Air Force Radar and the Army Nike Missile Air-Defense System

Air Force AC&W radar squadrons, beginning around 1959-1960, were tasked to provide long-range radar coverage for the Army�s Nike Missile air-defense system around major U.S. cities, industrial centers, and certain SAC bomber bases and BMEWS radar sites. Some of these joint Air Force - Army radar sites involved existing Air Force Stations, while others involved new joint-use sites to which an existing Air Force AC&W radar squadron was relocated or a new squadron was activated. While both services would have preferred to maintain separate radar facilities, funding crunches and Congressional mandates forced the Army and the Air Force (and, in certain cases, the Navy and the FAA) to combine assets.

As with Air Force radar operations, early Nike missile command-and-control functions (at facilities termed "Army Air-Defense Command Posts," or AADCP's) were manual operations, using plexiglass plotting boards and telephonic inputs. Computerized command-and-control operations began in the late 1950�s with the AN/FSG-1 �Missile Master� computer system. Initially, the Army system was separate from the Air Force system, but was soon integrated into the Air Force / NORAD Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) system. There were ten (10) Army Missile-Master control centers total across the Lower 48; technically, these facilities were termed �NORAD Joint Manual Direction Centers.� Air Force operations personnel were also assigned to these Army direction centers, and conversely Army operators were also assigned to SAGE direction centers.

Less-complex (and less-capable) Nike missile command-and-control operations were established at others locations. A number of Missile-Master facilities also were subsequently converted to one of these less-complex systems. The other Nike missile command-and-control systems were knows as "Battery Integrated Radar Display Equipment" (BIRDIE), using an AN/GSG-5(V) computer system; "Missile Mentor," using an AN/TSQ-51 solid-state computer system; and "Missile Monitor" or "Missile Minder," using an AN/TSQ-38 solid-state computer system (Key West only).

The following table lists the joint-use Air Force radar stations along with a summary of the Army Nike missile system that was supported, and other information as available. For more-extensive information on the Nike Missile defense system, refer to Rings of Supersonic Steel (2nd Edition) by Mark Berhow & Mark Morgan, and/or go to various on-line sources such as Ed Thelen's informative web site,

[AADCP = Army Air-Defense Command Post]

