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For the lighthouse design, see Texas Tower (lighthouse). For the building at University of Texas at Austin, see Main Building (University of Texas at Austin).

The Texas Towers were a set of three radar facilities off the eastern seaboard of the United States which were used for surveillance by the United States Air Force during the Cold War. Modeled on the offshore oil drilling platforms first employed off the Texas coast, they were in operation from 1958 to 1963. After the collapse of one of the towers in 1961, the remaining towers were closed due to changes in threat perception and out of a concern for the safety of the crews.

Texas Tower
Part of Air Defense Command (ADC)
TypeOffshore air defense radar
Site information
ConditionOut of service/demolished
Site history
Built byUnited States Air Force
In use1958–1963
MaterialsSteel

Contents

Upon re-formation of the Air Defense Command in 1951 to oversee the nation's developing surveillance radar network, there was concern that shore-based radars along the east coast provided insufficient warning time. A 1952 report from MIT's Lincoln Laboratory looked into the possibility of extending radar coverage by building platforms in the Atlantic using offshore oil drilling technology. They concluded that a set of such platforms, equipped with radars, could extend coverage several hundred miles offshore, giving half an hour additional warning of an attack. Funding for design and construction of the towers was approved in January 1954.

Texas Tower 2; note tropospheric scatter dish antennae on edge of platform.

Each tower consisted of a triangular platform, 200 feet (61 m) on each side, standing on three caisson legs. The structures were constructed on land, towed to site, and jacked up to clear the sea surface by 67 feet (20 m). Radar and other equipment were then installed on location. The platform itself contained two floors housing the living areas; two of the legs held fuel oil for diesel generators, while the third held the intake for the desalination unit. The platform roof served as a helicopter landing area. A rotary gantry was suspended from the platform to allow servicing of its underside.

Each platform was equipped with one AN/FPS-3 (later upgraded to AN/FPS-20) search radar and two AN/FPS-6 height finder radars, each housed in a separate spherical neoprene radome 55 feet (17 m) in diameter. Originally the towers were to be linked to shore by submarine cable, but this was eventually rejected as too costly; the AN/FRC-56 tropospheric scatter microwave link was installed instead, with an array of three parabolic antennas attached to one edge of the platform. UHF and VHF equipment allowed communication with ships and aircraft as well as providing a backup to the microwave link.

Five towers were planned, in an array off the New England/mid-Atlantic coast. The most northerly two proposed were dropped from plans due to budgetary constraints.

Logistical support for all three towers was provided by the 4604th Support Squadron, based out of Otis AFB and specifically constituted for this mission. They were originally equipped with H-21B helicopters, which were replaced with three Sikorsky SH-3 helicopters acquired in 1962. The USNS New Bedford was used to supply the stations, with transfer being effected with a platform called the "donut", consisting of an inflated rubber ring surmounted by a railing, which was lowered from the platform to the waiting ship's deck. These transfers could only take place at slack tide, when the ship could maintain position.

Texas Tower 2 was the first to become operational, starting limited service in May 1956. It became fully operational in 1958, as did Tower 3; Tower 4 followed in April 1959. The original plan to integrate these radars into the SAGE system had to be modified when the direct cable connection was eliminated; instead, they were used to provide manual inputs.

All the towers were noisy and prone to vibration from the equipment. The relative flexibility of the supports also caused them to shake and sway in response to wind and waves. The frequent and sustained sounding of the platform's foghorns was also an annoyance to the crew.

Texas Tower 4 before installation of crossbraces
Main article: Texas Tower 4

Tower 4 was plagued with structural problems from the start. It stood in much deeper water than the other two - 185 feet (56 m), compared to 80 feet (24 m) for Tower 2 - and it was held that the simple cylindrical leg design would not be sturdy enough given the length of the legs. Therefore, three sets of cross braces were added between the legs, attached with pin joints. These made it impossible to tow the platform on the level; instead, the structure was laid on its side for transport and then tipped upright at the site. These braces proved to be frail and the joints prone to loosening: two braces broke loose during transport, and a third was lost when the tower was being placed on the bottom. Divers were brought in several times to inspect the structure and to perform repairs, and an additional set of crossbraces was installed immediately below the platform, above the waterline, in 1960. Crewmen were frequently seasick from the swaying, and Tower 4 was nicknamed "Old Shaky".

