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Missile Master
military installations
The Missile Master was a complex with a main building containing a computer system and with local radars (5 in this depiction) for command and control of "up to 24 Nike Hercules AD missile batteries" (1 shown).[1] The nuclear bunker's raised roof sections held HVAC equipment to collect hot air from the electronic equipment below, and the shaded roof area denotes the interior location of the Antiaircraft Operations Center (AAOC).
Country United States
9 states CA IL MA MD MI NJ(2) NY PA WA
The term "Missile Master" was also colloquially applied to the inspection staff (evaluation team) that simulated attacks to assess AN/FSG-1 crews (e.g., via short notice annual practices, SNAP).]

Missile Master[2] was a type of US Army Missile Command military installation for the Cold War Project Nike, each which were a complex of systems and facilities[1][3][4][5] for surface-to-air missile command and control. Each Missile Master had a nuclear bunker (except for the initial Ft Meade site) housing the Martin AN/FSG-1 Antiaircraft Defense System,[6] as well as additional "tactical structures"[7] for "an AN/FPS-33 defense acquisition radar (DAR) or similar radar, two height-finder radars," and identification friend or foe secondary radar[8] (e.g., AN/TPX-19 radar interrogator). The radars, along with Automated Data Links (ADL) from remote Nike firing units, provided data into the AN/FSG-1 tracking subsystem[8] with the DAR providing surveillance coverage to about 200 mi (320 km).[9]


Missile Master radars were usually at a single area with the nuclear bunker[10] (e.g., co-located with a USAF radar station) such as the 44 acres (18 ha) purchased for the Arlington Heights Army Istallation.[3] Conversely, the Fort MacArthur Direction Center used radars ~3 mi (4.8 km) away at San Pedro Hill AFS. The single-site Camp Pedricktown Army Air Defense Base was later reconfigured[when?] to use radar data from Gibbsboro AFS[11] 15 mi (24 km) away [1]—then closed when the Philadelphia Defense Area was consolidated with the New York Defense Area.

Nuclear bunker

The Missile Master's two-story[2] fallout-proof & blast-resistant "main building" housed the AN/FSG-1 crew consoles in the "Blue Room"[7][12] (tiered Antiaircraft Operations Center, AAOC). Additional rooms in the nuclear bunker included an entrance room with decontamination shower,[6] commander's office; separate rooms for the AN/FSG-1 computer (rows of racks/boxes), storage, ADL, and other system equipment; utility rooms for HVAC and other support systems,[7] and a decontamination water storage room under the AAOC. "Our radar must be kept above ground. If that goes, we are out of business anyway" (BGen Robert A. Hewitt), so a less expensive and more vulnerable partially exposed bunker was acceptable for the AN/FSG-1. "Autonomous Operations"[13] allowed remote missile batteries surviving a nuclear strike to launch without AADCP inputs.[12]


Installation of a Missile Master took approximately 18 months [2] and required an AN/TSQ-8 Fire Unit Integration Facility (FUIF) be installed at each Nike fire unit to provide the ADL interface between the AN/FSG-1 and the fire control system.[specify]

  The Highlands Army Air Defense Site was completed at an existing SAGE radar station and cost ~$2 million for the new equipment and ~$2 million for the structures: 170 ft × 90 ft (52 m × 27 m) bunker, power[Clarification needed] building,[14] and 4 radar towers[4] (a Missile Master at a new radar station was $9 million).[15]  Additional equipment and facilities included tankage for electricity generator fuel, storage for drinking & decontamination water,[3] telephone lines, etc.  In addition to the Martin Company's AN/FSG-1 subcontractors, the Corps of Engineers hired local construction contractors for the facility structures, e.g., Kirkland Construction for Ft Heath[16] and Rust Engineering for the Oakdale Army Installation[17][4]  (the Corps tailored the bunker to each site from the "baseline standard drawings".)[14]  Each Missile Master had 200 total personnel, and maintenance of the AN/FSG-1, the radars, and other systems was provided by an Army "Signal Missile Master Support Detachment"[15] of 10-15 soldiers.[5]  All of the vacuum tube AN/FSG-1 computers were replaced prior to the end of Project Nike.


