Air Force Bases

Description of a typical Nike Missile Site

The buildings and structures at each Nike base were organized into two basic parcels: the Battery Control Area and the Launch Area. The Launch Area contained the underground missile storage magazines and launch equipment, as welI as buildings used for maintenance and testing. The Battery Control Area contained the : radar and computer equipment. Housing and 1 administration buildings, including the mess hall, barracks, and recreation facilities. were sometimes located in a third parcel of land. More likely, however. the housing and administration buildings were located at either the Battery Control Area or the Launch Area, depending upon site configuration, obstructions, and the availability of land. At Nike Missile Base C-84, the housing and administrative buildings were located in the Launch Area. At Nike Missile Base SL-40, the Launch Area was separate from the combined Housing, Administration, and Battery Control Area. All Nike buildings and structures were built from standardized drawings approved by the Corps of Engineers, which were adapted to each individual missile base. The building descriptions and arrangements listed below are based on Nike Missile Bases C -84 and SL-40. It must be noted, however, that structure types and numbers varied from base to base.

In 1955, the standard Nike Ajax battery consisted of 106 officers and enlisted men. By 1960, that number increased to 115 men. The buildings and structures that housed these crewmen were also standardized, although (like the number of crewmen) there were variations. Initially, the Army considered the use of pre-fabricated buildings for Nike installations, but the Army found that they were unsightly and did not contribute to troop morale. As a result, the Army constructed more substantial buildings that were of "modified emergency" type design. Typical of most Nike missile installations, Nike Missile Bases C-84 and SL-40 each included sentry guardhouses, an administration building, barracks, mess hall, a basketball court, and various storage sheds. Most of these buildings were vernacular, one-story structures with cinderblock walls and slanted metal roofs.

Sentry Guardhouse: Sentry guardhouses - small, square structures with cinder-block walls-were at the entrances to all portions of a Nike missile base. In addition as part of base security, two lines of fencing and a firebreak marked the boundaries of the installation.

Administration Building: The administration building housed the administrative sup port services for the base. The one-story, cin der-block building included a day room, offices for the battery commander and officers, a supply room. a supply office, hobby room, commu nications room. barber shop, mail room, restroom, and arms storage room.

Barracks: Nike Missile Bases C-84 and SL-40 each contained two barracks buildings. which provided living quarters for base personnel. Typical of most Nike installations, one bar rack was for launch personnel, the other was for the battery control crewman. The construction drawings indicate that each barrack con tained an officers' lounge, non-commissioned offtcers' lounge, several storage rooms, heater room, restroom, shower room and large com mon sleeping room. The barracks, which had cinder-block walls and slanted roofs, were one story buildings with "L"-shaped floor plans.

Mess Hall: The mess hall was the common easting facility for personnel stationed at the base. The building included a kitchen, dining srea, storage area, and boiler room. The building had cinder-block walls, a slanted roof, and two entry vestibules.

Paint and Oil Shed: The paint and oil shed was very simular in design to the sentry guard house, a small square structure with cinder-block walls.

PX (Supply Store): Nike bases often included a PX (Supply Store the store at Nike Missile Base C-84 is a gable-roofed rectangular building, with sheet metal walls and roofing.

Water Treatment/Sewage Facilities: Typical of all Nike missile installations, Nike Missile Base C-84 and SL-40 both had their own water treatment and sewage facilities. Depending on location. these base facilities might include wells, pumphouses, sewage lagoons, holding tanks, and/or septic tanks.

Basketball Court: When not on alert, Nike crewmen reported that life at a Nike missile installation could be tedious. In order to provide some recreational opportunities, the Army equipped each base with a basketball court. In addition, crewmen often played team sports, such as softball, with servicemen from other nearby bases or with teams in the surrounding communities.