On September 12, 1960, Hurricane Donna passed over Tower 4, causing severe structural damage, including the loss of the flying bridge hanging beneath the platform, and one of the communications dishes. After assessment of the damage and initial repairs it was decided to reduce staffing to a skeleton crew and prepare to dismantle the station. The site could not simply be abandoned for fear that the Soviets would board it and remove sensitive equipment and documentation. Dismantling of the tower was therefore protracted. At the approach of another storm in January 1961, evacuation of the station was impeded by the inability of the commander to make contact with any of his three immediate superiors; nonetheless the New Bedford set out for the platform. As the storm built, USS Wasp, which was in the vicinity, was also dispatched with the intent of evacuating the station via helicopter, shore aircraft being unable to take off. Both ships reached the vicinity but could do no more than watch the station disappear from their radar. No survivors were recovered, though divers were sent down on the chance that some might have been trapped in the wreckage. Twenty-eight airmen and civilian contractors perished. Only two bodies were recovered.

The loss of Tower 4, together with the increasing emphasis on ICBMs as the predominant threat, led a reassessment of the remaining towers. Escape capsules were added to the two remaining towers, allowing rapid evacuation. Shortly thereafter it was decided to close the remaining towers, and the electronic equipment was removed. Both platforms were expected to be returned to shore for scrap, but Tower 2 sank and could not be recovered. Tower 3 was then filled with foam before being knocked off its support, and it was successfully returned to shore and dismantled. The wreckage of Towers 2 and 4 remains in place on the ocean floor. Radar coverage was taken over by alterations to EC-121 airborne early warning flights based out of Otis Air Force Base.

  • Patches of tower units
  • Tower 2 patch

  • Tower 3 patch

  • 4604th Support Squadron patch

  1. Keeney, L. Douglas (2011). 15 Minutes: General Curtis LeMay and the Countdown to Nuclear Annihilation. Macmillan. p. 100.
  2. Ray, Thomas W. "A History of Texas Towers in Air Defense 1952-1964". Texas Tower Association. Archived from the original on 2010-07-15. Retrieved2012-01-23.
  3. Howe, Hartley E. (October 1955). "Radar Island Rises 110 Miles at Sea". Popular Science: 126–129, 268. Retrieved2012-01-22.
  4. Kaufmann, J. E.; Kaufmann, H. W. (2004).Fortress America: The forts that defended America, 1600 to the present. Da Capo Press. pp. 371–372. Retrieved2012-01-22.
  5. "Rotary Wing Aircraft". Flying: 117. November 1962. Retrieved2012-01-22.
  6. Wylie, Evan McLeod (July 26, 1963). "Farewell to the Iron Bastards: Texas Towers Await the Wreckers". Life. pp. 7, 9. Retrieved2012-01-22.
  7. Leonard, Barry, ed. (2011). History of Strategic and Ballistic Missile Defense: Volume II: 1956-1972. DIANE Publishing. ISBN 9781437921311. p. 305
  8. Leonard, p. 312
  9. Keeney, pp. 150-152
  10. Keeney, p. 190
  11. Keeney, pp. 226-228
  12. Keeney, pp.229-232
  13. Keeney, pp.262-275
  14. Southall, Ashley, "Obama Recognizes Men Who Died in the Collapse of a Radar Tower in 1961", New York Times, 9 February 2011; retrieved 14 February 2011.