Radar Site
Air Force (ADC) /
NORAD Site #
Site #
Air Force
AC&W/Radar Squadron
Relocated From Nike Missile Direction
Center Type(s)
Army Defense Area Air Force
Dates of Operation
Army Nike
Dates of Operation
Other (Navy, FAA)
Dates of Operation
Fort Meade, MD RP-54 / Z-227 W-13DC 770 Palermo AFS, NJ (P-54) Missile Master; BIRDiE Washington-Baltimore 1 Oct 1961 - 1 Oct 1979 1957 - 1 Sep 1974 none First Missile Master to become operational. Air Force site designation changed from RP-54 to Z-227 in 1962 when Palermo AFS re-opened as Z-54. The radar site closed Oct 1979.
Pedricktown AI, NJ / Gibbsboro AFS, NJ RP-63 / Z-63 PH-64DC 772 Claysburg AFS, PA (P-63) Missile Master Philadelphia 1 May 1961 - present * ~1960 - 30 Sep 1966 FAA: mid 1990s - present (ARSR-4) Army long-range radars were initially collocated at Pedricktown, one FPS-20 & one FPS-6. The Gibbsboro Long-Range Radar Site is still in use today.
Highlands AFS, NJ P-9 / Z-9 NY-55DC 646 (N/A) Missile Master; Missile Mentor New York 1948 - 1 July 1966 ~1960 - 31 Oct 1974 none Air Force turned over the entire site to the Army in 1966. Site closed Oct 1974.
Fort Heath, MA MM-1 B-21DC 820 (N/A) Missile Master; Missile Mentor Boston 1961 - 1962 ~1960 - 1965 FAA: 1961 - mid/late 1990s The Boston Defense Area merged with Hartford & Providence Defense Areas in 1962, becoming the New England Defense Area. The Missile Master was replaced by a Missile Mentor in early 1965; the site closed later that same year. The FAA radar at Winthrop (i.e., the former Ft. Heath) was deactivated in the mid or late 1990s, after North Truro AFS on Cape Cod became a joint-use site with an ARSR-4.
Lockport AFS, NY P-21 / Z-21 NF-17DC 763 (N/A) Missile Master Niagara Falls - Buffalo 1951 - 1 April 1979 ~1960 - 1962 none Site closed April 1979.
Oakdale AI, PA RP-62 / Z-62 P-70DC 662 Brookfield AFS, OH (P-62) Missile Master; Missile Mentor Pittsburgh 1 Nov 1959 - 31 Dec 1969 ~1960 - mid 1974 FAA: ~1960 - present FAA Long-Range Radar Site still in use.
Selfridge AFB, MI P-20 / Z-20 D-15DC 661 (N/A) Missile Master; Missile Mentor Detroit 1952 - July 1974 ~1960 - mid 1974 none Air Force ceased radar operations in 1974 when the Army no longer needed radar support here.
Arlington Heights AI, IL RP-31 / Z-31; MM-4 C-80DC 755 Williams Bay AFS, WI (P-31) Missile Master; Missile Mentor Chicago 1961 - 30 Sep 1969 ~1960 - mid 1974 none Radar site ceased all operations Sep 1969.
Fort Lawton, WA RP-1 / Z-1 S-90DC 635 McChord AFB, WA (P-1) Missile Master; BIRDiE Seattle 1960 - March 1963 ~1960 - mid 1974 FAA: ~1960 - present FAA Long-Range Radar Site still in use.
Fort MacArthur, CA / San Pedro Hill AFS, CA RP-39 / Z-39 LA-45DC 670 San Clemente Island AFS, CA (P-39) Missile Master; Missile Mentor Los Angeles 1960 - late 1990s ~1961 (?) - mid 1974 FAA: ~1961 - present Final Missile-Master to become operational. FAA Long-Range Radar Site on San Pedro Hill still in use.
Mill Valley AFS, CA P-38 / Z-38 SF-90DC 666 (N/A) BIRDiE San Francisco 1951 - present ~1960 (?) - mid 1971 FAA: 1980 - present (ARSR-4) Joint-use FAA / Air Force Long-Range Radar Site still in use.
Duncanville AFS, TX P-78 / Z-78 DF-30DC 745 (N/A) BIRDiE Dallas - Fort Worth 1952 - 31 July 1964 ~1959 (?) - 1969 none In 1962, the 745th Radar Squadron relocated to Perrin AFS (RP-78 / Z-78), until 30 Sep 1969.
Geiger Field, WA / Mica Peak AFS, WA SM-151 / Z-151 (none) 823 (N/A) BIRDiE Fairchild 1958 - present 1957 - May 1972 FAA: mid 1990s - present (ARSR-4) Air Force radar Operations moved to the mountain site when Army involvement ceased. Joint-use FAA / Air Force Long-Range Radar Site on Mica Peak still in use.
Omaha AFS, NE P-71 / Z-71 (none) 789 (N/A) BIRDiE Offutt Apr 1952 - 8 Sep 1968 ~1959 (?) - 1968 FAA: ~1960 - present FAA Long-Range Radar Site still in use.
Olathe AFS, KS P-72 / Z-72 KC-65DC 738 (N/A) BIRDiE Kansas City 1952 - 8 Sep 1968 ~1959 (?) - 1969 none Site closed Sep 1968.
Belleville AFS, IL P-70 / Z-70 SL-47DC 798 (N/A) BIRDiE St. Louis May 1952 - 18 June 1968 ~1959 (?) - 1968 none Site closed June 1968.
Richmond AFS, FL Z-210 HM-01DC 644 (N/A) BIRDiE; Missile Mentor Homestead - Miami 1959 - 1992 ~1962 (?) - 1979 FAA: ~1960 - 1992 Activated as a result of the Cuban missile crisis; defense area had both Nike Hercules and Hawk missiles. Site closed in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew destoyed the radar tower.
Key West NAS, FL Z-209 KW-18DC 671 (N/A) Missile Monitor; Missile Mentor Key West 1962 - present ~1962 (?) - 1979 Navy: 1950s to present FAA: mid 1990s to present (ARSR-4) Activated as a result of the Cuban missile crisis; only defense area with only Hawk missiles. Joint-use FAA / Navy / Air Force Long-Range Radar Site still in use.
Fire Island AFS, AK F-1 (none) 626 (N/A) manual Anchorage * Sep 1951 - late 1969 ~1959 (?) - 1969 none Nike missile operations continued until 1979; the AADCP reportedly then moved to King Salmon AFS, AK (F-3).
Murphy Dome AFS, AK F-2 (none) 744 (N/A) manual Fairbanks Sep 1951 - present ~1959 (?) - 1971 none One phase of the Nike-missile mission was to protect the Clear BMEWS radar from bomber attack. The Murphy Dome Long-Range Radar Site is still in use.
King Salmon AFS, AK F-3 (none) 705 (N/A) manual Anchorage * Nov 1951 - present late 1969 until 1979 none Reportedly became the Army AADCP for the Anchorage Defense Area when Fire Island AFS, AK, closed in late 1969. The King Salmon Long-Range Radar Site is still in use.
Sweetwater AFS, TX M-89 / Z-89 (none) 683 (N/A) BIRDiE Dyess 1956 - 30 Sep 1969 1960 - 1966 none Site closed Sep 1969.
Ellsworth AFB, SD M-97 (none) 740 (N/A) BIRDiE Ellsworth late 1954 - 15 Aug 1962 1958 - 1961 none Radar site ceased all operations 1961.
Caswell AFS, ME * P-80 / Z-80 (none) 766 (N/A) manual * Loring 1952 - 1 July 1980 ~1958 - ~1960 (?) none * Indirect support; AADCP located at Loring AFB. The Caribou Nike IFC site is now the site of the FAA / Air Force joint-use ARSR-4 radar.
Cape Charles AFS, VA * P-56 / Z-56 (none) 771 (N/A) BIRDiE * Norfolk 1950 - 1 June 1981 1958 - June 1971 FAA: 1963 - 1 June 1981 * Indirect support; AADCP located at Hampton Roads Army Terminal; later merged with the Washington-Baltimore Defense Area. New joint-use FAA / Navy / Air Force radar site is at NAS Oceana, VA.
Kaala AFS, HI * H01 (none) 169 (N/A) manual * Oahu mid 1950s - present ~1959 (?) - 1970 FAA: 1960s (?) - present (ARSR-4) * Indirect support; AADCP located at Wahiawa.
Thule AFB, GL (P-Mountain) * G-32 (none) 931 (N/A) manual * Thule 8 Nov 1952 - 24 Dec 1965 ~1958 - 1966 (?) none * Indirect support; AADCP located at Thule AB. Nike-missile mission was to protect the Thule BMEWS radar from bomber attack.
Walker AFB, NM M-90 (none) 686 (N/A) manual Walker 1955 - May 1963 none ** none ** Nike batteries were built but not made operational.