The Battery Control Area: Often referred to as the Integrated Fire Control iIFC) Area - included all of the necessary radar, computer, and control equipment needed to detect and identify a target, and to launch and guide a missile to intercept that target. In general, the Battery Control Area was located on higher terrain that was relatively level and well drained. Since this area contained all of the Nike system's radr equipment, the location also had to be free of any visual obstructions such as trees, radion towers, poser and telephone lines, and smoke stacks. The Battery Control Area required a minumum of ten servicemen to operate, and was the focal information and communications point for the battery. Communication cables connected the various elements within the Battery Control Area, as well as with the Launch Area. The major structures within the Battery Control Area included:

Battery Control Trailer: The Army originally designed Nike to be a mobile system that would be suitable for use with a field army. As deployed for continental air defense, Nike bases were permanent installations. However, the military still wanted the system to be suitable for field use. As a result, the key pieces of the Nike weapon system's radar, launch, and battery control equipment were in mobile trailers connected through communications cables. Other trailers were used for spare parts, maintenance, and antenna equipment. "It appeared more reasonable," noted an Army training manual, "to adapt the mobile equipment for use in a fixed type of installation rather than to redesign the equipment specifically for fixed installations. The latter would be costly and time-consuming and it offered no promise of operation improvement or substantial ultimate economy."

The battery control trailer was at the heart of the Nike missile system. The Army equipped the trailer so that it would provide the battery control officer all the information required to direct the battery. The trailer contained the battery control console assembly, the acquisition radar cabinet assembly, the computer assembly, an early warning plotting board, an event recorder, and a switchboard cabinet assembly. From this trailer, the battery commander directed the acquisition of targets and the firing of the missiles. The acquisition radar operator and computer operator also were stationed in the battery control trailer. (Note: Prior to the recordation of Nike Missile Bases C-84 and SL-40, all equipment and control trailers were removed.)

Radar Control Trailer: The radar control trailer (often referred to as the central tracking trailer) housed the target radar console assembly, the missile-tracking radar console assembly, the radar power cabinet assembly, the radar range and receiver cabinet assembly, and additional equipment associated with the target and missile-tracking radars. The target- track console assembly provided the control and displays necessary for the operation of the target-tracking radar. The missile-track console assembly provided the control and displays for the operation of the missile-tracking radar. Generally. the battery control trailer and the radar control trailer were positioned back-to- back, which allowed easy access to both trailers by operating personnel. The maximum distance between the trailers was 25 feet.

Low-Power Acquisition Radar (LOPAR): The LOPAR search radar was composed of the acquisition antenna, receiver, and transmitter. The radar rotated constantly at a predetermined speed. Through the acquisition radar scope, the battery commander (or battery control officer) received a pictorial image of a potentiai enemy target coming within range of the Nike installation. The battery commander, through electronic interrogation, could determine whether the target was "friend or foe." Generally, Nike radars were mounted directly onto concrete pads. In some cases, because of visual obstructions, it was necessary to mount the radars on towers. These towers consisted of steel reinforccd concrete collumns sheathed in aluminum for even heat distribution. The acquisition radar was positioned between the target-tracking and missile-tracking radars, although not in exact line with them.

High-Power Acquisition Radar (HIPAR): This radar, which was installed at Nike installations equipped with Hercules missiles, was capable of locating targets at much higher altitudes than the LOPAR system. Since a ballistic missile or high-speed plane may not have been detected until it entered the antenna beam, high-altitude coverage was necessary to give adequate reaction time to allow for an intercept at a safe distance. Some bases also included an Alternate Battery Acquisition Radar (ABAR). The HIPAR was often located on a support and tripod structure, often as high as 50 feet. A dome-shaped cover, known as a radome, surrounded the radar and various antennas. There were usually three types of antennas: the main, omni, and auxiliary antennas.

HIPAR Equipment Building: This build- ing was adjacent to the HIPAR system and housed electronic equipment necessary to operate and maintain the HIPAR radar.

Target Tracking Radar: The target-tracking radar tracked the enemy aircraft's range, direction, and elevation, and transmitted this data electronically to the computer. The radar was composed of the tracking antenna, receiver, and transmitter.

Missile Tracking Radar: This radar was very similar in appearance and operation to the target-tracking radar. The missile~tracking radar tracked the missile throughout its flight, and continuously sent that information to the Nike installation's computer system. In turn, the computer transmitted steering commands to the missile through the missile-tracking radar to direct the missile toward its predicted intercept point with the target. Continuous commands were sent to the missile to correct for evasive actions by the target. When target and missile converged, the missile was detonated and the missile-tracking radar automati- cally transferred to the next missile readied for firing.

