Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Passing

This lil blurb from the Usual USAF Source caused a twinge of something like regret and/or sadness in me this morning:
One-Ring Circus
Workers at Misawa AB, Japan, began a year-long project to demolish the base's "Elephant Cage" antenna that the Air Force used for gathering radio signals intelligence for nearly 50 years, announced base officials. "During its long life, the antenna played a major part in the Cold War and beyond," said Col. Andrew Hansen, vice commander of Misawa's 35th Fighter Wing. "However, the technology has outlived its usefulness," he said in the Oct. 17 release. The three-ringed, 137-foot-tall AN/FLR-9 antenna was part of a global network that intercepted and pinpointed the location of Soviet and Communist-bloc radio communications. The array, completed in 1965, could detect and locate signals from up to 4,000 nautical miles distance, according to the release. Misawa's 373rd Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Group controlled the antenna until demolition work began on Oct. 15. A similar antenna at JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, is the only remaining AN/FLR-9 worldwide, said officials.

The FLR-9 was the "sister system," if you will, to the FLR-12 I worked on back in the day (see here, that's the FLR-12 antenna farm and ops building at Wakkanai, Japan).  But back to the FLR-9... From The Wiki: 
FLR-9s were constructed at the following places:
USASA Field Station Augsburg (Gablingen Kaserne), Germany
Chicksands, England
Clark AB, Philippines
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, USA (formerly designated as Elmendorf AFB)
Karamursel, Turkey
7th Radio Research Field Station/Ramasun Station, Udon Thani Province, Thailand
Misawa AB, Japan
San Vito dei Normanni Air Station, Italy

Advances in technology have made the FLR-9 almost obsolete.
"Almost obsolete" is prolly being too kind.  That said, I've roamed around the vicinity of the elephant cages at Chicksands, Karamursel, and Ramasun Station and it grieves me to know the old world is fading fast, if not gone.  But Hey!  All things must pass.


  1. We had the HF/DF et al dinosaur cage at Imperial Beach/Coronado. It looks like one of these. Who knows what went on in the murky dark underbuildings....well, I do. One of them was the crypto repair facility.

  2. I find it interesting that only the northern hemisphere was sniffed. The southern having such peaceful tribes...

  3. Wait until the PLAN and/or the Ruskis jam all the satellite systems. We'll wish we had those PASSIVE "elephants" on protected real estate back real quick.

    (PS: Didn't we call the Chicksands array a "Trough Nine?"

  4. Shoot, there goes the radar fix for Misawa... :-)

  5. Curt: I know what went on in those murky dark (under)buildings... at least the ones WE ran. ;-)

    Anon: The southern tribes WERE pretty peaceful, back in the day.

    Virgil: Jams? How about "obliterates?" I'd be interested to learn what the fall-back plan is when GPS goes away.

    Jim: I imagine that big-ass antenna would provide a helluva radar return.

    1. Gee, Buck, re: GPS - maybe someone would remember how to use a sextant or a quadrant, chronometer, and a chart (map)?

      I can remember a time we steamed around stealing electronic emissions up and down the coast of East Asia from all manner of sources, not really caring if the were allies or countries to whom we didn't even talk.

    2. @ Skip: I was thinking more about all those "smart" bombs and other munitions that rely on GPS. Those devices would become plain ol' iron bombs once GPS goes away, and a lot of our effectiveness would go away with 'em. As for the ELINT collection... I'm glad you weren't on the USS Pueblo.

    3. That was after my time.
      The Norks only sent a 'Serious Warning' when we approached close to their shoreline, as did the Chicoms.
      We played a little game with them.
      See how close we could approach without getting one. . . finally figure out that if we made the patrol turn toward the coast, no matter how far from shore we were, we'd receive one.
      So after that, the turns were always made toward the coast, rather than away.


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