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Air Defense Command

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  • 12 March 1946: Established as Air Defense Command

  • 27 March 1946: Activated as a major command by the United States Army Air Force at Mitchel Field (later, Mitchel Air Force Base), New York

  • 1 December 1948: The USAF establishes the Continental Air Command under both the Air Defense Command and Tactical Air Command

  • 1 July 1950: Deactivated as a major command, Continental Air Command assumed full charge of United States air defense

  • 1 January 1951: Reestablished as a major command

  • 8 January 1951: Air Defense Command headquarters moves from Mitchel Field to Ent Air Force Base, Colorado

  • 14 July 1952: Air Defense Command begins 24-hour Ground Observer Corps operations

  • 1 September 1954: The Continental Air Defense Command is established at Ent Air Force Base as a joint-service force, taking control of Air Force Air Defense Command forces, Army Anti-Aircraft Command forces, and Naval air defense forces

  • 12 September 1957: The North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) is established at Ent Air Force Base as an international organization, taking operational control of Canadian Air Defense Command air defense units and United States Continental Air Defense Command air defense units

  • 31 July 1959: The Ground Observer Corps, active since July 1952, is abolished because of improvements in radar technology

  • 15 January 1968: Re-designated as Aerospace Defense Command

  • 1 July 1973: Continental Air Defense Command and Aerospace Defense Command headquarters begins consolidation and streamlining

  • 4 February 1974: The Department of Defense announces plans for cutbacks in air defense forces showing increasing emphasis on ballistic missile attack warning and decreasing emphasis on bomber defense

  • 30 June 1974: Continental Air Defense Command de-established

  • 1 July 1975: Aerospace Defense Command designated a "Specified Command" taking over Continental Air Defense Command roles and responsibilities

  • 1 October 1979: Aerospace Defense Command inactivated as a Major Command; Air Defense, Tactical Air Command established as a Numbered Air Force equivalent under Tactical Air Command

  • 31 March 1980: ADC Inactivated

Article reprinted from Aerospace Defense Command publication, The Interceptor, January 1979 (Volume 21, Number 1).

Air Defense Command EmblemAir Defense of the Continental United States had its beginning when Major General Hap Arnold recommended an Air Defense Command Unit composed of Air Corps, Coast Guard Artillery, and Signal Corps be formed. On 26 February 1950 the unit was officially activated at Mitchell Field under the command of Brig Gen. James E. Chaney, an Air Corps officer. Although the command was deactivated fourteen months later, it provided the ground work for the future Air Defense Command.

On March 1946, Air Defense Command was organized as a major command, and on 1 December 1946 was placed under Continental Air Command. On I July 1950 ADC was discontinued; however, it was reactivated as a major command again on 1 January 1951. Air Defense Command was re-designated Aerospace Defense Command on 15 January 1968, and on 31 July 1975 it became a specified command under NORAD and JCS control.

During the 30-plus years of its existence the command has undergone many changes. One thing has not changed though; the men and women of the Command have provided the country with a continual shield against air attack. Starting with detection and warning and ending with the interceptors and aircrews standing alert to launch at a moment's notice.

In this issue of the magazine we have included an historic, and possibly nostalgic, sketch of the command by including brief histories of all (93 to be exact) the fighter interceptor squadrons assigned to the command as its alert force. These are just the active Air Force Squadrons that have been in the command. Time and space did not allow us to include the 76 Air National Guard Squadrons, several Naval Squadrons, radar squadrons, training squadrons and numerous support units that have played important roles in our nation's defense.

For brevity we have omitted some actions that affected all the squadrons in the command at that time. They are: 11 June 1948 when the P designation of all fighter aircraft was changed to F; 20 January 1948 when Fighter Squadrons became Fighter Interceptor Squadrons; and 18 August 1955 when a number of changes in unit designations took place under "Project Arrow." This restored many squadrons to the wings and groups to which they had belonged during World War II.

