Was This Remote Radar The Worst Military Assignment Ever?

Some military posts are better than others

Grant Piper

--

(Public domain)

Before the advent of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), the only way to launch an effective nuclear strike during the Cold War was to use a fleet of bombers. In the event of a nuclear incident, a series of nuclear-laden bombers would be dispatched from secret airfields and from positions in the air where they were stationed around the clock. These planes would then turn and fly toward their intended targets and hope to land a killing blow before the other country could get their own planes into the air.

Bombers were slow, and advanced radar stations could give a nation an edge. The faster you could identify an incoming fleet of nuclear bombers, the faster you could get your own bombers on station and ready to drop their own terrible payloads. It was this special type of 1950s warfare that birthed one of the strangest military installations of the Cold War.

In a bid to extend their radar range, the United States built a series of platforms off the coast of New England. These platforms held massive radar arrays that extended their early warning detection by hundreds of miles. With advanced radar range, the United States could get an extra 30 minutes of warning in the event of a Soviet Bomber attack targeting population centers in the Northeast.

Thus, the Texas Towers were born. These installations were named such because they resembled oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico off of the Texas coast. For the unfortunate men who were stationed on these monstrosities, they turned out to be one of the worst and most miserable assignments in US military history.

The Specifications

The Texas Towers were triangular platforms measuring 200 feet per side. Each platform housed an AN/FPS-3 search radar and two AN/FPS-6 height finder radars. The platforms were reachable by helicopter only as they stood 67 feet above the surface of the ocean. Water was provided by desalination units in the legs, and the whole thing was powered by massive diesel generators.

At first, the platforms were planned to have undersea cables connecting them to the mainland, which would have made communication much easier. But…

--

--

Grant Piper

Professional writer. Amateur historian. Husband, father, Christian.