Army Air Defense Command Posts (AADCPs) were still at 5 Missile Masters on July 1, 1973 (CA IL MD NJ WA—all with AN/TSQ-51 CCCS except the Ft Lawton BIRDIE)[18]:C-24 prior to the Army's February 4, 1974, announcement to end Project Nike.[19] The complexes had various subsequent uses (e.g., the Selfridge bunker was used as a "RAPCON center".) The Camp Pedricktown site was designated an historic site in 1998 by the Salem Historic Preservation Office,[20] and documents regarding the Selfridge site have been entered in the Historical American Engineering Record.[7] In 1999 a romantic comedy set at a midwest US Army missile post was published as a paperback with the name Missile Master[6] (the Kansas and Nebraska AADCPs had BIRDIES and never had bunkers.)

External images
Ft Meade building
empty Highlands bunker in 2008
bunker floor plan
Arlington Heights AI bunker
1961 Arlington Heights site (5 radars)
Ft MacArthur bunker
sketch of Oakdale complex


  1. 1.0 1.1 (field manual) FM 44-1: U. S. Army Air Defense Employment. Headquarters, Department of the Army. 11 October 1965. Retrieved 2011-09-06. "The Missile Master includes…defense acquisition and height-finding radars… The Missile Master may receive automatic data link input from SAGE … FM 44-10…AN/FSG-1…FM 44-13 U.S. Army Air Defense Fire Direction System, AN/MSG-4 (Missile Monitor)…FM 44-14 U.S. Army Air Defense Fire Direction System, AN/GSG-5(V) and AN/GSG-6" 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Magic in the Skies: The Missile Master". "August, 1956". Retrieved 2011-09-14. "A forerunner has been in experimental operation at Ft Geo G Meade, Md, for nearly two years … 34 officers and 244 enlisted men who will man the “Missile Master”" 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Freeman, Paul (6/4/11). "Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields: Illinois, Northwestern Chicago area". "On April 6, 1959, BG Peter Schmick, Brigade CG, announced the purchase of the land,along with plans for the construction of the Command Post, 5 radar towers and supporting buildings, to house the Missile Master.The official dedication of the nation's first [sic] operational automatic electronic weapon system to coordinate all elements of antiaircraft defense was made on October 28, 1960." 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Missile Master Defense System to Cost Millions: Army Opens Bids". Red Bank, New Jersey. June 12, 1958. pp. 1–2. Retrieved 2011-09-06. 
  5. Weidlich, Robin J.; Gettings Smith, Kathryn A.; Trieschmann, Laura V. (2000). Recordation of the Nike Missile Master Complex Pedrickstown U.S. Army Reserve Support Facility Pedrickstown, New Jersey (Report). Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Morris, Earl (2009). "Missile Master Roof Bulges". Retrieved 2011-09-30. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Selfridge Field, Building No. 1050… (Report). Library of Congress: Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record. Retrieved 2011-09-27.  NOTE: The labels on one of the HAER floor plans are for after the AADCP when the bunker was used for air traffic control (rooms for RAPCON, ATCALS, etc.)
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Army Air Defense Control Systems". Hillman Hall, Fort Bliss, Texas: U. S. Army Air Defense School. January 1965. "The term “radar netting” (fig 43) describes the process by which track data derived from several additional or remote radars are gathered at a single center to produce an integrated set of meaningful target information" Ch. 2, p. 17 NOTE: The p. 36 image with scrub brush ("Figure 34") titled "Missile Master" is identified differently in the text as "SAGE (fig 34)" (Texas had 3 BIRDIE command posts: Austin, Duncanville, & Sweetwater.)
  9. Fay, Elton C. (March 24, 1956). "'Missile Master' Revealed by Army" (Newspaper Archive). Lake Charles, Louisiana. p. 14. Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  10. Bender, Donald E. "Cold War at Campgaw Mountain". Retrieved 2011-09-27. "the Army Air Defense Command Post at Highlands, New Jersey opened during 1960 … co-located with the Highlands Air Force Station…" 