History

The War Department established an Air Defense Command on February 26, 1940.  This command, operating under the control of the First Army Commander from March 2, 1940, to September 9, 1941, engaged in planning for air defense.  Before the United States entered World War II, air defense was divided among the four air districts later, First, Second, Third, and Fourth Air Forces based in the United States.  In mid-1944, when the threat of air attack seemed negligible, this air defense organization was disbanded. Subsequently, no real air defense organization existed until the second Air (later Aerospace) Defense Command was established in 1946 as a major command of the Army Air Forces (AAF).  The Aerospace Defense Command declined after the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve gradually assumed more and more of the air defense mission.  In 1980 Air Defense Command resources were divided between Tactical Air Command and Strategic Air Command.  Some functions of the command passed to the Aerospace Defense Center, a direct reporting unit that inactivated on October 1, 1986.

Lineage

Established as Air Defense Command on March 21, 1946
Activated as a major command on March 27, 1946
Became a subordinate operational command of Continental Air Command on December 1, 1948
Discontinued on July 1, 1950
Reestablished as a major command, and organized, on January 1, 1951
Re-designated Aerospace Defense Command on January 15, 1968
Inactivated on March 31, 1980

Aerospace Defense Command Pamphlet 190-1 (September 1963)

Contributed by John Sheehan
The images below were scanned by individual pages.  Click Here to see them in a converted PDF.

The Mission

The Air Defense Command (ADC) is organized primarily to discharge Air Force responsibilities for the air defense of the United States. ADC supplies and maintains the major portion of Air Force weapons and real estate for this purpose. It has the responsibility to organize, administer, equip, train, and prepare combat units and combat crews assigned to ADC, and to place under the operational control of the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental and North American Air Defense Commands such elements when they are ready for combat. ADC recommends training needs for the Air National Guard (ANG), assists in its premobilization training, and assumes command over ANG air defense units upon mobilization. In addition, ADC controls the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line, and the Texas Towers - radar stations in the Atlantic Ocean. ADC units fly the Lockheed RC-121 Warning Stars which form the aerial seaward extensions of ground radar lines off both ocean coasts of the United States. Basic air defense functions of ADC are: aircraft detection, identification, interception and destruction. ADC is the major component force of both the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) and the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD).

The History

The War Department established an Air Defense Command on February 26, 1940. This command, operating under the control of the First Army Commander from March 2, 1940, to September 9, 1941, engaged in planning for air defense. Before the United States entered World War II, air defense was divided among the four air districts (later, numbered air forces) based in the United States: First, Second, Third, and Fourth Air Forces. In mid-1944, when the threat of air attack seemed negligible, this air defense organization was disbanded. Subsequently, no real air defense organization existed until the second Air (later Aerospace) Defense Command was established in 1946 as a major command of the Army Air Forces (AAF).

The Air Defense Command was organized on 21 Mar 1946, at Mitchel Field, NY. In December 1948, it was placed under the Continental Air Command and delegated supervision of the build-up of the air defense system. On 1 Jan 1951, it was established as a major air command at Ent AFB, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The growth and development of the ADC air defense system has been steady. From four day-type fighter squadrons in 1946, the interceptor force grew to sixty all-weather squadrons in 1959. By 1953, a modern radar system had been completed and additional radar units were programmed to blanket the country with medium and high-altitude radar cover. At the same time, the decision was made to extend radar coverage as far from the American borders as possible. An agreement with Canada for mutual defense resulted in the extension of radar coverage into southern Canada in 1952 (the Pinetree Line), and permission was granted by the USAF to erect the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line, which became operational under ADC control in 1958; the DEW Line consists of radars and continuous-wave stations along the Arctic Circle from Alaska to Greenland.

Work was begun in 1953 to erect a number of off-shore radars platforms known as Texas Towers. To provide even more distant off-shore coverage, the Airborne Early Warning program was begun, consisting of two wings of Lockheed RC-121 Warning Stars.

