The Nation's Cockpit
Those Magnificent Men and their Atomic Machines
The Nation's Cockpit: The DUCC and Decision-Making
Under Nuclear Attack
In 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, and the world changed forever.
Sputnik was not just a technological and political triumph; it was a military threat. A rocket that can
carry a satellite into orbit can also carry a nuclear weapon to the United States. The American
military and public had known of the theoretical possibility of a nuclear-armed intercontinental rocket
since 1945, but the threat had been abstract, unreal, until the Soviet's bleeping aluminum ball
Before the ICBM, the United States could rely on the Distant Early Warning RADAR line to provide
at least two hours of warning time of an attack. There would be enough time for the president to be
woken from sleep, briefed, and evacuated. More importantly, there would be enough time for the
president to decide – to decide if the US was going to war. In two hours, equipment can be checked
and errors corrected; explanations can be demanded of the Soviet embassy. Even if a mistake was
made, the Strategic Air Command B-52s took hours to reach its targets and could be recalled.
An ICBM would arrive 15 to 25 minutes after being spotted on RADAR. Fifteen minutes to decide the
fate of millions. And ICBMs cannot be called back – once the president ordered a counterstrike, it
could not be rescinded.
This was wholly unacceptable. What if there was a mistake? What if the launch was accidental, or a
rogue general, or even a third party trying to provoke a war? The president had to survive long
enough to reach a measured decision. The issue was not the personal survival of the president. The
issue was the continuity of the national decision-making system, ensuring that SAC would be neither
paralyzed nor forced into automatic retaliation.
Two solutions were considered: mobility and hardness. Mobility meant keeping the president on the
move, on plane or train or ship, so that the Soviets could not find and kill him. Hardness meant
burying the president, deep under ground, deeper than even a nuclear weapon could reach.
The ultimate “hard” proposal was the Deep Underground Command Center, or DUCC. Buried a full
3,500 feet under Washington, D.C., the DUCC was designed to survive multiple direct hits from 300
megaton nuclear weapons. Deep under the charred remains of the nation's capitol, the president
and his advisors could assess the situation, communicate with our allies, and direct our military
forces to an appropriate response.
Presidential Survival Before the ICBM
The first study of presidential survival during nuclear war started by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1946
and finished in 1948, a year before the first Soviet atomic test. Taking the study as a starting point,
the Joint Chiefs proposed building a Joint Command Post outside Washington, D. C., where military
and political decision-makers could move to during a nuclear war.
At the time, atomic bombs were relatively few in number and difficult to deliver. Planners expected
war to begin with an “atomic blitz” against Soviet cities and factories, which would last about a
month. Given their rarity, it was thought the only cost-effective targets of an atomic weapon would be
cities and industrial centers. The atomic blitz would be followed by a ground war lasting years.
The JCP – later renamed the Alternate Joint Communications Center, AJCC, to distinguish it from
the Pentagon's Joint Command Center – would hold enough staff to allow the president to plan and
organize the war. Since it was located well outside Washington, it would be relatively safe from
atomic attack; it would be too small a target to justify using an atomic bomb. Disagreements over
service responsibilities and other issues delayed construction, but ground was broken in 1950 at Fort
Ritchie, and the facility was finished in 1953.
Figure 1: The AJCC Today
The AJCC was initially only hardened to withstand 30 psi of overpressure. Overpressure is a
measure of blast strength – 1 psi will shatter glass, 3 psi will destroy wood frame housing, and 5 psi
will destroy anything short of reinforced concrete. 30 psi may sound like a lot, but modern missile
silos are hardened to withstand up to 2,000 psi. Since the Distant Early Warning RADAR line
provided two hours of warning time, and it took thirty minutes to reach the AJCC by helicopter, there
would be plenty of time for the president to evacuate if an attack was detected.
Besides the AJCC, other hardened facilities were built in the 50s. The military built hardened bomb
shelters at the White House (70 psi) and at Camp David (100 psi), and a civilian equivalent to the
AJCC, called High Point, at Mount Weather (50 psi). But the AJCC was expected to house the
president in the event of war.
However, it was clear that these were only temporary solutions. The development of the hydrogen
bomb in 1952 increased nuclear weapons yield from kilotons to megatons; a near-miss by a high-
yield hydrogen bomb could do as much damage as a direct hit by an atomic bomb. Not only were
weapons getting bigger, but the number of weapons was expanding as well, allowing the Soviets
and Americans to expand target lists beyond cities to include leadership bunkers.
But the responsibilities of the president in a nuclear war had also shrunk. The atomic blitz had grown
into Massive Retaliation, which promised the destruction of Soviet society from the air, making a
lengthy ground war unnecessary. The president only had to survive long enough to give the order. In
fact, the SIOP – the official war plan – assumed an unlimited attack on the enemy's society and
military. Even if the president ordered a limited response, it might not be possible to launch
anything less than a total attack – there simply would not be time to draw up the target lists.
No Warning: Hardness versus Mobility
The ICBM changed everything. The new Ballistic Missile Early Warning System gave only 15 to 25
minutes of warning of a ballistic missile strike – nowhere near enough time for the president to reach
shelter. And BMEWS couldn't detect submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) at all. Even after
the new infrared detection satellites were deployed, warning times for SLBMs might be less than
fifteen minutes. If the president was killed, it would take time to determine who the new president
was, find them, brief them, and transmit their instructions – time that would not be available in the
chaos of war.
One possible solution to this was to make nuclear response automatic – to authorize the strategic
nuclear forces ahead of time to retaliate against an enemy attack. This was Eisenhower's solution –
if SAC commanders found themselves cut off and under attack, they were authorized to execute
their war plan without further orders.
Figure 2: Excerpt from Eisenhower Nuclear Predelegation Letter
This was not acceptable to the new Kennedy administration. Supremacy of civilian authority was too
important. Besides, reflexive responses left no room for flexibility, only automatic devastation. And
flexibility was one of the buzzwords of the new Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara.
Flexible Response was the new strategy, replacing Massive Retaliation. The rigid SIOP was to be
upgraded to a menu of options, giving the president the ability to tailor the American response to the
level of attack. Instead of an atomic blitz, we would try to fight a Limited War, restraining escalation
at a level below city bombing.
But Flexible Response required the president to survive long enough to decide what the response
would be – and not just our response to the initial attack, but to the enemy's response to our
response, and to their response to our response to their response, and so on. Not only did the
president have to survive, he had to remain in contact with the armed forces and the allies – and
with the enemy. He needed to be able to propose a ceasefire, to make threats, to negotiate. He
needed a staff to interpret and analyze and display information, and to convert his decisions into
orders for the military. In short, wherever the president ended up, he would need hundreds of
staffers and secure, uninterruptable communications links.
The military proposed the National Military Command System (NMCS) in 1961 as a solution. NMCS
had four nodes. The first, used in ordinary conditions, would be the National Military Command
Center (NMCC), an upgraded, unhardened Pentagon war room. The second node would be the
Alternate National Military Command Center (ANMCC), which would be the AJCC upgraded to
withstand 140 psi overpressure. The third would be the National Emergency Airborne Command
Post (NEACP), a trio of Boeing EC-135Js – 747s fitted with enhanced endurance and advanced
communications equipment. The EC-135Js were later replaced with E-4Bs.
Figure 3: NEACP Today
And the fourth would be the National Emergency Command Post Afloat (NECPA), a pair of old
warships, the cruiser Northampton and the light carrier Wright, fitted out as command centers.
Figure 4: USS Wright in 1963
The Army also proposed a train-based command post, but it was decided this did not offer any
advantage over NEACP and NECPA. The NMCS contained a mix of hardened and mobile facilities,
covering all the bases... Except that it took fifteen minutes for the president to reach the NEACP, and
ten minutes for the KC-135 to escape the blast radius of a nuclear airburst over the airfield.
The US could count on only fifteen minutes warning at most of a missile attack via submarine.
