BOMARC Site Configuration

Because of BOMARCs long range, the missile installations could be located away from the targets they were designated to defend.

The design of the missile shelters evolved under the Air Force Directorate of Civil Engineering and the Army Corps of Engineers. Lessons learned from construction and use of launching shelters at Cape Canaveral and Santa Rosa Island, Eglin AFB, were incorporated into the design of the first tactical base. The Cape Canaveral structure was a heavy 73- by 42-foot structure supported by 12-inch reinforced concrete walls. The shelter spread open like a clamshell standing on one end. The missile, lying horizontally facing the hinged end of the building, would be raised vertically on its erector and fired, with the thrust being deflected out the opened end of the structure. A similar structure that received much use was built at Santa Rosa; however, the Air Force opted for another design that was tested at Eglin. This design, called "Model II," was reduced in size but maintained the 12-inch reinforced concrete walls. From a distance, the above-ground adjoining launcher shelters appeared as rows of garages. Within each "garage bay," a BOMARC missile sat horizontally on an erector arm. To launch, hydraulic pressure was used to split open the roof like a drawbridge; the erector arm then raised the BOMARC to a vertical position. The arm then retracted and the missile was fired.

Although the process sounds simple, it was quite complex because each leaf of the roof structure was 60 feet long, 12 feet wide, and weighed 10 tons. The mechanical and electrical equipment for the Model II shelter was placed in a side room with 8-inch thick masonry walls.

Model II shelters were built by contractors under Corps of Engineers supervision at McGuire, Suffolk, Otis, and Dow Air Force Bases. Constant design modifications meant slight differences at each location. For example, the heat and power plant capacities were reduced at Otis and Dow and cut even further for the BOMARC B shelters. While the McGuire and Suffolk sites featured buried high- and low-pressure air, helium, and utility lines to each shelter, the next three BOMARC A sites at Otis, Dow, and Langley AFB, Virginia, installed "utilidors." Utilidors are covered concrete trenches easily accessible by pulling away concrete slabs laid across the top. McGuire and Suffolk each hosted 56 launchers, averaging $13 million while Otis and Dow, hosting only 28 launchers, averaging $7.5 million.

As improvements in missile design led to the BOMARC B, the same can be said of shelter design. With the goal of reducing construction costs, a Model III shelter featuring a pitched roof that slid down in two sections from the center was erected and evaluated at Eglin. Concurrently, a Model IV prototype was erected in Seattle. This design was adopted for Langley, Niagara Falls, Kincheloe, and Duluth.

A major cost-saving feature of the Model IV placed the mechanical and electrical equipment in a pit beneath the launcher erector. In addition, an aluminum roof parted down the middle and slid back to expose the missile. This roof feature allowed engineers to dispense with the hydraulic draw-bridge roof design of Model II. Along with a light roof, Model IV incorporated thinner precast concrete walls. Because of the thinner walls, the BOMARC B shelters were spaced further apart to prevent a chain-reaction should an accident occur within one of the shelters.

Langley AFB was the first site to receive these new shelters even though Langley deployed the BOMARC A for a year before switching to the new missile. Thus, Langley can be considered a BOMARC base in transition. Because the BOMARC B was solid-fuel propelled, there was no requirement at Niagara Falls, Kincheloe, or Duluth for fueling facilities, stainless steel pipe, helium and high pressure lines, or utilidors. With the BOMARC B having an internal cooling system, additional savings were gained by eliminating air conditioning for the Model IV shelters built at Niagara Falls, Kincheloe, and Duluth. The savings were substantial although the construction cost was between $3 and $4 million at each base.

Later, IM-99B missiles were backfitted to McGuire and Otis Air Force Bases. Rather than reconfigure the Model II shelters, which were expensive to maintain, Model IV shelters were erected on adjacent property to house the new missiles.