Tactical Air Control System
Page 1-A - 4th Allied Tactical Air Force (4ATAF)
Allied Air Forces Central Europe

Looking for more information from military/civilian personnel assigned to or associated with any units of US Air Force, Europe that operated or supported the Theater Air Control System. If you have any stories or thoughts on the subject, please contact me.



ADOC Kindsbach



Det 6, 1141 SAS

11th RRS

Related Links

Page 1 (Overview)

Page 2
(US Units)

Page 2A (GE Units/Radar Sites)

Page 3

Page 4 (Doctrine)

Page 5 (Communications)

Page 6 (412L System)

Page 7 (407L System)

4th Allied Tactical Air Force
(Source: Forty-Five Years of Vigilance for Freedom, United States Air Force in Europe, 1942-1987. HQ USAFE, 1988?; NATO Forces, An Illustrated Reference to their Organization and Insignia, Brian L. Davis, 1988)
4th ATAF

On 2 April 1951, USAFE assumed new international responsibilities with the establishment of a NATO organization, Allied Air Forces Central Europe (AAFCE), headquartered at Fontainebleau, France. The USAFE commander assumed a second role as Commander in Chief, AAFCE.

The new command was initially made up of the US Twelfth Air Force (the 12th AF had been activated only shortly before, on 21 Jan 1951), the British Air Forces of Occupation, and the 1st French Air Division.

USAFE's expanding international responsibilities resulted in more clearly defined tactical force commitments to NATO when the 12th AF was assigned as an operational command of the Fourth Allied Tactical Air Force (ATAF). (AAFCE had organized both ATAFs - Second and Fourth - on 2 April 1952.

With the formation of 4ATAF at Landsberg Air Base, the Commander of 12th AF assumed the second job as Commander, 4ATAF.

AAFCE placed under the command of 4ATAF the facilities and flying units of the 12th US Air Force, 1st French Tactical Air Corps and the 1st Royal Canadian Air Force Air Division.

Twelfth Air Force headquarters, which had been split between Landsberg and Wiesbaden since 1951, was reunited at Ramstein (a portion of Landshtuhl Air Base) on 27 April 1953. During the same time, Headquarters, Fourth Allied Tactical Air Force moved from Landsberg to Trier, Germany.

The major functions of Headquarters, USAFE and Twelfth Air Force were consolidated on 10 Nov 1957. The Twelfth at Ramstein Air Base, became USAFE's Advanced Headquarters (ADVON). It included command staff functions, communications, and combat intelligence. At the same time, CINCUSAFE was named Commander, 4ATAF, and the latter unit moved from Trier to Ramstein. (HQ 12th AF would be returned to the States on 1 Jan 1958.) 4ATAF Headquarters opened at Ramstein on 1 July 1958.

Ramstein Air Base, 1957

Landstuhl Air Base, ca. 1958

On 15 November 1958, Seventeenth Air Force was reconstituted at Ramstein and assumed command of all USAFE central area units except those reporting directly to Headquarters USAFE or located in Italy.

In December 1980, HQ 4ATAF was moved from Ramstein AB to Heidelberg and co-located with HQ Central Army Group.

In the mid-1980s, FOURATAF was a tri-national force, composed of American, Canadian and West German air force (and army) units. The US national operational units assigned to FOURATAF were 17th US Air Force, the 3rd US Air Force and the 32nd Army Air Defense Command.

FOURATAF's area of responsibility comprises a surface of 90,000 square kilometers and a population of approximately 29 million people. The AOR's borders touch those of the Inner German Border and Czechoslovakia, in the east; the borders of Austria and Switzerland, in the south; and the borders of France, Luxembourg and part of Belgium, in the west. The northern boundary is marked by the southern flank of TWOATAF.

(Source: Welcome booklets for the 86th FIW (Landstuhl AB) and 7030th S (Ramstein AB), both around 1956-58)

(Source: USAREUR Annual Historical Report, 1953-54)
In December 1952 Twelfth Air Force had requested CINCUSAREUR to approve an amendment to an agreement by U.S. and French military representatives on 2 March 1951 pertaining to the exchange of facilities and the stationing of troops within their respective zones. The proposed amendment, submitted by the Commanding General, Twelfth Air Force, and approved by the Commanding General, First Air Division, would transfer the Forces auxiliaires du Genie (FAG or Engineer Auxiliary forces), barracks at Trier, Germany, from French to U.S. control and provide for a future agreement on the utilization of the Trier-Euren airfield. In exchange, Twelfth Air Force would transfer DM 2,000,000 of its GFY 1953 budget to the French, to pay the cost of relocating French troops stationed at the FAG barracks. Twelfth Air Force would make the installation available for use as the peacetime headquarters of the Fourth Tactical Air Force (FOURATAF), an international headquarters under the operational control of Headquarters, AIRCENT.

Located at Landsberg, Germany, AIRCENT headquarters in late 1952 consisted of 98 United States, 5 French and 2 Canadian personnel.

In January 1953 CINCUSAREUR agreed to the transfer of the FAG barracks in Trier to Twelfth Air Force.


Headquarters 4ATAF, Trier Air Base, 1955 (Webmaster's collection)

Headquarters 4ATAF, Trier Air Base, 1955 (Webmaster's collection)

Former Trier Air Base (GOOGLE Maps 3D)

(Source: STARS & STRIPES, Jan 18, 1956)
4th Allied Tactical Ar Force (4th ATAF) is headquartered at Trier, Germany. Commander of 4th ATAF is Maj Gen Robert M. Lee, who also is commander of the US 12th Air Force with headquarters at Ramstein, Germany. 12th Air Force comprises the US elements of 4th ATAF. On the 12th AF side, Gen Lee is assisted by Brig Gen William M. Gross, deputy commander of 12th AF. Gen Gross takes over the 12th AF when Gen Lee is actively assuming command of 4th ATAF. On the 4th ATAF side, Gen Lee is assisted by the 4th's deputy commander, Maj Gen Jacques L. Murtain, FAF, and chief of staff Air Commodore William R. MacBrien, RCAF.