NECPA was even further away via aircraft. ANMCS might or might not be survivable against existing
ICBMs, but Soviet missile accuracy was only going to improve, and it would be vulnerable sooner or
NEACP and NECPA could ensure the president's survival, but only if he evacuated Washington
before tactical warning of an attack. And presidents had shown no inclination to leave the capital
during a period of tension, a point driven home hard by the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
DUCC and Cover
In 1963, the Defense Department proposed a solution: the Deep Underground Command Center, or
Studies of a DUCC had been percolating since at least 1962. But it was in 1963 that the proposal
reached the president's desk, with the approval of both Secretary of Defense McNamara and
Secretary of State Dean Rusk. The DUCC would be a capsule buried 3,500 feet under the
Pentagon. Two versions were proposed, a “Moderate” version offering space for 300 people, and an
“Austere” version with space for 50, and which could be expanded to the Moderate version if
necessary. Elevators would descend from the White House, Pentagon, and State Department to the
facility depth, where horizontal tunnels would lead to the capsule.
Figure 5: Diagram of DUCC System
Officials could descend to the DUCC without leaving their buildings, so there would be no external
signs of evacuation – the president could take shelter without the political consequences of visibly
leaving Washington, D. C. It was even suggested that officials on the presidential succession list
might spend one day a week in the DUCC. That way, no matter what, at least one successor would
survive, and be in a position to quickly reestablish control of the military.
It was claimed that the system could withstand multiple direct hits by 200 to 300 megaton nuclear
weapons, or by 100 megaton weapons that penetrated to a 70 to 100 foot depth. For comparison's
sake, the largest nuclear weapon ever detonated had a yield of about 50 megaton, and the largest
ever produced in numbers was about 25 megatons. But, in the early 60s, nuclear weapon yields had
been steadily growing since their introduction, and 300 megatons seemed like a pessimistic but
reasonable extrapolation of Soviet capabilities in the early 70s.
Few details are available on the capsule itself, but some extrapolation is possible based on Army
engineering manuals and similar but less extreme facilities. We know the austere version would offer
only 5,000 square feet of space, equivalent to a 10' x 10' square for each occupant. The moderate
version would be slightly better at 50,000 square feet, or a 13' x 13' square per occupant. The
occupied area would be contained within a larger chamber of double the area, and would probably
be mounted on gigantic springs to ride out ground shock, which would be the main threat to the
It would be theoretically possible to blast out enough dirt to physically breach the DUCC. But a 300
megaton weapon digs only a 967 foot deep crater in granite, requiring four such bombs landing
precisely on top of each other to dig out a breach. This sort of accuracy would be difficult even for
modern ballistic missiles, although not impossible.
The main damaging mechanism would be the shock wave that is generated in the rock, which would
act similarly to an earthquake. Ground shock could directly injure or kill the DUCC's occupants –
hence the springs – or it could cause spalling, in which fragments of the chamber roof fall off. To
prevent this, the tunnels would probably be lined with cast iron or even stronger materials.
Supplies would be stashed in the capsule for 30 days of “buttoned-up” occupancy, which would
hopefully be enough time for surface radiation to cool to survivable levels. Although the main
elevator access shafts would probably be collapsed by bombing, multiple tunnels would provide
hardened exits outside the likely attack area. In addition, unspecified “hardened communications”
would be provided.
In the event of a missile warning, the president and other key officials would reach the protected
depths via elevator in only ten minutes, and the capsule in another five. This would be ten minutes
less than the time to reach safe distance aboard NEACP. Nonetheless, the Joint Chiefs of Staff
were, at best, unenthusiastic about the plan.
In the view of the JCS, the main failing of the DUCC was that it was simply too small. Even the
moderate version did not have enough space for an adequate staff. While the president might
survive, he would not have the personnel with him to properly analyze the situation and disseminate
orders. The JCS estimated that, of the 300 people that could be crammed into the moderate DUCC,
at least 175 slots would be filled with personnel for maintenance, communications, housekeeping,
and otherwise just keeping the shelter running. The JCS themselves would require a staff of 50 to
execute orders received from the president. That left only 75 slots for the president, his advisors,
and civilian personnel from the Defense Department, State Department, and other key
Aside from space constraints, the analysis of the DUCC's survivability was based on theoretical
calculations that, while consistent with what was known about nuclear weapons effects, had
obviously never been tested. Not only that, but the JCS had serious doubts about the survivability of
the DUCC's communications antennas, which would have to be close to the surface. The Chiefs
concluded that, all in all, the austere version might be worth building as a last-ditch survival shelter,
but there was little point to protecting the president if he would no longer be in command of the
There was more. The DUCC would be expensive. Even the austere version would cost $110 million
over a period of almost four years, while the moderate version would cost $310 million over five and
a half years. And that was only construction costs – even more would be needed to operate the
system, to staff it and maintain it and keep it stocked with supplies. The budget for the NMCS
program, for NEACP and NECPA and so on, was only $850 million over five years. The DUCC
would be competition for the JCS' preferred systems, and it seemed unlikely that Congress could be
persuaded to add money to the budget for presidential survival. In particular, the ANMCS would be
phased out once the DUCC was completed, even though the new system offered far fewer seats at
a much higher cost.
The JCS also had, perhaps, one more objection. The military had grown used to ordering its own
affairs in the 50s. Secretary of Defense McNamara and his team of civilian “Whiz Kids” had intruded
into what they saw as military business, canceling favored development programs and ordering
changes in the war plans. McNamara felt that, since the president was responsible for the military's
actions, the president should be the one who gave the orders – and that held in time of war as well
as peace. Rather than just issuing the “go code” and allowing the air force to fight as it saw fit, the
president should control the nature and degree of the military retaliation. Harold Brown, one of
McNamara's Whiz Kids and, at the time, head of Defense Research & Engineering, actually
suggested the JCS' opposition might be based on a desire that the civilian leadership perish after
giving approval for a nuclear strike. “Basically,” he said, “the Chiefs probably aren't interested in
having the civilian command survive. If we were to come to a war, they would only get in the way.”
But, whatever the JCS thought, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, and the President
liked the idea. Tentative approval was given in December of 1963, pending funding from Congress.
Would it Have Worked?
This is obviously a question that can't really be answered, short of building a DUCC and dropping
some hydrogen bombs on it. But we can make some extrapolations.
The Atomic Energy Commission conducted two underground nuclear tests in granite as tests of
superhard structure construction, HARDHAT in 1962 and PILEDRIVER in 1966. Granite is also
present in the Washington area, and would be the logical stone to build the DUCC in. Pressure
sensors were placed in the ground near the bombs hardened tunnels similar to those used in
superhard facilities were dug nearby.
The HARDHAT test showed that tunnels generally collapse when subjected to peak shockwave
pressure equal to the unconfined compression strength of the rock. The peak shockwave pressure is
proportional to the yield of the bomb times a coupling factor, raised to the power of 0.3. The coupling
factor determines how much of the bomb's energy is converted into groundshock. In the
underground HARDHAT test, the coupling factor was about 100; in a surface burst, the coupling
factor will be 1.
Most of the tunnels in the HARDHAT and PILEDRIVER tests collapsed under 1 to 1.5 kilobars of
peak stress; however, some extremely hardened tunnels survived 3 to 4 kilobars. Given the
importance of the DUCC, it is likely the tunnels would be hardened to the higher standard.
The HARDHAT test shot created peak pressure of 1 kilobar at a radius of about 450 feet from the
point of detonation. HARDHAT was a 5 kiloton detonation with a coupling factor of 100. A
hypothetical attacker using a 300,000 kiloton detonation with a coupling factor of 1 would create 1
kilobar pressure about 3,066 feet below the missile impact point.
We can attempt a second calculation using data from the WinGS code for a 5.6 megaton surface
burst. 1 kilobar of peak stress is induced by a 5.6 megaton burst at a depth of 350 feet. Adjusting for
yield, this suggests the boundary of 1 kilobar will be at a depth of 3789 ft. Although this is below the
DUCC's depth, the DUCC would presumably be engineered to withstand 3 to 4 kilobars, allowing it
to ride out a 1 to 1.5 kilobar stress.