Texas Towers Article Talk Language Watch Edit 160 160 Redirected from Texas Tower For the lighthouse design see Texas Tower lighthouse For the building at University of Texas at Austin see Main Building University of Texas at Austin The Texas Towers were a set of three radar facilities off the eastern seaboard of the United States which were used for surveillance by the United States Air Force during the Cold War Modeled on the offshore oil drilling platforms first employed off the Texas coast they were in operation from 1958 to 1963 After the collapse of one of the towers in 1961 the remaining towers were closed due to changes in threat perception and out of a concern for the safety of the crews Texas TowerPart of Air Defense Command ADC Texas Tower 3TypeOffshore air defense radarSite informationConditionOut of service demolishedSite historyBuilt by United States Air ForceIn use1958 1963MaterialsSteel Contents 1 Planning 2 Design 3 Installations 4 Operational history 5 See also 6 References 7 External linksPlanning EditUpon re formation of the Air Defense Command in 1951 to oversee the nation s developing surveillance radar network there was concern that shore based radars along the east coast provided insufficient warning time A 1952 report from MIT s Lincoln Laboratory looked into the possibility of extending radar coverage by building platforms in the Atlantic using offshore oil drilling technology 1 They concluded that a set of such platforms equipped with radars could extend coverage several hundred miles offshore giving half an hour additional warning of an attack 2 Funding for design and construction of the towers was approved in January 1954 1 Design Edit Texas Tower 2 note tropospheric scatter dish antennae on edge of platform Each tower consisted of a triangular platform 200 feet 61 m on each side standing on three caisson legs 3 4 The structures were constructed on land towed to site and jacked up to clear the sea surface by 67 feet 20 m 3 Radar and other equipment were then installed on location The platform itself contained two floors housing the living areas two of the legs held fuel oil for diesel generators while the third held the intake for the desalination unit The platform roof served as a helicopter landing area A rotary gantry was suspended from the platform to allow servicing of its underside Each platform was equipped with one AN FPS 3 later upgraded to AN FPS 20 search radar and two AN FPS 6 height finder radars each housed in a separate spherical neoprene radome 55 feet 17 m in diameter 4 Originally the towers were to be linked to shore by submarine cable but this was eventually rejected as too costly the AN FRC 56 tropospheric scatter microwave link was installed instead with an array of three parabolic antennas attached to one edge of the platform 2 UHF and VHF equipment allowed communication with ships and aircraft as well as providing a backup to the microwave link Installations EditFive towers were planned in an array off the New England mid Atlantic coast The most northerly two proposed were dropped from plans due to budgetary constraints 2 Tower ID Location Staffing unit Mainland station NotesTT 1 Cashes Ledge off New Hampshire coast 42 53 N 68 57 W 42 883 N 68 950 W 42 883 68 950 Not builtTT 2 Georges Bank off Cape Cod 41 45 0 00 N 67 46 0 00 W 41 7500000 N 67 7666667 W 41 7500000 67 7666667 762d Radar Squadron North Truro Air Force Station decommissioned 1963TT 3 Nantucket Shoals 40 45 00 00 N 69 19 0 00 W 40 7500000 N 69 3166667 W 40 7500000 69 3166667 773d Radar Squadron Montauk AFS decommissioned 1963TT 4 off Long Beach Island New Jersey 39 48 N 72 40 W 39 800 N 72 667 W 39 800 72 667 646th Radar Squadron Highlands Air Force Station collapsed 1961 TT 5 Browns Bank south of Nova Scotia 42 47 N 65 37 W 42 783 N 65 617 W 42 783 65 617 Not built Logistical support for all three towers was provided by the 4604th Support Squadron based out of Otis AFB and specifically constituted for this mission 2 They were originally equipped with H 21B helicopters 2 which were replaced with three Sikorsky SH 3 helicopters acquired in 1962 5 The USNS New Bedford was used to supply the stations with transfer being effected with a platform called the donut consisting of an inflated rubber ring surmounted by a railing which was lowered from the platform to the waiting ship s deck These transfers could only take place at slack tide when the ship could maintain position 6 Operational history EditTexas Tower 2 was the first to become operational starting limited service in May 1956 7 It became fully operational in 1958 as did Tower 3 Tower 4 followed in April 1959 8 The original plan to integrate these radars into the SAGE system had to be modified when the direct cable connection was eliminated instead they were used to provide manual inputs All the towers were noisy and prone to vibration from the equipment The relative flexibility of the supports also caused them to shake and sway in response to wind and waves 6 The frequent and sustained sounding of the platform s foghorns was also an annoyance to the crew 2 Texas