In 1953, development of the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) system began. It was destined to become the nerve center of air defense. The first of the SAGE sectors was put into operation in July 1958, and was rapidly joined by others in the eastern and northern United States during 1959 and 1960. This electronic network is based on the provision of digital computers and ancillary data-transmitting equipment at strategic locations throughout the country. A major purpose of this system is to provide instantaneous information to interceptor aircraft in flight as well as trigger other defensive measures. On 1 Sep 1959, the first BOMARC IM-99A surface-to-air missile squadron became operational, harbinger of a program to replace a part of the manned interceptor force with unmanned interceptor missiles.

To provide far distant early warning of missile attacks, the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS) was begun in 1958, with huge radar stations destined for Alaska, Greenland and England; these radars are capable of detecting missiles in flight, deep in the Soviet Union or in other similarly distant territory.

The Aerospace Defense Command declined after the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve gradually assumed more and more of the air defense mission. In 1980 Air Defense Command resources were divided between Tactical Air Command and Strategic Air Command. Some functions of the command passed to the Aerospace Defense Center, a direct reporting unit which inactivated on October 1, 1986.

Established as Air Defense Command on March 21, 1946. Activated as a major command on March 27, 1946. Became an operational command of Continental Air Command on December 1, 1948. Discontinued on July 1, 1950. Reestablished as a major command, and organized, on January 1, 1951. Re-designated Aerospace Defense Command on January 15, 1968. Inactivated on March 31, 1980.

Bases:

  • Andrews AFB, Maryland
  • Bunker Hill AFB, Indiana
  • Castle AFB, California
  • Charleston AFB, South Carolina
  • Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona
  • Dover AFB, Delaware
  • Dow AFB, Maine
  • Duluth Municipal Airport, Minnesota
  • Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota
  • England AFB, Louisiana
  • Ent AFB, Colorado
  • Geiger Field, Washington
  • George AFB, California
  • Glasgow AFB, Montana
  • Goose AB, Canada
  • Griffiss AFB, New York
  • Hamilton AFB, California
  • K.I. Sawyer AFB, Michigan
  • Kincheloe AFB, Michigan
  • Kingsley Field, Oregon
  • Kirtland AFB, New Mexico
  • Langley AFB, Virginia
  • Larson AFB, Washington
  • Lockbourne AFB, Ohio
  • Loring AFB, Maine
  • Malmstrom AFB, Montana
  • McChord AFB, Washington
  • McCoy AFB, Florida
  • Otis AFB, Massachusetts
  • Oxnard AFB, California
  • Paine AFB, Washington
  • Portland International Airport, Oregon
  • Richards-Gebaur AFB, Missouri
  • Selfridge AFB, Michigan
  • Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina
  • Suffolk County AFB, New York
  • Travis AFB, California
  • Truax Field, Wisconsin
  • Walker AFB, New Mexico
  • Webb AFB, Texas
  • Wurtsmith AFB, Michigan
  • Youngstown Municipal Airport, Ohio
  •  

    Organization:  &  Commanders:

     

    Air Defense Command (ADC)

    Name From To
    Lt. Gen George Stratemeyer 21 Mar 1946 30 Nov 1948
    Maj. Gen Gordon Saville 1 Dec 1948 31 Dec 1950
    Lt. Gen Ennis Whitehead 1 Jan 1951 25 Aug 1951
    Gen Benjamin Chidlaw 25 Aug 1951 31 May 1955
    Maj. Gen Frederick Smith, Jr.
    (acting)
    31 May 1955 19 Jul 1955
    Gen Earle Partridge 20 Jul 1955 17 Sep 1956
    Lt. Gen Joseph Atkinson 17 Sep 1956 15 Aug 1961
    Lt. Gen Robert Lee 15 Aug 1961 31 Jul 1963
    Lt. Gen Herbert Thatcher 1 Aug 1963 31 Jul 1967
    Lt. Gen Arthur Agan 1 Aug 1967 31 Dec 1967

     

    Aerospace Defense Command (ADC)

    Name From To
    Lt. Gen Arthur Agan 1 Jan 1968 28 Feb 1970
    Lt. Gen Thomas McGehee 1 Mar 1970 1 Jul 1973
    Gen Seth McKee 1 Jul 1973 1 Oct 1973
    Gen Lucius Clay, Jr. 1 Oct 1973 31 Aug 1975
    Gen Daniel James, Jr. 1 Sep 1975 5 Dec 1977
    Gen James Hill 6 Dec 1977 30 Nov 1979