The wide variation between these two calculations should show just how extremely tentative these
figures are. Nonetheless, it appears not implausible that, with proper tunnel lining and shock
absorbers, the DUCC could indeed survive a 300 megaton surface burst.
But could it survive more than one? Each burst will excavate a crater 967 feet deep. A second 300
megaton bomb landing in the crater of the first will create higher stress at the DUCC's depth. At this
point we are getting well beyond the realm of napkin calculations, however. Nonetheless, on the face
of it, the DUCC concept does not appear impossible.
In early 1964, the Defense Department requested funds to build the DUCC as part of the army's
military construction appropriations. The House Armed Services committee was aware of the Joint
Chiefs' dislike of the plan, and decided not to allocate new funds to the program. The House also
rejected the diversion of other authorized funds to feasibility studies for the concept.
The Pentagon continued to study the concept, and in early 1965 the Office of the Director of
Defense Research & Engineering developed a list of possible sites for the DUCC. While the House
continued to reject fully funding the program, they did agree to allocate $4 million in for FY1966 to
“more fully develop plans and to again present the actual construction authorization request” the
With the House continuing to reject full funding of the program, the civilian officials in the Defense
Department began to lose interest in the project. In March of 1966, McNamara decided to pull the
plug, and ordered the DUCC planners reallocated to other tasks.
There is very little documentary evidence about the end of the DUCC, but we can make certain
deductions about McNamara's motives in addition to Congressional intransigence. However, these
are somewhat speculative.
By 1966, Flexible Response was falling out of favor, and Assured Destruction was the new
buzzword. The problems of limited war seemed far less solvable to the Whiz Kids when in office than
they had seemed while ensconced at the RAND corporation. In particular, it took two sides to fight a
limited war, and it seemed unlikely that a sort of Marquis of Queensbury rules could actually hold in
a nuclear war.
Rather than try to limit a nuclear war, Assured Destruction focused on preventing one from breaking
out, by ensuring both sides had the capability to launch devastating counterattacks even after
absorbing a nuclear first strike. The new approach placed less emphasis on the president making
decisions while under attack – in fact, it placed very little emphasis on how to fight a nuclear war at
all. Strategy would no longer be an analysis of how to fight a nuclear war; it be an analysis of how to
Assured Destruction made the dread “nuclear Pearl Harbor” surprise attack seem less and less
likely. The danger of Mutually Assured Destruction would act as an impenetrable barrier to a sneak
attack. Instead of a “bolt from the blue,” a nuclear war would probably begin only after a period of
But, if nuclear war would only come during a crisis, then there was no need for the DUCC. NEACP
and NECPA were far more survivable than the DUCC if the president was on them. The advantage
of the DUCC was that the president could enter it in the time between the detection of a ballistic
missile and its impact. If the president had even thirty minutes warning, he could reach NEACP and
be safely in the air before the missile hit. With the fading of the surprise attack threat, the DUCC lost
its primary justification.
There was probably another reason as well besides the shift in strategic thinking. The Vietnam
War was heating up, and more and more focus and money was going into the jungles of southeast
Asia. Schemes for presidential survival in a future nuclear war seemed less important compared to
the demands of a war being fought in the present.
So, rather than spend the money to build a DUCC, the Pentagon invested in upgrading its existing
systems. The communications and endurance of the NEACP and NECPA were improved, and the
ANMCC was hardened to 400 psi overpressure capability. And the DUCC faded into history.
The Last Chapter
But that's not, quite, the end of the story. The idea of a superhard command post, surviving nuclear
war through sheer depth rather than mobility, continued to simmer in the defense community.
The specifics are still classified, but we know that in 1977 – twelve years after the end of the DUCC
– the Protective Design Center of the US Army Corps of Engineers was involved in something called
the “Alternate Military Command Center Improvement Program.” Unfortunately, the entirety of our
knowledge can be reduced to two paragraphs and one picture. This was posted on the PDC's
website, and hastily removed after an email was sent to the center inquiring about the project:
“Special Projects Office (later to become the Protective Design Center) was created in 1977 to work
on a classified Department of Defense program. The Alternate National Military Command and
Control Center Improvement Program involved criteria development, studies, and preliminary design
of a deep underground highly hardened and survivable command and control center. The center
included separate structures for command personnel, power, fuel, and water. Over 3 miles of air
entrainment tunnels were required as well as access shafts to the surface.
“Although canceled in 1979, the experience, expertise, and leadership in protective design and
classified programs that Special Projects gained from this work brought other unique projects and
major programs to the District.”
Figure 6: Model of Capsule on Shock Springs
Literally nothing else is known about this program. Probably there were other, even more deeply
buried studies, which we still do not know of. The DUCC may have died, but the idea didn't.
Freedman, Lawrence. The Evolution of Nuclear Strategy. International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1981, 1983.
Sturm, Thomas A. The Air Force and the Worldwide Military Command and Control System. USAF Historical Division Liaison Office, 1966.
Wainstein, L., C. D. Cremeans, J. K. Moriarty, and J. Ponturo. The Evolution of U. S. Strategic Command and Control and Warning, 1945–
1972. IDA Study S-467.
“The Deep Underground Command Center (Proposed).” A Secret Landscape: America's Cold War Infrastructure.
Foreign Relations of the United States: Johnson Administration, 1964-1968, Volume X: National Security Policy. Documents No. 3, 4, 52, 77,
110. (Link excludes doc. no. 110).
Interview with Carl Kaysen by Marc Trachtenberg and David Rosenberg. First session, August 3 1988.
Effects of Nuclear Weapons
Butkovich, Theodore R. “Calculation of the Shock Wave from an Underground Nuclear Explosion in Granite.” Third Plowshare Symposium:
Engineering with Nuclear Explosives, 1964.
Effects of Nuclear Earth-Penetrator and Other Weapons. Committee on the Effects of Nuclear Earth-Penetrator and Other Weapons of the
National Research Council. The National Academies Press.
Figure 1: Center for Land Use Interpretation. From “Bunkers Beyond the Beltway." Used under an Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike
3.0 Creative Commons License. The image was cropped and shrunk, and the resulting work is also under an Attribution-Noncommercial-
Share Alike 3.0 Creative Commons License.
Figure 2: Excerpt from document released by National Security Archive. Found at link.
Figure 3: US Government. Found at link.
Figure 4: US Government. Found at link.
Figure 5: Author. Figure 5 is hereby released under an Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Creative Commons License, on the
condition that any page displaying this picture must contain a link to this page.
Figure 6: US Government. Found at link.
Raven Rock Underground Command Center (Site R)
[show on map]
An underground complex, built by the Department of Defense as an emergency shelter and electronic control center.
Located underneath 650 acres in the hills near the Pennsylvania/Maryland border, Raven Rock, AKA "Site R",
reportedly had a full-time staff of 350 for much of the Cold War. Officially now called the Alternate Joint
Communications Center, the bunker went on-line in 1954. Representatives of all the military departments and the
Joint Chiefs of Staff for the federal government were reportedly located here as a contingency against a wipeout of
the command structure in the event of a nuclear war. The site has 700,000 square feet of interior space, and enough
room for 3,000 people. A new tenant is the Defense Information Systems Agency, Western Hemisphere, which
operates the communication and command center located in the bunker. It is still used as a Continuity of Government
location, and Dick Cheney is said to have stayed here after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. Site R was
supported by nearby Fort Ritchie, MD, a 638 acre Army post, with over 2,000 employees. It is now administered out
of Fort Detrick, MD.
FIRST DOCUMENTED EVIDENCE THAT U.S. PRESIDENTS PREDELEGATED
NUCLEAR WEAPONS RELEASE AUTHORITY TO THE MILITARY
Newly Declassified Documents Published by the National Security Archive this
WASHINGTON, D.C. - 20 March 1998 -- Recently declassified U.S. government
documents, now published by the National Security Archive disclose one of the Cold
War's deepest secrets, that during the most dangerous phases of the U.S.-Soviet
confrontation during the early 1960s top military commanders had presidentially-
authorized instructions providing advance authority to use nuclear weapons under
specified emergency conditions. The documents show that President Eisenhower
approved "predelegation" instructions in late 1959 so that top commanders would have
the authority to make a rapid nuclear response if a Soviet attack on Washington killed
national command authorities, such as the President. The instructions remained in place
in "basically the same" form through the 1960s, although information on the later period
and the current situation is still classified.
