th 14th 15th 23d 32d 33d 50th 52d 53d 54th 56th 57th 78th 79th 81st 82d 84th 325th 326th 327th 328th 329th 337th 343d 355th 408th 412th 414th 473d 475th 476th 478th 507th

Air Defense 10th 500th 501st 502d 503d 514th 515th 516th 517th 518th 519th 520th 521st 525th 527th 528th 529th 530th 533d 534th 564th 566th 567th 568th 575th 637th 665th 678th 692d 701st 751st 762d 765th 778th 780th 827th 858th 4606th 4620th 4676th 4700th 4721st 4722d 4727th 4728th 4729th 4730th 4731st 4732d 4733d 4734th 4735th 4750th 4756th

Aircraft Control & Warning 503d 505th 540th 541st 542d 543d 544th 545th 546th 563d 564th 565th 566th

Squadrons

Aerospace Defense Command
Aerospace Defense Command
Fighter Squadrons Aircraft Control and Warning Squadrons

Major weapon systems

Electronic

TB-29 EB-57 EC-121

Fighters

Propellor: F-47 F-51 P-61 F-82

Subsonic Jet: P-80 F-84 F-86 F-89 F-94

Supersonic Jet: F-101 F-102 F-104 F-106

Missiles

AIM-4 AIM-26 AIR-2 CIM-10

Ships

Guardian Interceptor Interdictor Interpreter Investigator Locator Lookout Outpost Pickett Protector Scanner Searcher Skywatcher Tracer Watchman Vigil

Texas
Texas
Towers

Texas
Texas
Tower 2 Texas
Texas
Tower 3 Texas
Texas
Tower 4

Miscellaneous

Air Defense Command Emblem Gallery (on Wikimedia Commons) General Surveillance Ra