Tower 4 before installation of crossbraces Main article Texas Tower 4 Tower 4 was plagued with structural problems from the start It stood in much deeper water than the other two 185 feet 56 m compared to 80 feet 24 m for Tower 2 and it was held that the simple cylindrical leg design would not be sturdy enough given the length of the legs Therefore three sets of cross braces were added between the legs attached with pin joints 2 9 These made it impossible to tow the platform on the level instead the structure was laid on its side for transport and then tipped upright at the site 9 These braces proved to be frail and the joints prone to loosening two braces broke loose during transport and a third was lost when the tower was being placed on the bottom 10 Divers were brought in several times to inspect the structure and to perform repairs and an additional set of crossbraces was installed immediately below the platform above the waterline in 1960 11 Crewmen were frequently seasick from the swaying and Tower 4 was nicknamed Old Shaky 2 On September 12 1960 Hurricane Donna passed over Tower 4 causing severe structural damage including the loss of the flying bridge hanging beneath the platform and one of the communications dishes 12 After assessment of the damage and initial repairs it was decided to reduce staffing to a skeleton crew and prepare to dismantle the station 12 The site could not simply be abandoned for fear that the Soviets would board it and remove sensitive equipment and documentation 12 Dismantling of the tower was therefore protracted At the approach of another storm in January 1961 evacuation of the station was impeded by the inability of the commander to make contact with any of his three immediate superiors nonetheless the New Bedford set out for the platform 13 As the storm built USS Wasp which was in the vicinity was also dispatched with the intent of evacuating the station via helicopter shore aircraft being unable to take off 13 Both ships reached the vicinity but could do no more than watch the station disappear from their radar No survivors were recovered though divers were sent down on the chance that some might have been trapped in the wreckage 13 Twenty eight airmen and civilian contractors perished 14 Only two bodies were recovered 14 The loss of Tower 4 together with the increasing emphasis on ICBMs as the predominant threat led a reassessment of the remaining towers Escape capsules were added to the two remaining towers allowing rapid evacuation 2 4 Shortly thereafter it was decided to close the remaining towers and the electronic equipment was removed Both platforms were expected to be returned to shore for scrap but Tower 2 sank and could not be recovered Tower 3 was then filled with foam before being knocked off its support and it was successfully returned to shore and dismantled The wreckage of Towers 2 and 4 remains in place on the ocean floor Radar coverage was taken over by alterations to EC 121 airborne early warning flights based out of Otis Air Force Base 2 Patches of tower units Tower 2 patch Tower 3 patch 4604th Support Squadron patchSee also EditPAVE PAWS Radar picket Sea based X band Radar SAGE Other Cold War era radar networks Lashup Radar Network Pinetree Line Mid Canada Line Distant Early Warning LineReferences Edit a b Keeney L Douglas 2011 15 Minutes General Curtis LeMay and the Countdown to Nuclear Annihilation Macmillan p 100 a b c d e f g h i j Ray Thomas W A History of Texas Towers in Air Defense 1952 1964 Texas Tower Association Archived from the original on 2010 07 15 Retrieved 2012 01 23 a b Howe Hartley E October 1955 Radar Island Rises 110 Miles at Sea Popular Science 126 129 268 Retrieved 2012 01 22 a b c Kaufmann J E Kaufmann H W 2004 Fortress America The forts that defended America 1600 to the present Da Capo Press pp 371 372 Retrieved 2012 01 22 Rotary Wing Aircraft Flying 117 November 1962 Retrieved 2012 01 22 a b Wylie Evan McLeod July 26 1963 Farewell to the Iron Bastards Texas Towers Await the Wreckers Life pp 7 9 Retrieved 2012 01 22 Leonard Barry ed 2011 History of Strategic and Ballistic Missile Defense Volume II 1956 1972 DIANE Publishing ISBN 9781437921311 p 305 Leonard p 312 a b Keeney pp 150 152 Keeney p 190 Keeney pp 226 228 a b c Keeney pp 229 232 a b c Keeney pp 262 275 a b Southall Ashley Obama Recognizes Men Who Died in the Collapse of a Radar Tower in 1961 New York Times 9 February 2011 retrieved 14 February 2011 External links EditThe short film Georges Bank Radar Station 1957 is available for free download at the Internet Archive http www texastower com The Texas Towers Association website http www radomes org museum documents TexasTower html More information about the Texas Towers from http www radomes org United States Senate Committee on Armed Services 1961 Inquiry into the Collapse of Texas Tower No 4 United States Government Printing Office Analysis on the collapse of Texas Tower 4 Retrieved from https en wikipedia org w index php title Texas Towers amp oldid 1074954990, wikipedia, wiki, book,

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