Historians and political scientists have known for some years that Eisenhower
made decisions to predelegate nuclear weapons authority and that after he left
office predelegation arrangements of some sort continued. Until now, however,
virtually no documentation about them or how his successors treated the
instructions has been available. A public interest documentation center that is a
project of The Fund for Peace, the National Security Archive filed declassification
requests with the National Archives and the Eisenhower and the Johnson
presidential libraries and obtained these documents, many heavily sanitized, on
Eisenhower's predelegation decisions, including May 1957 guidelines, and what we
can assume to be drafts of the JCS instructions to commanders in late 1959. Other
documents disclose the status of Eisenhower's instructions during the 1960s.
Early drafts of guidelines on predelegation approved by Eisenhower in May 1957
suggest that policymakers considered authorizing nuclear weapons use in at least
two situations: 1) when attacks by sea or by air on U.S. territory and possessions
provided no time for consultation with the President on defensive measures, or 2)
when "enemy attacks" prevented a Presidential decision and it was necessary to
protect U.S. forces abroad, including those in international waters, or to launch
SAC to retaliate to nuclear attack on the continental United States. Whatever the
circumstances, Eisenhower would later insist that it be “very clear that an
authorizing commander knew in fact that the nuclear attack had occurred on the
continental United States.” The late 1959 JCS instructions to CINCSAC (less
heavily excised than those to CINCEUR or CINCLANT) begin with a general
statement of purpose: to authorize commanders "to expend nuclear weapons in
defense of the United States, its Territories, possessions and forces when the
urgency of time and circumstances does not permit a specific decision by the
President or other person empowered to act in his stead." CINCSAC could approve
nuclear release only in "circumstances of grave necessity."
According to the documents, many of which remain under appeal at federal
agencies, the chronology of presidential decisions was as follows:
In March 1956, Eisenhower requested the State and Defense Departments to
prepare a policy statement on advance authorization of nuclear weapons use that
would serve as the basis for specific instructions to senior commanders.
In late 1956, Eisenhower approved instructions enabling air defense forces to use
nuclear weapons to repel a bomber attack on U.S. territory.
In May 1957, Eisenhower approved a more comprehensive set of highly-secret
guidelines as the basis for further planning by the State Department and the
In December 1958, the agencies presented Eisenhower with a comprehensive set
of instructions. The next step was to prepare specific instructions to designated
In late 1959, Eisenhower approved predelegation instructions from the Chairman,
Joint Chiefs of Staff [JCS] to the Commanders-in-Chief of the Atlantic Command
[CINCLANT], European Command [CINCEUR], and the Strategic Air Command
[CINCSAC], commanders with major responsibility for nuclear weapons.
John F. Kennedy let Eisenhower's instructions stand, despite admonitions in
January 1961 by White House aide McGeorge Bundy about the danger of
"decisions-in-advance" that might allow a "subordinate commander faced with a
substantial Russian military action [to] start the thermonuclear holocaust on his
own initiative if he could not reach you."
March 1964, President Johnson approved "updated Instructions for Expenditure
of Nuclear Weapons in Emergency Conditions" that were "basically the same" as
That Kennedy’s decision to let Eisenhower's predelegation instructions stand meant
that they remained in effect during one of the most difficult and potentially
dangerous periods of the Cold War, the 1961-1962 Berlin Crisis and the October
1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. It may have been the experience of the Cuban crisis,
when tensions were at a fever pitch and the Air Force blundered by test-firing an
ICBM, that encouraged Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara to conclude that
predelegation was "not in the US interest." The documents show that in January
1963, McNamara told other U.S. officials that he worried that a designated
commander might confuse an accidental nuclear launch or explosion with an all-out
attack. This problem convinced him only the President should "decide to launch in
response to an apparent nuclear attack." Even with his concerns about the risk,
however, in March 1964, McNamara recommended that the President approve
updated instructions on emergency release of nuclear weapons.
Information on any predelegation arrangements that Lyndon Johnson or his
successors approved after March 1964 remains classified, although studies by
Brookings Institution analyst Bruce Blair indicate that predelegation continued at
least through the late 1980s. Whether predelegation in some form remains in place
is an open question; the reluctance of federal agencies to declassify additional
materials on Eisenhower's decisions suggests that it remains a sensitive issue. As
Bruce Blair has shown, the high alert/quick response nuclear posture that developed
in tandem with predelegation during the 1950s and 1960s continues in spite of the
Cold War's end. Recent press reports indicate that another Cold War vestige, an
"overkill" nuclear use posture, also exists. The possibility that predelegation
instructions also endure raises additional questions whether U.S. leaders have
adequately adjusted command and control arrangements to a post-Cold War
environment where dangers of nuclear suprise attack are remote.
These documents are available below. Along with 1,400 others, they have also been
published in a comprehensively indexed microfiche set, totaling more than 20,000
pages, entitled, U.S. Nuclear History: Nuclear Weapons and Politics in the Missile
Era, 1955-1968 (Alexandria, Va., Chadwyck-Healey Inc.), edited by senior analyst
William Burr. The Archive prepared this collection with the financial support of the
W. Alton Jones Foundation, Charlottesville, VA.
For significant studies with discussion of predelegation and related issues, see
Bruce G. Blair The Logic of Accidental Nuclear War (Washington D.C., The
Brookings Institution, 1993); Peter Feaver, Guarding the Guardians: Civilian
Control of Nuclear Weapons in the United States (Ithaca, Cornell University Press,
1992); David A. Rosenberg, "The Origins of Overkill: Nuclear Weapons and
American Strategy, 1945-1960," in Steven E. Miller, ed., Strategy and Nuclear
Deterrence (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1984); and Scott Sagan, Moving
Targets, Nuclear Strategy and National Security (Princeton, Princeton University
Click here to go to the documents
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E-4B in flight
Role Airborne command post
Retired June 2015 (planned)
Status In service
Primary user United States Air Force
Number built 4
Unit cost US$223 million (1998
Developed from Boeing 747-200
The Boeing E-4 Advanced Airborne Command Post, with the project name "Nightwatch",
is an aircraft operated by the United States Air Force (USAF). To create the E-4 series, four
Boeing 747-200 airframes were specially modified to serve as a survivable mobile command
post for the National Command Authority, namely the President of the United States, the
Secretary of Defense, and successors. The four E-4s are operated by the 1st Airborne Command
and Control Squadron of the 55th Wing located at Offutt Air Force Base, near Omaha, Nebraska.
o 2.1 Upper deck
2.1.1 The flight deck
o 2.2 Middle deck
2.2.1 Operations team area
2.2.2 Technical Control area
2.2.3 Rest area
2.2.4 Forward entry area
2.2.5 NCA area
2.2.6 Briefing room
2.2.7 Communications control area
2.2.8 Flight avionics area
o 2.3 Lower Lobe
3 Operational history
o 3.1 September 11, 2001
o 3.2 Recent history
5 Specifications (E-4B)
6 Notable appearances in media
7 See also
9 External links
Two of the original 747-200 airframes were originally planned to be commercial airliners. When
the airline did not complete the order, Boeing offered the airframes to the USAF as part of a
package leading to a replacement for the older EC-135J NEACP (National Emergency Airborne
Command Post). Under the 481B NEACP program the Air Force Electronic Systems Division
awarded Boeing a contract in February 1973 for two unequipped aircraft, designated E-4A,
powered by four P&W JT9D engines, to which a third aircraft was added in July 1973. The first
E-4A was completed at the Boeing plant outside Seattle, Washington in 1973. E-Systems won
the contract to install interim equipment in these three aircraft, and the first completed E-4A was
delivered to Andrews AFB, Maryland in December 1974. The next two were delivered in 1975,
the third differed by being powered by the GE F103 engine, which was later made standard and
retrofitted to the previous two aircraft. The "A" model effectively housed the same equipment as
the EC-135, but offered more space and an ability to remain aloft longer than an EC-135.
