Loring Air Force Base, Maine
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Command's Green Pine Network
The Role of Loring Air Force Base, Maine
It was not listed in the base
phone book. It didn't have an office on base. But Loring AFB was an administrative
support base for one of Strategic Air Command's (SAC) Green Pine Stations
at Argentina, Newfoundland. This detachment consisted of six people. Located
in the top floor of an unused Bachelors Officers Quarters BOQ unit at
Naval Air Station Argentina, Newfoundland, a former airfield of the United
States Navy. 1
For pictures of the Q: http://www.pwgsc.gc.ca/argentia/images/cbqoperation.jpg
Green Pine's mission was to
act as an Ultra High Frequency (UHF) radio beacon to pass Emergency Action
Messages (EAMs) to SAC aircraft. Each station was equipped with the Survivable
Low Frequency Communication System (SLFCS). Messages received over the
SLFCS were relayed via UHF channels to transiting SAC aircraft.
Green Pine is also known as:
488L - "GREEN PINE" NAUHF (Northern Area Ultra High Frequency)
Radio System; North Area Communications System; Northern Area Communications
System (NACS). 2
Why Green Pine?
This system was needed to increase
the likelihood of SAC aircrews receiving EAMs while airborne and enroute
to their hold points during wartime. SACs heavy reliance on the High Frequency
(HF) spectrum for worldwide communications was negatively offset by the
vulnerability of such systems to the effects of nuclear detonations.
HF radio worked fine in peacetime.
In wartime, HF radio could be disrupted. After nuclear detonations the
atmosphere is disrupted. When a HF radio signal is transmitted the characters
in the transmission will be lost and only part of the message could be
received or not at all. Without that vulnerability, EAMs could be transmitted
reliably during all phases of a nuclear attack (assuming ground stations
were not attacked).
UHF and Low Frequency (LF)
radio systems were not as vulnerable though these had limitations. UHF
was "line-of-site". 4 From a ground tower to aircraft
at 35,000 feet, range was approximately 240 miles. 5
LF systems (Survivable Low
Frequency Communication System SLFCS) had sufficient range but was limited
by low data rate messages during pre,-trans-, and post-attack scenarios.
SLFCS could transmit in two modes, from the ground station or from one
of the airborne command posts with a trailing wire antenna. Ground stations
were vulnerable to attack and the airborne systems were limited in time
the antenna could be deployed. Trailing wire antenna systems had questionable
reliability, as they would periodically break off the aircraft while deployed.
When the SAC bomber/tanker
force was launched they would be out of UHF range within hours and upon
entering the higher latitudes could no longer rely on HF communications.
Not equipped with LF receivers they relied on UHF, if available, and HF
if not disrupted.
A UHF system located in the
upper latitudes would provide transiting bombers with a direct line to
SAC Command and Control. SAC crews could receive EAMs for a longer period
of time. This provided highly survivable and reliable command, control
and communications among the president, secretary of defense and U.S.
forces during national emergencies. 7
In 1967, SAC set up an arc
of UHF beacon stations from Adak Island, Alaska to Grindavik, Iceland.
These stations were equipped with HF and SLFCS receivers and two UHF transceivers.
Should SAC launch the alert force, bomber crews would attempt to contact
one of these beacon stations for EAM traffic. SAC Command and Control
(Looking Glass, SAC Headquarters, Headquarters Emergency Relocation Team
(HERT) 8th and 15 AF Headquarters) could inject EAM traffic into the SLFCS,
HF (Giant Talk) systems. These messages received by Green Pine Stations
would be relayed and repeated over the UHF band automatically and on demand.
The SLFCS antenna was comprised
of two large "loops" (about three feet in diameter) that were
arranged 90 degrees to one another on the same axis. It was known as the
"orange peel" antenna (looked like a peeled orange and was orange
in color) and sat outside on the ground near the surveillance room. 8
The Green Pine antenna was a vertical UHF array that was enclosed in a
cylindrical fiberglass radome that was approximately 20 inches in diameter
by 8 feet in length. At Alaska and Canadian sites these antennae were
usually mounted atop a 60-foot telephone pole. 9
These stations would remain
in operation until they too were attacked. Should a station fail, bomber
crews used a "hand off" system where the trailing bombers leaving
UHF coverage in the US would pass the last received EAM to the leading
outbound bombers. 10
Other Solutions (1970s)
Emergency Rocket Communications
Adding another layer of UHF
connectivity, SAC implemented the UHF Emergency Rocket Communications
System (ERCS) to provide a reliable and survivable command, control, and
communications connectivity between command posts and launch control centers.
The ERCS UHF transmitters carried prerecorded EAMs that could were transmitted
to all units within line of sight of a rocket's apogee flight. Ten missiles
provided coverage over the North American continent. Flight time was approximately
Air Force Satellite Communication
Air Force Satellite Communications
(AFSATCOM) provide secure, reliable, and survivable satellite communications
for Air Force Single Integrated Operation Plan (SIOP) forces and other
selected high priority users. 11
Where Were the Stations?