     

    Aerospace Defense Center

    (Tactical Air Command)

    Name From To
    Gen James Hill 1 Dec 1979 1 Jan 1980
    Gen James Hartinger 1 Jan 1980 31 Aug 1980

     

    Aerospace Defense Command

    With the creation of the Space Command on Sept. 1, 1982, the functions of the Aerospace Defense Center were absorbed by Space Command, and the ADC Commander became SPACECOM Commander

    The War Department established an Air Defense Command on February 26, 1940. This command, operating under the control of the First Army Commander from March 2, 1940, to September 9, 1941, engaged in planning for air defense. Before the United States entered World War II, air defense was divided among the four air districts later, First, Second, Third, and Fourth Air Forces based in the United States. In mid-1944, when the threat of air attack seemed negligible, this air defense organization was disbanded. Subsequently, no real air defense organization existed until the second Air (later Aerospace) Defense Command was established in 1946 as a major command of the Army Air Forces (AAF). The Aerospace Defense Command declined after the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve gradually assumed more and more of the air defense mission. In 1980 Air Defense Command resources were divided between Tactical Air Command and Strategic Air Command. Some functions of the command passed to the Aerospace Defense Center, a direct reporting unit that inactivated on October 1, 1986.

    The Air Force Space Command

    U.S. Space Command was created in 1985, but America’s military actually began operating in space much earlier. With the Soviet Union’s unexpected 1957 launch of the world’s first man-made satellite, Sputnik I, President Eisenhower accelerated the nation’s slowly emerging civil and military space efforts. The vital advantage that space could give either country during those dark days of the Cold War was evident in his somber words. "Space objectives relating to defense are those to which the highest priority attaches because they bear on our immediate safety," he said.

    During the 1960s and 1970s, the Army, Navy and Air Force advanced and expanded space technologies in the areas of communication, meteorology, geodesy, navigation and reconnaissance. Space continued to support strategic deterrence by providing arms control and treaty verification, and by offering unambiguous, early warning of any missile attack on North America.

    On September 23, 1985, the Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed the ever-increasing value of military space systems by creating a new unified command — U.S. Space Command — to help institutionalize the use of space in U.S. deterrence efforts.

    The U.S.-led coalition’s 1991 victory in the Persian Gulf War underscored, and brought widespread recognition to, the value of military space operations. Communications, intelligence, navigation, missile warning and weather satellites demonstrated that space systems could be indispensable providers of tactical information to U.S. warfighters.

    Since then, U.S. Space Command has further strengthened its focus on warfighting by ensuring that Soldiers and Marines in the foxhole, Sailors on the ship’s bridge, and pilots in the cockpit have the space information they need — when they need it.

    Air Force Space Command (AFSPC), created September 1, 1982, is one of nine Air Force major commands, and is headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base, CO. Missile warning and space operations were combined to form Air Force Space Command in 1982, the same year NASA launched the first space shuttle. During the Cold War, space operations focused on missile warning, and command and control for national leadership. In 1991, Operation Desert Storm provided emphasis for the command's new focus on support to the war fighter. ICBM forces were merged into AFSPC in 1993.

    AFSPC defends America through its space and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) operations, vital force elements in projecting global reach and global power. AFSPC is a key factor in implementing the expeditionary aerospace force organizational structure.

    Air Force Space Command has two numbered air forces. Fourteenth Air Force provides space warfighting forces to U.S. Space Command, and is located at Vandenberg AFB, CA. Fourteenth Air Force manages the generation and employment of space forces to support U.S. Space Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) operational plans and missions. Twentieth Air Force, located at F.E. Warren AFB, WY, operates and maintains AFSPC's ICBM weapon systems in support of U.S. Strategic Command war plans.