Generator Building: The generator build- ing housed diesel-driven generators for power to operate the area during periods when commercial power was not available. Transformers were mounted outside the building for utilization of commercial power. Commercial power, with electrical converters to change 60 cycle power to 400 cycle power, was utilized where available. Power source switching control also was provided at this point.

Radar Collimation Mast Assembly: The radar collimation mast assemb!y was copmposed of: the radar test, which had two track-radar frequency band generators; the radar collimation mast, which was usually about 60 feet tall; the targethead assembly; and cross arms, for correcting bore sight. The mast assembly was used for collimating (adjusting the line-of- sight), testing, and adjusting the missile-tracking and target-tracking radars. Typically, the mast assembly was located approximately 600 feet from the missile-tracking radar and the target-tracking radar. Spatially, the mast assembly and the two tracking radars formed a tall triangle.

Launch Area: The Launch Area provided for the maintenance, storage, testing, and firing of the Nike missiles. The selection of this area was primarily influenced by the relatively large amount of land required, its suitability to extensive underground construction, and the need to maintain a clear line-of-sight between the missiles in the Launch Area and the missile-tracking-radar in the Battery Control Area. At Nike Missile Base SL-40, the Launch Area included a sentry guardhouse, a ready building for the crew, a water treatment building, a missile test and assembly building, a warheading building, a generator building, a canine kennel, an acid fueling station, an acid storage shed, and three missile launching sections, each equipped with four missile launchers. An estimated 21 men, including the launching control officer and the section chief, operated launch control. Of these, six missile crew members manned each of the three launching sections.

The following descriptions are based on the launch areas at Nike Missile Bases C-84 and SL-40. As noted above, actual launch site build- ings and arrangements varied throughout the Nation.

Launch Control Trailer (LCT): The launch control trailer contained the necessary equipment to function as the control center between the battery control trailer and the launching sections. Similar in appearance to the battery control and radar trailers in the Battery Control Area, the launch control trailer contained the launching control panel, the launching control switchboard, and test responder. Included within the launching control panel were the controls, displays, and communications equipment that were needed to supervise and monitor the launching sections, and to act as a relay station between the launching sections and the Battery Control Area.

Missile Test and Assembly Building: Missiles arrived at Nike bases unassembled and unarmed, as peacetime Interstate Commerce Commission restrictions prevented the transporting of ready missiles from a central assembly site. In the Missile Assembly and Test Building and its adjacent hardstand, Nike crews uncrated, assembled, and tested the missiles. Missile "assembly" referred primarily to the installation of the missile control fins, main fins, ailerons, and fairings. The missile's hydraulic and propulsion systems were also checked. The crew visually inspected the various components and lines of both systems for correct assembly and serviceable condition. Crewmen also ran leak tests on the missiles' lines and components.

Following the system tests. the crew performed a complete missile test. In preparation for this test, crewmen connected the missile to an external source of hydraulic power and to the radio frequency and electrical test sets. The missile was then operated from these external sources. In effect, the missile was made to perform as it would in flight and its performance was carefully observed. After this test, the crew connected the missile to a compressed air source. and both the hyrdraulic air tank and the propulsion air tank were pressurized. The crew installed a charged battery in the missile guidance section, and conducted a pressure test to assure that it was properly sealed.

The Missile Test and Assembly Building had two large, garage-like doors at either end, through which the missiles were rolled in and out. In addition to the main test and assembly room, the building included a stock room, first aid room, restroom, and boiler room. A concrete walkway for missile movement connected the Missile Test and Assembly Building with the acid fueling station.

Acid Fueling Station: At the acid fueling station, crewmen fueled and joined the missile to the booster. The servicer that fueled the missile was a crank-operated lift approximately 12 feet high. Crewmen hoisted the fuel onto this platform, allowing the fuel to flow into the missile by gravity. Likewise, the acid servicer had an assembly that automatically inverted the barrel as it was raised. As protection against the caustic acid, crewmen wore rubber suits during the fueling process.