Additionally the E-4 was capable of operating the "Looking Glass" missions of the former
Strategic Air Command (SAC).
An E-4 at El Dorado International Airport in Bogotá, Colombia
In December 1973 a fourth aircraft was contracted for, which was fitted with more advanced
equipment, resulting in the designation E-4B. On 21 December 1979 Boeing delivered the first
E-4B (AF Serial Number 75-0125), which was distinguished from the earlier version by the
presence of a large "hump" on the dorsal surface directly behind the upper deck. This contains
the aircraft's SHF satellite antenna. By January 1985 all three E-4As had been retrofitted to E-
4B models. The E-4B offered a vast increase in communications capability over the previous
model and was considered to be 'hardened' against the effects of electromagnetic pulse (EMP)
from a nuclear blast. Hardening the aircraft meant that all equipment and wiring on board was
shielded from EMP. Additional steps were taken to block radiation from the aircraft's cabin air
management system and cockpit, including the novel use of the same screens used to cover the
windows of microwave ovens placed over the flight deck windows.
Estimates at the time of the production of the first E-4B placed the developmental cost at nearly
US$ 1 billion. The roll out cost of the fleet was placed at approximately US$ 250
million each. In 2005 the Air Force awarded Boeing a five year, US$2 billion contract for the
continued upgrade of the E-4B fleet.
This section needs additional citations for verification. (January 2009)
A right front view of an E-4 advanced airborne command post (AABNCP) (AF Serial No. 75-0125) on the
electromagnetic pulse (EMP) simulator for testing.
The E-4B is designed to survive an EMP with systems intact, and has state-of-the-art direct fire
countermeasures. The E-4B uses analog instruments because they are less susceptible to an
EMP. The E-4B is capable of operating with a crew of 48 to 112 people, the largest crew of
any aircraft in US Air Force history. With in-flight refueling it is capable of remaining airborne
for a considerable period (limited only by consumption of the engines' lubricants). In a test flight
for endurance, the aircraft remained airborne and fully operational for 35.4 hours. It takes two
fully loaded KC-135 tankers to fully refuel an E-4B.
The E-4B has three operational decks; upper, middle and lower.
National Emergency Airborne Command Post internal configuration (April 1976)
 Upper deck
 The flight deck
The flight deck contains the pilot's, copilot's, navigator's and flight engineer's stations, including
a special navigation station not normally found on commercial Boeing 747s. A lounge area and
sleeping quarters for flight crews and other personnel are located aft of the flight deck. The flight
crew consists of an aircraft commander, co-pilot, navigator and flight engineer.
 Middle deck
The middle deck contains the conference room, which provides a secure area for conferences and
briefings. It contains a conference table for nine people. Aft of the conference room is a
projection room serving the conference room and the briefing room. The projection room has the
capability of projecting computer graphics, overhead transparencies or 35 mm slides to either the
conference room or the briefing room either singularly or simultaneously.
The battle staff comprises force status controllers (3), emergency action controllers, operations
controller, communications controller, intelligence planners (4), operations planners (4), logistic
planners (4), chief of battle staff, airborne launch system officers (2), weather officer,
reconnaissance planner, damage assessment officer and administrators (2), a total of 26; and
communications operators (5), radio maintenance men (5) and switchboard operators (2), a total
of 15. The Looking Glass missions were commanded by a general officer with two staff officers,
while the National Airborne Operations Center (NAOC) may rendezvous and embark a member
of the National Command Authority (NCA) from an undisclosed location. There are at least 48
crew aboard any E-4B mission.
 Operations team area
Behind the projection room is the operations team area containing the automatic data processing
equipment and seats and console work areas for 29 staff members. The consoles are configured
to provide access to or from the automated data processing, automatic switchboard, direct access
telephone and radio circuits, direct ("hot") lines, monitor panel for switchboard lines, staff and
operator inter-phone and audio recorder.
 Technical Control area
The aft compartment at the end of the main deck is the Technical Control (Tech Control) area.
This area was the nerve center for all communications and communications technicians.
Typically 3 of the 6 crew positions were occupied here by specialized US Air Force Technicians
that were responsible for the proper monitoring and distribution of all communications power,
cooling, and reliability. The Technical Controller #1 (Tech 1, TC1) was the direct interface with
the aircraft Flight Engineer and Flight Crew. This position was also the main focal point for all
communications related issues. The Technical Controller #2 (Tech 2, TC2) was responsible for
maintaining all UHF communications between the aircraft and the Nightwatch GEP (Ground
Entry Points). These GEP's provided 12 voice lines to the aircraft which were used in the day to
day operations of the mission. Secure Voice was also provided. The SHF Operator (or
technician) maintained the SHF satellite link and provided other worldwide communications
services probably having replaced a lot of the UHF capabilities.
 Rest area
The rest area, which occupies the remaining portion of the aft main deck, provides a rest and
sleeping area for the crew members.
 Forward entry area
Within the forward entry area is the main galley unit and stairways to the flight deck and to the
forward lower equipment area. This area contains refrigerators, freezers, two convection ovens
and a microwave oven to give stewards the capability to provide more than 100 hot meals during
prolonged missions. Additionally, four seats are located on the left side of the forward entry area
for the security guards and the stewards.
 NCA area
Behind the forward entry area is the NCA area, which is designed and furnished as an executive
suite. It contains an office, a lounge and sleeping area, and a dressing room. Telephone
instruments in this area provide the NCA with secure and clear worldwide communications.
 Briefing room
The briefing room contains a briefing table with three executive seats, eighteen additional seats,
a lectern and two rear projection screens.
 Communications control area
The communications control area is divided into a voice area and a data area. The voice area,
located on the right side of the compartment, contains the radio operator's console, the semi-
automatic switchboard console and the communication officer's console. The data area, located
on the left side of the area, contains the record communications console, record data supervisor's
console, high speed DATA/AUTODIN/AFSAT console and LF/VLF control heads. The E-4B
can communicate with the ground over a wide range of frequencies covering virtually the entire
radio communications spectrum from 14 kHz to 8.4 GHz. Ground stations can link the E-4B into
the main US ground-based communications network.
 Flight avionics area
The flight avionics area contains the aircraft systems power panels, flight avionics equipment,
liquid oxygen converters and storage for baggage and spare parts.
 Lower Lobe
The forward lower equipment room contains the aircraft's water supply tanks, 1200 kVA
electrical power panels, step down transformers, VLF transmitter and SHF SATCOM equipment.
AC/DC powered hydraulic retractable Airstair is located in the forward right side of the forward
lower equipment area, are installed for airplane entry and exit. In the event of an emergency, the
airstair can be jettisoned. The aft lower lobe contains the maintenance console and mission
The lower trailing wire antenna (TWA) area contains the aircraft's 5 mile long TWA reel – which
is used by up to 13 communications links – the antenna operator's station, as well as the antenna
reel controls and indicators. Much attention has been given to hardening this area against EMP,
especially as the TWA, essential for communicating with ballistic missile submarines, is also
particularly effective in picking up EMP.
 Operational history
The E-4 fleet was originally deployed in 1974, when it was termed National Emergency
Airborne Command Post or NEACP (often pronounced "kneecap"). The aircraft was to provide
a survivable platform to conduct war operations in the event of a nuclear attack. Early in the
operations of the E-4, the media dubbed the aircraft as "the doomsday planes".
The aircraft were originally stationed at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, so that the U.S.
President and Secretary of Defense could access them quickly in the event of an emergency. The
origin of the name "Nightwatch" comes from the richly detailed Rembrandt painting of the same
name depicting local townsfolk protecting a town and was selected by the Squadron's first
commanding officer. Later, the aircraft were moved to Offutt Air Force Base where they would
be safer from attack. Until 1994, one E-4B was stationed at Andrews Air Force Base at all times
so the President could easily board it in times of world crisis.
When a President boards the E-4, its call sign becomes "Air Force One". (NEACP aircraft
originally used the static callsign "Silver Dollar"; this callsign faded from use when daily
callsigns were put in use.) The E-4B also serves as the Secretary of Defense's preferred means of
transportation when traveling outside the United States. The spacious interior and sophisticated
communications capability provided by the aircraft allow the Secretary's senior staff to work for
the duration of the mission.