    The Space Warfare Center at Schriever AFB, CO, is also part of the command. The center plays a major role in fully integrating space systems into the operational Air Force. Its force enhancement mission looks at ways to use space systems to support warfighters in the areas of navigation, weather, intelligence, communications and theater ballistic missile warning, and how these apply to theater operations. The center is also home to the Space Battlelab.

    AFSPC is the major command providing space forces for the U.S. Space Command and trained ICBM forces for U.S. Strategic Command. AFSPC also supports NORAD with ballistic missile warning information, operates the Space Warfare Center to develop space applications for direct war fighter support, and is responsible for the Department of Defense's ICBM follow-on operational test and evaluation program.


    AFSPC bases and stations include: Cheyenne Mountain Air Station, Schriever and Peterson AFBs and Buckley Air National Guard Base, Colo.; Onizuka AS and Vandenberg AFB, CA; Cape Canaveral AS and Patrick AFB, FL; Cavalier AS, ND; F.E. Warren AFB, WY; Malmstrom AFB, MT; Clear AS, AK; Thule AB, Greenland; and Woomera AS, Australia. AFSPC units are located around the world, including Japan, the United Kingdom and Germany.

    Space lift operations at the East and West Coast launch bases provide services, facilities and range safety control for the conduct of DOD, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and commercial launches. Through the command and control of all DOD satellites, satellite operators provide force-multiplying effects -- continuous global coverage, low vulnerability and autonomous operations. Satellites provide essential in-theater secure communications, weather and navigational data for ground, air and fleet operations, and threat warning. Ground-based radar and Defense Support Program satellites monitor ballistic missile launches around the world to guard against a surprise attack on North America. Space surveillance radars provide vital information on the location of satellites and space debris for the nation and the world. With a readiness rate above 99 percent, America's ICBM team plays a critical role in maintaining world peace and ensuring the nation's safety and security.

    AFSPC operates and supports the Global Positioning System, Defense Satellite Communications Systems Phase II and III, Defense Support Program, NATO III and IV communications and Fleet Satellite Communications System UHF follow-on and MILSTAR satellites. AFSPC currently operates the Atlas II, Delta II, Titan II and Titan IV launch vehicles. This includes all of the nation's primary boosters from the Eastern and Western ranges and range support for the space shuttle. AFSPC also operates the nation's primary source of continuous, real-time solar flare warnings. The command also operates a worldwide network of satellite tracking stations to provide communications links to satellites -- a system called the Air Force Satellite Control Network.

    Ground-based radars used primarily for ballistic missile warning include the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System, PAVE PAWS and PARCS radars. The Ground-based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System, Passive Space Surveillance System, phased-array and mechanical radars provide primary space surveillance coverage.

    The ICBM force consists, as of mid-1999, of Minuteman III and Peacekeeper missiles that provide the critical component of America's on-alert strategic forces. As the nation's "silent sentinels," ICBMs, and the people who operate them, have remained on continuous around-the-clock alert since 1959 -- longer than any other U.S. strategic force. Five hundred Minuteman III and 50 Peace keeper ICBMs are currently on alert in reinforced concrete launch facilities beneath the Great Plains.

    AFSPC is the Air Force's largest operator of UH-1N Huey helicopters, responsible for missile operations support and security.

    As of June 1999, approximately 37,200 people, including 25,800 active-duty military and civilians, and 11,360 contractor employees, combine to perform AFSPC missions.

    Air Force Space Command brings space to the war fighter by continuously improving the command's ability to provide and support combat forces -- assuring their access to space. In addition, the command's ICBM forces deter any adversary contemplating the use of weapons of mass destruction. AFSPC has six primary mission areas:

    • Space forces support involves launching satellites and other high-value payloads into space using a variety of expendable launch vehicles. It also operates those satellites once in the medium of space.
    • Space control ensures friendly use of space through the conduct of counterspace operations encompassing surveillance, negation and protection.
    • Force enhancement provides weather, communications, intelligence, missile warning and navigation.
    • Force application involves maintaining and operating a rapid response land-based ICBM force as part of the nation's strategic nuclear triad.
    • Computer Network Defense
    • Computer Network Attack



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