Acid Storage Shed: Located near to each acid fueling station was a metal storage shed. Also located nearby were shower facilities, in the event of accidental contact with dangerous chemicals and fuels.

Warheading Building: For safety in the event of explosion, the missile warheading operations were also performed at the acid fueling station, which was encircled by an earthen berm approximately eight to ten feat high. The warheading process basically involved installing two arming devices, the warheads, and connecting these components with the detonating cord.

At Nike Missile Bast SL-40, which had Nike Hercules missiles, the crew attached the warheads in the Warheading Building, which was located near the fueling station. Nike Missile Base C-84, which was equipped only with Ajax missiles, did not include a separate Warheading Building. This was typical of most Nike Ajax installations. For example, when Nike Missile Base SF-88L near San Francisco was equipped solely with Nike Ajax missiles, the missile test, assembly, and warheading activities all took place within the same structure. After the base acquired Hercules missiles, crewmen used a prefabricated metal building for missile test and assembly, and a separate building for warheading.

Underground Storage Magazines and Launcher-Loader Assemblies: Although they were originally designed to hold six magazines, Nike Bases C-84 and SL-40 each had only three underground storage areas, designated as letters A through C. Each unit had associated launch pads, access areas, and ground electrical units. The magazine pad had a double elevator door, which swung down to open. Stairways led to the double-door main entrances to the magazines. (Access to many Nike magazines was solely via armored hatches and vertical ladders. The staircases were later additions, which many Nike installations never received.) Emergency escape hatches, with counter-weights for easy opening, led from the underground personnel rooms to the inside. The magazines were made of reinforced concrete; fresh air was provided via a ventilation unit. Each unit also had several ventilator shafts.

Each underground unit contained a room for storing the missiles (the magazine room), an elevator to carry the missiles to the surface for firing, and four launcher-loader assemblies. Three of the launchers, numbers 2 through 4, were permanently emplaced above the ground and were referred to as satellite launchers. The fourth launcher (number 1) was mounted on the elevator. When the elevator was in its lowered position, the missile crew pushed a missile and booster from the storage racks onto the launcher on the elevator. When the elevator was raised, the missile and booster on the elevator could be pushed from the elevator launcher onto the satellite launchers. Nike crewmen could operate the elevator, which could be raised, lowered, or stopped, via a master control station in the magazine room, from the controls on the elevator, or from the launching section control panel in the personnel room. Hydraulic power operated the elevator, and the doors were supplied by an elevator assembly power unit in the magazine room.

During "alert stages", servicemen stationed at Nike Missile Base SL-40 stayed in the personnel room of the underground launch area. The personnel room, which was equipped with bunks, was separated from the magazine by three blast-proof doors. An emergency escape hatch provided direct access to the outside. During an alert, after a launching section was placed "on deck", the launchor crews completed their checks of the missiles and launchers and went to the underground personnel room for safety. (Most Nike magazines apparently did not have personnel rooms. The crew stayed in a nearby "ready room" within quick response distance. The only protected room was a small "panel room" that contained the section control panel and just enough space for a crew to stay in during actual launch.)

Generator Building: At Nike Missile Bases C-84 and SL-40, electric power for the underground magazines was supplied by 150-kilowatt, 60 cycle diesel generators, or commercial sources when available. Direct 60 cycle power was used for the elevator. Where 400-cycle power was required, the 60-cycle power was converted to 400-cycle power by means of freguency converters (changers).

Ready Building: The Launch Area at Nike Missile Base SL-40 was located approximately one and one-fourth mile from the combined Housing, Administration, and Battery Control Area. As a result, the Launch Area also included a ready building for the crewmen. Typical of most Nike base buildings, the ready building was a vernacular, one-story structure with cinder-block walls. The building included a squad room, a dining and day room, toilet, and heater room.

Canine Kennel Area: Guard dogs were an important part of a Nike missile base's security system, as milirary patrolman and dogs patrolled the base. At Nike Missile Base SL-40, the kennel was a small gable roofed metal building surrounded by chain link and barbed-wire fencing. The kennel held training equipment, leashes, dog food, and grooming tools. Nike canine areas also often included a dog training area equipped with jumps and barricades.