  11. Page, Tom (2004). "The Gibbsboro AFS - Pedricktown AI Relationship (and Associated Trivia)". Retrieved 2012-01-26. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Base is Dedicated: 'Blue Room' at Missile Master Gives Eerie But Secure Feeling". Red Bank, New Jersey. June 7, 1960. pp. 1–2. Retrieved 2011-09-30. "RADAR SCANNER at Missile Master atop Highlands hills tells the height of aircraft or other flying objects. It is one of the smaller pieces of radar equipment. …replaces a manuel [sic] operations center at Fort Wadsworth, Staten Island, where Gen.Hewitt's headquarters, the 52d Artillery Brigade Air Defense, also known as "the New York Defense… In addition to the New York area, Missile Master sites are now operational in the Baltimore-Washington area, Seattle and Boston. … A Detroit installation will open this week.""  (photograph caption).
  13. Stephens, Gary (October 1999). "Three Hours from Armageddon: Life at a Cold War Nike Missile Site". Retrieved 2011-10-04. "The EWPB operator starts calling out and plotting hostile inbound tracks. … An AADCP-generated "foe" symbol is around each radar return on the scope. One of these symbols indicates that our battery is to engage that target." 
  14. 14.0 14.1 "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}" (  "The power building at Highlands was "in a 25' x 17' cinderblock building, designated on the plans as “Switch Gear Room Bldg. 118.” The equipment in this small building permits the missile site to switch back and forth from external commercial power to its own internal power from diesel generators. …van housing the computer"
  15. 15.0 15.1 "New Firing Control System: Army Unveils Missile Mentor". Red Bank, New Jersey. February 1, 1967. p. 13. Retrieved 2011-09-15. "faster, more reliable and less expensive … replaces the Army's six Missile Master systems…and four…BIRDIE…employed almost five years. …the original cost of the Missile Master…was in excess of $9 million for each site, while the Missile Mentor costs less than $1 million each. …[annual] operating and maintenance costs…would be $250,000, [cf. $1 million…of Missile Master. …50 to 60 persons [cf.] approximately 200 [for] Missile Master … Missile Mentor…fits compactly into two trailer vans. One van holds the battle station, display consoles for the defense commander and equipment operators, the other houses the computer and circuit panels …[At] the Highlands Defense Site, the Missile Mentor [is] in the…building once occupied by [the] Missile Master. …built under a $10 million contract with the Army Missile Command (MICOM)." 
  16. "Nike Missile Boston Defense Area". Nike. TheMilitaryStandard. Retrieved 2011-09-27. 
  17. ""Missile Master" System Planned" (Google News). July 12, 1958.,1233416&dq=missile-master&hl=en. Retrieved 2011-09-30. 
  18. McMaster, B. N., et al (December 1984). Historical Overview of the Nike Missile System (Report). Environmental Science and Engineering, Inc.. Retrieved 2011-09-16. 
    *NOTE: Estimates for AN/FSG-1 dates with asterisks are from the annual July 1 maps in McMaster's report, which don't show a symbol near the Pedricktown NJ site but instead mark a Missile Master north of Philadelphia near Allentown/Bethlehem PA. Also, although Berhow 2005 claims 7 of the 10 AN/FSG-1 systems were replaced with AN/TSQ-51 systems, the maps only show 6 AN/TSQ-51 Missile Mentors in 1966 at former Missile Master sites, with Ft Heath instead shown with an AN/FSG-1 Missile Master in 1964 (near a separate Massachusetts BIRDIE), then a Ft Heath BIRDIE in 1966 & 1967, a Ft Heath Missile Mentor in 1968 & 1969, and no Ft Heath AADCP in 1970 (a Rhode Island Missile Mentor was depicted in 1970; but not in 1971.) Likewise, the report's maps show the replacement Lockport BIRDIE subsequently switched to a Missile Mentor between July 1, 1967 & July 1, 1968 (as did Homestead-Miami.)
  19. McGrath, John J (historian, Center of Military History) (1998-2002). "Continental Air Defense Collection" (Finding Aid). USAHEC. Retrieved 2011-09-28. "Army Press Release 4 Feb 74, announcing end of CONUS Nike program with a site by site listing of sites to be closed … “When the Cold War Claimed 10 Lives in Monmouth;” “Cold War Remnant is Being Destroyed; “On Alert;” “Missile Master;” … Command Report, USARADCOM 1960, 1966; … "  NOTE: The descriptions for the Fort Heath images (SC5999xx) identify the Missile Master as site ID "B-18" on August 18, 1962. The list also identifies Nike firings at Point Mugu, Fort Wainwright, Fort Richardson, Summit AK, & Fort Bliss; and has an article on the “Accidental Nike Launch at Fort Meade”.
  20. "New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places". NJ DEP - Historic Preservation Office. 9/6/2011. Retrieved 2011-09-27. "Oldmans Township     Nike Missile Master Complex (ID#3720)     Delaware Road, Camp Pedricktown     SHPO Opinion: 6/22/1998" 

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