All E-4s were converted to B-models by 1985. With the adoption of two highly-modified
Boeing 747-200Bs (known as VC-25A in Air Force parlance) to serve as Air Force One in 1989,
and the end of the Cold War, the need for NEACP diminished. In 1994, NEACP began to be
known as NAOC, and it took on a new responsibility: ferrying Federal Emergency Management
Agency crews to natural disaster sites and serving as a temporary command post on the ground
until facilities could be built on site. Evidently no E-4B was employed during the Hurricane
Katrina Disaster of 2005, though one E-4B was used by FEMA following Hurricane Opal in
E-4B and two C-32s at Defence Establishment Fairbairn, Canberra, Australia during bilateral defense
talks, February 2008
The "cocked" or "on alert" E-4B is manned 24 hours a day with a watch crew on board guarding
all communications systems awaiting a launch order (klaxon launch). Those crew members not
on watch would be in the alert barracks, gymnasium, or at other base facilities. The 24 hour alert
status at Andrews AFB ended when President Clinton ordered the aircraft to remain at Offutt
unless needed, though relief crews remain based at Andrews and Wright-Patterson Air Force
Base. One E-4B is kept on alert at all times.
 September 11, 2001
On 11 September 2001, an aircraft closely resembling an E-4B was spotted and filmed orbiting
the Washington D.C. area by news outlets and citizens, during the attack on the Pentagon. This
aircraft sighting has added fuel to the continued speculation and debate concerning the
September 11 attacks. In his book Black Ice, author Dan Verton identifies this aircraft as an
E-4B taking part in an operational exercise. The exercise was canceled when the first plane
struck the World Trade Center.
 Recent history
In January 2006, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced the entire E-4B fleet would
be retired starting in 2009. His replacement Robert Gates reversed this decision in May 2007.
The E-4B fleet is to remain in service until at least 2015. This is due to the unique capabilities
of the E-4B, which cannot be duplicated by any other single aircraft in Air Force service, and the
cancellation in 2007 of the E-10 MC2A, which was considered a successor to the EC-135 and E-
8 aircraft, and could also perform many of the same tasks of the E-4B. In addition, despite its
build cost, the E-4B is comparatively inexpensive to maintain and operate, as it uses the engines
and structural components of the civilian 747.
All four produced are currently operated by the United States Air Force, and are assigned to the
1st Airborne Command Control Squadron (1ACCS) of the 55th Wing at Offutt Air Force Base,
Nebraska. Maintenance and crews are provided by Air Combat Command. Operations are
coordinated by United States Strategic Command.
Three produced; later converted to E-4Bs. No bulge (housing equipment) on top of fuselage.
Powered by 52,500-lb CF6-50E2 engines. Has electromagnetic pulse protection, nuclear and
thermal effects shielding, advanced electronics, and a wide variety of communications
 Specifications (E-4B)
Data from USAF Fact Sheet, Boeing 747-200 specifications
Crew: up to 112
Length: 231 ft 4 in (70.5 m)
Wingspan: 195 ft 8 in (59.7 m)
Height: 63 ft 5 in (19.3 m)
Wing area: 5,500 ft² (510 m²)
Empty weight: 410,000 lb (190,000 kg)
Loaded weight: 800,000 lb (360,000 kg)
Max. takeoff weight: 833,000 lb (374,850 kg)
Powerplant: 4 × General Electric CF6-50E2 turbofans, 52,500 lbf (234 kN) each
Maximum speed: 523 knots (602 mph, 969 km/h)
Cruise speed: Mach 0.84 (555 mph, 895 km/h)
Range: 6,200 nmi (7,100 mi, 11,000 km)
Service ceiling: 45,000 ft (14,000 m)
Wing loading: 150 lb/ft² (730 kg/m²)
 Notable appearances in media
The E-4B plays a prominent role in two motion pictures. In the HBO film By Dawn's Early
Light, following a nuclear strike by the Russians the aircraft serves as a flying platform for the
presumed president, played by Darren McGavin. The aircraft is pursued by a Boeing EC-135
"Looking Glass", which is attempting to intercept it. In the motion picture The Sum of All Fears,
the president and his staff travel on an E-4B following the detonation of a nuclear weapon by
terrorists. In the novel, the Vice-president and his family are aboard Kneecap after terrorists
explode a nuclear bomb in Denver while the President and his National Security Advisor are
stuck at Camp David during a blinding snowstorm.
National Geographic produced a television special on doomsday planning of the United States
which includes footage from inside an E-4 during a drill.
 See also
United States Air Force portal
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
List of active military aircraft of the United States
1. ^ E-4B fact sheet, USAF, October 2007, retrieved 8 May 2007.
2. ^ FAA Order 7610.4K, Special Military Operations, Chapter 12, §1. FAA
3. ^ Michell 1994, p.265.
4. ^ Alwin 1999, p. 608.
5. ^ Bowers 1989, p. 528.
6. ^ "Boeing Awarded E-4B Product Support Integrator Contract". 21 December 2005.
7. ^ Dendy IV, Staff Sgt. John B. "Around the clock with the E-4B". USAF Airman magazine, May
8. ^ "American Doomsday" overview, video clip. National Geographic.
9. ^ Gilmore, Gerry J. "Rumsfeld Uses 'Flying Pentagon' To Communicate During Trips". US
Department of Defense, 1 August 2005.
10. ^ "Photograph by FEMA News Photo taken on 09/16/1995 in US Virgin Islands". FEMA.
11. ^ 9/11: The mystery plane. CNN, 12 September 2007.
12. ^ Mystery 9/11 aircraft. The Raw Story, 13 September 2007.
13. ^ Verton 2003, p. 144.
14. ^ Francillon 2008, p. 37.
15. ^ Boeing 747-200 Technical Specifications, Boeing
Bowers, Peter M. Boeing Aircraft since 1916. London:Putnam, 1989. ISBN 0-85177-804-6.
Francillon, René J. "Doomsday 747s: The National Airborne Operations Center". Air
International, December 2008. Key Publishing, Syamford, Lincs, UK. pp. 32–37.
Jenkins, Dennis R. Boeing 747-100/200/300/SP (AirlinerTech Series, Vol. 6). Specialty Press,
2000. ISBN 1-58007-026-4.
Lloyd, Alwin T., A Cold War Lagacy: A Tribute to Strategic Air Command- 1946-1992. Missoula,
Montana, Uninted States:Pictorial Histories Publications Company, 1999. ISBN 978-1-57510-052-
Michell, Simon. Jane's Civil and Military Upgrades 1994-95. Coulsden, Surrey, UK: Jane's
Information Group, 1994. ISBN 0-7106-1208-7.
Verton, Dan Black Ice: The Invisible Threat of Cyber-Terrorism New York City, New York, United
States:McGraw-Hill Osborne. 2003. ISBN 978-0-07-222787-1.