The main Green Pine communication
node is located at Annex 2, Elkhorn, Nebraska. This control station is
connected to the SAC command center at Omaha, Nebraska and with Green
Pine sites. Nearby is one of two SLFCS ground station at Silver Creek,
Nebraska. Logistics support for Green Pine came from Sacramento Air Logistics
Some Green Pine stations were
collocated with Distant Early Warning (DEW Line) main stations.
Figure 1 Green Pine
Locations with 200-mile range circles.
Green Pine stations were located
Adak Island, Alaska
Cape Parry, NWT - PIN-Main
Cambridge Bay NWT - CAM-Main
Hall Beach, NWT - FOX-Main
Cape Dyer, NWT - DYE-Main
Melville AS, NFLD
Loring Air Force Base, Maine
Naval Radio Transmitter Facility (NRTF) Grindavik, Iceland 13
Some references include Point
Barrow and Barter Island as Green Pine Stations.14
2 Map with Point Barrow and Barter Island noted.
Technicians and operators usually
had SLFCS experience and were drawn from one the other 200 SLCFS sites.
Approximately six technician/operators were assigned per station. It is
estimated about 100 personnel were affiliated with Green pine and any
given time. 15
Operations Today (Post Cold
Green Pine is gone now, phased
out in 1987. 16 ERCS is gone as well. SLFCS is still around
but modified. Bombers can now receive direct LF transmitted EAMS. B-1
and B-52 bombers are equipped with Miniature Receive Terminals (MRTs).
The MRT is a Very Low Frequency/Low
Frequency (VLF/LF) receiver installed in the B-1 and B-52 bombers. 18
B-1s are no longer used for nuclear missions 19 and B-2s
are equipped with AN/ARC-211 HF, AN/ARC-215 VHF/UHF, 20 AN/ARR-85
VLF/LF receiver and Milstar satellite communications EHF communications.
The Very Low Frequency/Low
Frequency (VLF/LF) and Strategic Automated Command and Control System
(SACCS) teletype communication paths will remain critical components of
strategic command and control. The requirement to upgrade the Survivable
Low Frequency Communications System (SLFCS) receivers with Modified Miniature
Receive Terminals (MMRTs) is associated with upgrading the timing and
availability of the second survivable EAM path. 22
AFSATCOM UHF was considered
less susceptible to the effects of nuclear detonations. The Joint Staff
has mandated all nuclear users shall migrate off the AFSATCOM constellation
into the EHF extremely high frequency spectrum. Because the AFSATCOM Terminal
operates in the UHF frequency band, it cannot be considered a survivable
system. Communications in this band are not capable of continued transmission/reception
in a nuclear environment. 23
More on Naval Station
1 Mark Brueggemann,
former Green Pine System Operator. 2005.
2 Designations Of
U.S. Air Force Projects. 2000-2006 Andreas Parsch. http://www.designation-systems.net/usmilav/projects.html
3 Strategic Command
and Control Bruce Blair. 1985.
5 Managing Nuclear
Operations. Ashton Carter. 1987.
6 Strategic Command
and Control. Bruce Blair
7 New joint system
built to survive 'unthinkable'. Chuck Paone. Hansconian. Online News Summary.
8 Clive Beckmann.
487L Survivable Low Frequency Communication System (SLFCS). http://www.lswilson.ca/dewline.htm#N.
June 21, 2006
9 Clive Beckmann.
488L UHF Green Pine Communication System. http://www.lswilson.ca/dewline.htm#N.
June 21, 2006
10 The Button. Daniel
11 Air Force Satellite
Communications. AFSATCOM. http://www.fas.org/spp/military/program/nssrm/initiatives/afsatcom.htm
12 In Arkin's Nuclear
Battlefields, Loring AFB is a designated Green Pine system. This is unlikely
due to location, redundancy of existing command and control equipment.
13 Nuclear Battlefields,
14 Beckman notes
all DEW-Main stations had Green Pine. Arkin lists stations but does not
annotate Green Pine role. Questioned locations are Point Barrow, AK (POW-Main)
and Barter Island (BAR-Main). Personal communications indicates Arkin
15 Author's Estimates.
16 Brueggemann. 2005.
17 Modified Miniature
Receive Terminal. (MMRT). February 1997. http://www.fas.org/spp/military/program/nssrm/initiatives/mmrt.htm
19 NRDC: Nuclear
Notebook: U.S. nuclear forces, 2003. Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen
20 AN/ARA to AN/ARC
- Equipment Listing. 2000-2005 Andreas Parsch. http://designation-systems.net/usmilav/jetds/an-ara2arc.html
21 Modified Miniature
Receive Terminal. Rockwell Collins. http://collins-gps.com/ecat/GS/MMRT_PrintFriendly.html
22 Survivable Low
Frequency Communications System (SLFCS). 2006. http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/systems/slfcs.htm
23 Extremely High Frequency (EHF). Capability For The ICBM Launch Control
Centers. Brian A. Arnold Brigadier General, USAF. April 1997. http://fas.org/nuke/guide/usa/c3i/ehf_ord7.html
Note: If you have information,
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