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
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
31 July 1959: The Ground Observer Corps, active
since July 1952, is abolished because of improvements in radar
15 January 1968: Re-designated as Aerospace
1 July 1973: Continental Air Defense Command and
Aerospace Defense Command headquarters begins consolidation and
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
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
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
31 March 1980: ADC Inactivated
Article reprinted from Aerospace Defense Command publication, The Interceptor, January 1979 (Volume 21, Number 1).
Air 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.
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.
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
Contributed by John Sheehan
The images below were scanned by individual pages.
to see them in a converted PDF.
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 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,
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
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.
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
Griffiss AFB, New York
Hamilton AFB, California
Sawyer AFB, Michigan
Kincheloe AFB, Michigan
Kingsley Field, Oregon
Kirtland AFB, New Mexico
Langley AFB, Virginia
Lockbourne AFB, Ohio
Malmstrom AFB, Montana
McChord AFB, Washington
Portland International Airport, Oregon
Richards-Gebaur AFB, Missouri
Selfridge AFB, Michigan
Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina
Suffolk County AFB, New York
AFB, New Mexico
Wurtsmith AFB, Michigan
Youngstown Municipal Airport, Ohio
Organization: & Commanders:
Air Defense Command (ADC)
|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.
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)
|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)
|Gen James Hill
1 Dec 1979
1 Jan 1980
|Gen James Hartinger
1 Jan 1980
31 Aug 1980
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
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
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
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