 External links
Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Boeing E-4
USAF E-4 fact sheet
E-4 product page and history page on Boeing.com
E-4 page GlobalSecurity.org
E-4 page on TheAviationZone.com
Mystery Plane and 9/11
United States tri-service EW aircraft designations post-1962
Boeing 747 government and military variants
Current equipment of the United States Air Force
A/OA-10A/C Thunderbolt II
A - Ground attack
AC-130H/U/W Spectre/Spooky II/Stinger II
B - Strategic bomber B-2A Spirit
C-5M Super Galaxy
C-17A Globemaster III
C-20B Gulfstream III
C - Cargo transport C-20H Gulfstream IV
C-37A Gulfstream V
E-8C Joint STARS
E - Electronic warfare
EC-130H Compass Call
EC-130J Commando Solo
F-15E Strike Eagle
F - Air superiority & F-16C/D Fighting Falcon
F-35A Lightning II
H - Search and rescue HC-130J Combat King II
HH-60G/MH-60G Pave Hawk
K - Tanker
L - Cold weather LC-130H
AL - Airborne Laser YAL-1
MC-130E/H/J/P Combat Talon I/Combat Talon II/Commando
M - Multi-mission II/Combat Shadow
O - Observation OC-135B Open Skies
Q - Remotely Piloted RQ-4A Global Hawk
R - Reconnaissance RC-135S/U/V/W COBRA BALL/Combat Sent/Rivet Joint
U-2S Dragon Lady
T-6A Texan II
(A)T-38A/B/C Talon II
T - Trainer
U - Utility
UV-18A/B Twin Otter
VC-25A (Air Force One)
V – VIP/staff transport
C-32A/B (Air Force Two)
W – Weather reconnaissance
WC-135C/W Constant Phoenix
An-26 (6th SOS)
Other/undesignated CN-235-100 (427th SOS)
Mi-8 (6th SOS)
Launch vehicle Delta II
Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP)
Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS)
Defense Support Program (DSP)
Global Positioning System (GPS)
Milstar Satellite Communications System
Mobile User Objective System (MUOS)
Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS)
Wideband Global SATCOM
CBU-87 Combined Effects Munition
CBU-97 Sensor Fuzed Weapon
GBU-10 Paveway II
GBU-12 Paveway II
GBU-24 Paveway III
GBU-27 Paveway III
GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb
GBU-54 Laser JDAM
AGM-86B/C/D Air-Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM)
Missile AGM-88A/B/C High-speed Anti-radiation Missile (HARM)
AGM-130 Powered Standoff Weapon
AGM-154A Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW)
AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Stand-off Missile (JASSM)
AIM-120B/C Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM)
LGM-30G Minuteman III
BQM-167 Subscale Aerial Target
QF-4 Aerial Target
Lists relating to aviation
NavSource Online: Aircraft Carrier Photo Archive
Contributed by Mike Smolinski
USS WRIGHT (CVL-49)
(later AVT-7 and CC-2)
CLASS - SAIPAN
Displacement 14,500 Tons, Dimensions, 683' 7" (oa) x 76' 8" x 28' (Max)
Armament 40 x 40mm, 32x 20mm, 48 Aircraft.
Armor, 4" Belt, 2 1/2" Deck.
Machinery, 120,000 SHP; G.E. Geared Turbines, 4 screws
Speed, 33 Knots, Crew 1787.
Operational and Building Data
Laid down on 21 Aug 1944 at Camden, N.J., by the New York Shipbuilding Corp.; launched on
1 Sep 1945, and commissioned at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on 9 Feb 1947.
Decommissioned on 15 Mar 1956. During her time in reserve, Wright was reclassified on 15
May 1959, an auxiliary aircraft transport, AVT-7. Recommissioned at Puget Sound on 11 May
1963 as a command ship, designated CC-2. Ultimately decommissioned on 27 May 1970,
Wright was placed in reserve at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.
FATE: Stricken from the Navy List on 1 Dec 1977, and sold by the Defense Reutilization and
Marketing Service (DRMS) for scrapping on 1 Aug 1980.
Click On Image Contributed
For Full Size Size Image Description By And/Or
CVL-49 was named after the Wright brothers: Wilbur (1867-
1912, right) and Orville (1871-1948, left), aviation pioneers
Image courtesy of
40k who made the first sustained, controlled, powered airplane
flight in history, near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, December 17,
As a Light Aircraft Carrier, CVL-49
March 27, 1947 Navy photo of the Wright, a month and a half
© Green Creek
91k after her commissioning. Her cruiser-inspired hull lines are
NS024904 visible in this photo. While the class was designed using the Studios
Baltimore-class heavy cruiser hull, they were intended as light
carriers from the time they were laid down.
USS Wright (CVL-49) photographed on 1 May 1947. Naval History &
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the Heritage Command
NS024910 National Archives (# 80-G-195684).
76k Closeup of bridge and Hellcat, 1948. USN
USS Wright (CVL-49) operating on training duty, with six SNJ
Texan aircraft on deck lined up for takeoff, circa the later 1940s
or early 1950s. The photo's original caption reads:
Naval History &
113k "The stage is set for the final scene of Basic Training: the flight
students will qualify six carrier landings in SNJ Texans and the Heritage Command
curtain will descend on the graduation finale."
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the
Naval History & Heritage Command (# NH 97618).
Carriers USS Wright (CVL-49) and USS Leyte (CV-32)—with
Carrier Air Group (CVG) 3—moored at Naval Air Station
(NAS) Quonset Point, Rhode Island, circa 1950.
282k Mike Green
US Navy and Marine Corps Museum/Naval Aviation Museum,
NS023230 Photo No.1996.488.195.006. Robert L. Lawson Photograph
102k Undated, probably taken in the early 1950s. USN
95k Taken in 1949 or 1952 in New York. © George Bartlett
Starboard bow view of the Wright in an undated early 1950s
© Green Creek
213k Navy photo after having been converted to an ASW carrier. She
carries a tall HF/DF mainmast, necessary for her new role.
© Green Creek
175k Port bow view of the Wright, taken in the early 1950s.
USS Wright (CVL-49), location and date unknown but
probably taken in the early 1950s (note tall mainmast and SPS- Tracy White,
51k 6B radar antenna on the foremast).
Researcher @ Large
Official U.S. Navy photo. U.S. National Archives, San
Observation/liaison plane landing and taking off. Probably
taken in the early 1950s.
58k Date and place unknown (probably taken in the early 1950s). Edwin Kaukali
With F2H Banshees of Experimental & Development Squadron
138k VX-3 (tail code "XC") on deck. Location unknown; taken in the Edwin Kaukali
Undated. Probably taken in the early 1950s. Edwin Kaukali
USS Wright (CVL-49) photographed circa the mid-1950s, with
AD and F4U type aircraft parked on her flight deck. Naval History &
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the
NS024912 Naval History & Heritage Command (# NH 97615).
USS Wright (CVL-49) photographed circa the mid-1950s, with
a deckload of AD Skyraider aircraft, automobiles and ship's Naval History &
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the
NS024913 Naval History & Heritage Command (# NH 97616).
USS Wright (CVL-49) underway circa the mid-1950s, with
about eighteen U.S. Marine Corps AD Skyraider aircraft parked Naval History &
106k on her flight deck.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the
NS024914 Naval History & Heritage Command (# NH 97617).
As a Command Ship, CC-2
11k (Small Image) Configured as Command ship (CC-2). USN
The USS Wright (CC-2) as converted to a Command Ship. She
was commissioned as CC-2 on May 11, 1963 as part of the
National Emergency Command Post Afloat (NECPA) program.
The converted Baltimore-class heavy cruiser USS Northampton
(CA-125/CC-1) was her fleetmate in this program. The USS
Saipan (CVL-48) had originally been slated for this duty and © Green Creek
was in the initial stages of her conversion when she was Studios
redesignated as a Major Communications Relay Ship (AMGR-2).
NS024907 When the NECPA program was abandoned, the Wright was
decommissioned, this occurring on May 27, 1970. She was
stricken on December 1, 1977 and scrapped, this beginning in
87k June 1963, showing communications antennas. USN
82k As above. USN
114k As above. USN
82k Arriving in San Diego in June 1963. USN
96k Underway, September 1963. USN
115k As above. USN
Courtesy of Scott
98k Another view of USS Wrigth (CC-2), apparently taken within Koen &
minutes from the photo above. ussnewyork.com
85k Off Southern California in September 1963. USN
52k Configured as Command Ship CC-2, Chesapeake Bay, July 1964. © Richard Leonhardt
Stbd bow view taken 14 Oct 1966 in the VACAPES operating
53k area. Photo by PH2 L.A. Bowders, USN, US Naval Air Station, Gary Priolo
Norfolk, VA. photo number 17235-10-66.
Courtesy of Scott
103k USS Wright (CC-2) underway, location unknown, circa 1968. Koen &
Joe Radigan, MACM,
87k From "All Hands" magazine, November 1968 edition.
27k An aerial port side view of the crew manning the rails, 1968. Karl Priest
A 3/4 starboard view of the ship underway with some crew
103k Karl Priest
members on the A Deck, 1968.
140k After a cruise. Karl Priest
103k Berthing. Karl Priest
77k Entering NYC. Karl Priest
84k Evening at sea. Karl Priest
USS Guadalcanal (LPH-7) off bow. The photo was taken 8 May
27k 1968, about 180 miles south of Norfolk. Scanned from the Karl Priest
"The antenna deck looked a little like Madison Square Garden
117k as the Wright-Guys witnessed several sparring contests at the Karl Priest
May 'Smoker.'" Scanned from the ship's magazine.
Jacket patch of the ship's insignia. Its design is based on the
National shield, with an American eagle and globe in the lower
right. The lightning bolt in the eagle's talons represents
86k command and communications, Wright's mission. The motto NHC
"Vox Imperii" is translated "voice of the leaders." The original
NS024916 patch was received from USS Wright in 1970.
U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph (# NH 69468-KN).
For more photos and information about this ship, see:
Photos from the Collection of Anthony J. Cronin — Circa 1947–1950
USS Wright (CVL-49) — Series of photos probably taken in 1948–1950
Commanding officers of USS Wright (CVL-49/CC-2)
USS WRIGHT CVL-49 History
View This Vessels DANFS History Entry
(Located On The Hazegray & Underway Web Site, This Is The Main Archive For The DANFS Online
Crew Contact and Reunion Information
Contact: Ray Sheridan, President, USS Wright Alumni
Address: 2518 Smoldering Wood Dr. — Arlington,Texas
Web site: USS Wright (AV-1, AZ-1, AG-79, CVL-49, CC-2)
Hazegray & Underway World Aircraft Carrier Pages By Andrew Toppan.
Official U.S. Navy Carrier Website
USS Wright (AV-1, AZ-1, AG-79, CVL-49, CC-2) Alumni Association
Auxiliary Aircraft Landing
Main Aircraft Carrier
Training Ship (AVT)
Photo Index Photo Index Page
Photo Index Page
WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION (WMD)
Site-R Raven Rock
Site-R Raven Rock
Site-R Raven Rock
Alternate Joint Communications Center (AJCC)
Alternate National Military Command Center
Ground Truth Imagery of Site-R Raven Rock
Click on the small image to view a larger version
Model of a Capsule Suspended on Shock Diagram of the the Raven Rock complex
AJCC Resrictions Restricted Area Warning Sign
Raven Rock Mountain Raven Rock Mountain looking South
Tourists don't go beyond this point
Site R waste water treatment plant
Entry Control Point
Site-R Raven Rock
Alternate Joint Communications Center (AJCC)
Alternate National Military Command Center
Raven Rock, PA
Site R is the Alternate Joint Communications Center (AJCC) located in Raven Rock mountain [hence the name Site
R] just over the Pennsylvania State Line near Waynesboro, Pa. The DISA Site-R Computer Operations staff provides
computer services to the NCA, the Joint Staff, the OSD and other DoD agencies through Memorandums of
Agreement (MOAs). The facility functions as the disaster recovery site for the JSSC's GMC and DISA GCC. The
various service [Army, Navy and Air Force] Emergency Operations Centers (AFEOC) are also located at Site R.
Support is provided 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. The facility's Operations Center, DCS Technical Control
Facility, the Northeast Dial Service Assistance Center and Information Center provide planning, installation,
operation, and maintenance of over 38 communications systems (switching, transmission, data distribution, visual
information, and power generation) that support the various customers of the Alternate Joint Communications Center
The initial concept for the Alternate Joint Communications Center was conceived in 1948. After 1949, the Soviet
Union detonated its first nuclear weapon in 1949, a high priority was established for the Joint Command Post to be
placed in a protected location with close proximity to Washington, D.C. for swift relocation of the National Command
Authorities and the Joint Communications Service. In 1950, President Truman approved Raven Rock Mountain,
Pennsylvania, as part of Camp Albert Ritchie, Maryland. This new site was named the Alternate Joint
Communications Center (AJCC) Site R (R for Raven Rock). In 1951, construction of the facility began, and in 1953,
the AJCC Site R became operational.
Between 1953 and 1971, the Army communications element at Site R provided communications support to Site R
tenants as a direct reporting unit of the U.S. Army Joint Support Command. In 1971, as part of the Strategic
Communications Command (STRATCOM) move to Fort Ritchie, the communications unit was redesignated as the
Directorate of Telecommunications, under the Fort Ritchie Garrison Commander.
In 1976, the unit was redesignated as the USACC Site R Telecommunications Center, a direct reporting element to
the 7th Signal Command. And in 1978, the unit was moved back under the command of the Fort Ritchie Garrison, as
the Directorate of Telecommunications.
The Special Projects Office (later to become the Protective Design Center) was created in 1977 to work on a
classified Department of Defense program. The Alternate National Military Command and Control Center
Improvement Program involved criteria development, studies, and preliminary design of a deep underground highly
hardened and survivable command and control center. The center included separate structures for command
personnel, power, fuel, and water. Over 3 miles of air entrainment tunnels were required as well as access shafts to
the surface. Although canceled in 1979, the experience, expertise, and leadership in protective design and classified
programs that Special Projects gained from this work brought other unique projects and major programs to the
In October 1981, USACC Site R Telecommunications Center was reorganized and redesignated as USACC Site R
under Headquarters, 7th Signal Command. In May 1984, USACC Site R was redesignated as USAISC-Site R,
remaining as a direct reporting unit to 7th Signal Command. In October 1988, USAISC-Site R was redesignated as
the 1111th U.S. Army Signal Battalion* and placed under the 1101st U.S. Army Signal Brigade, Fort Leslie J. McNair,
Washington, D.C., as the Army support battalion responsible for the maintenance, upkeep and communications of the
AJCC Site R.
In October 1993, the 1111th U.S. Army Signal Battalion was placed under the 1108th U.S. Army Signal Brigade, Fort
Ritchie, MD. Most base operations activities were removed from the battalion's mission, leaving communications as
the primary unit mission.
The 1995 Base Realignment and Closure Commission directed the relocation of U.S. Army Signal Command units
and some Base Operations support personnel from Fort Ritchie to Fort Detrick, which will become the home of East
Coast long-haul communications. These units include the 1108th U.S. Army Signal Brigade, the 1111th U.S. Army
Signal Battalion and Information Systems Engineering Command-Continental United States (ISEC-CONUS). The
1110th U.S. Army Signal Battalion, already at Fort Detrick, is assigned to the 1108th. More than 1,140 military
members and civilian employees will be transferred under the order. Site R and its personnel came under control of
the Fort Detrick commander 01 October 1997. The actual movement of units began 01 October 1996, and Fort
Ritchie was scheduled to be closed by Sept. 30, 1998, well ahead of schedule.
Sources and Resources
AR 190-15 Physical Security of the Alternate Joint Communication Center (AJCC)
Radio Relay System Justication memo, 1951
AJCC - Commercial v. Military Microwave system memo, 1951
AJCC Floor Space Analysis, 1951
The Cold War Infrastructure of the Nation's Capital Region
The Rock by Tim D. Tyler [JUST ABSOLUTELY OUTSTANDING!!!]
1111th Signal Battalion
DISA Global Management Center (WEY3)
Launching the Future - Fort Detrick
Site R transferred to Detrick Standard O
Fort Ritchie prepares to close (Army News Service, July 28, 1998)--A ceremony July 17 at Fort Ritchie, Md.,
marked the end of an era and the closure of the post that has served the country more than 70 years.
Imagery of Site-R Raven Rock
Click on the small image to view a larger version
Overview Map of the East Coast Raven Rock, just North of the Maryland-
Map of the Washington DC area
depicting Raven Rock Orientation Map of the area surrounding
USGS Aerial imagery of Raven Rock, 10- USGS topographic map of Raven Rock
meter resolution mountain
USGS Aerial imagery of Raven Rock, 5- Annotation of Raven Rock at 5-meter
meter resolution resolution
The East Portals at 1-meter resolution Annotation of the East Portals at 1-meter
The West Portals at 1-meter resolution Annotation of the West Portals at 1-meter