The 4th ATAF Hq is staffed by officers and EM of the US, Royal Canadian and French air forces. At present the 4th ATAF is staffed on a ratio basis of five American airmen and officers to three French and two Canadian equivalents.

The Canadian element of 4th ATAF is the
1st Air Div, equipped with Sabre Mark VI's, a version of the US F86. The French component is the Premier CATAC with Ouragan and F84F aircraft. (These are being replaced with the new Mystere jet fighters.) German units are expected to be added to 4th ATAF later.

(Source: STARS & STRIPES, Sept 16, 1956)
Trier Air Base Becomes Fully Allied on Oct. 1

RAMSTEIN, Germany (Special) -- Trier Air Base will become completely international on Oct 1 when the 12th Air Force's 7232d Support Sq deactivates in favor of North Atlantic Treaty Organization support units at Trier, officials here announced.

Replacing the 7232d, which supplies logistical and headquarters functions for the 4th ATAF, will be international and 12th Air Force support units. The latter will provide certain necessary functions such as family housing and base exchange facilities for US personnel assigned to Trier.

Three Nations
The international support unit will be composed of French, Canadian and US personnel. It will be commanded by Lt Col Joseph H. Dehner, who is now commander of the 7232d Sq and Trier Air Base.

Upon deactivation, personnel of the 7232d will be assigned to vacancies in the international support unit and the US support unit. The US unit will be activated as a detachment of the 36th Fighter-Day Wing, which has headquarters at Bitburg, Germany.

2 Years of Planning
The action is a result of more than two years of planning to produce a completely Allied Trier Air Base. This is considered necessary for the 4th ATAF to operate at maximum efficiency.

The last unit to become an international organization was the 11th Radio Relay Sq which became a NATO unit in July.

(Source: Metz, France section of the Pinetree Website)
4th ATAF GCI Sites and AC & W Units/Squadrons -- 1961
  4 ATAF COC Kindsbach   PASSPORT
  Northern SOC Langerkopf 603rd AC&W Sq SMALLARM (after 1 NOV 1961: ANDREWS)
  Logroll CRC Langerkopf 603rd AC&W Sq
  Barber CP Schoenfeld 615th AC&W Sq
  Telegram CRP (or RP) Wasserkuppe 616th AC&W Sq assumed mission of Rothwesten
  Killdeer RP Doebraberg Det, 602nd AC&W Sq
  Mooglow CRP Giebelstadt 602nd AC&W Sq
  Southern SOC Achern ( GCTA 451, FAF ) RAMPART - later moved to Drachenbronn, France
  Boxcar CRC Achern ( FAF )
  Yellowjacket CRP Metz, France 61 AC&W Sq ( RCAF ) closes 31 Dec 1962
  Joplin CP Tuerkheim ( Radarflugmeldeabteilung 312, GAF )
  Race Card CRP Freising 604th AC&W Sq
  Mercury RP Regensburg Det, 604th AC&W Sq

(Source: STARS & STRIPES, April 25, 1962)

HQ 4 ATAF - Trier, Germany

HQ 4 ATAF - Ramstein, Germany

NATO Forces -
Organization & Insignia

Forty-Five Years of Vigilance for Freedom
  By Henry B. Kraft
S&S Ramstein Bureau

The new "Watch on the Rhine" is 10 years old this month. It's the four-nation 4th Allied Tactical Air Force with its 1,500 planes ready to go on a variety of missions in defense of the West.

Born at Landsberg, Germany, the organization now works out of some 25 bases in Europe and includes more than 50,000 individuals. It's made up of French, German, Canadian and American units integrated into one command headed by Gen. Truman H. Landon, who is also commander-in-chief of USAFE.

The command includes the Canadian 1st Air Div, the American 17th Air Force, the French Premier Commandement Aerien Tactique (1st CATAC), and a German headquarters (Tactical Air Div South) and several fighter-bomber wings.

The headquarters at Ramstein includes about 40 per cent American, 24 per cent French, 20 per cent German and 16 per cent Canadian staff.

There's never a dull moment, they'll tell you at the Ramstein headquarters, because 4th ATAF units are always participating in an exercise, getting ready for one or reporting on one just completed.

Behind these operations are plans developed by the headquarters to cover virtually every kind of a military emergency, be it one dealing with air defense, air offense or air reconnaissance.

National commands are committed to support 4th ATAF within their respective capabilities. And the word is integration of these assorted commands into one unit so the only way you can tell which air force individuals belong to is by their uniforms.

The scramble and intercept system, for example, is fully integrated, and an agreement among the national elements allows for 24-hour alert status for air-defense and radar.

French Lt Gen R. V. Marias, 4th ATAF vice-commander, points out that "I believe that 4th ATAF has grown greatly, both as to its weapons, its tremendous air power and its degree of readiness. I am much impressed by the fact that 17 years after the end of the last war, powerful forces from overseas are still in Europe.

"This is tangible proof of the cooperation between NATO nations, something which perhaps never happened before on such a scale in world history," he adds.

Canadian Air Vice-Marshal J. G. Kerr, 4th ATAF chief of staff, calls the command "a remarkably good team, a staff of people with four different national backgrounds who may think differently on some subjects.

"Our working together under one roof proves that all of us can get along despite the fact that we have different ways of doing things. It is a team which has one objective -- to do its best for NATO.

"Being here has proven something to many of us, and that is that 4th ATAF is a lesson in international relations," Kerr points out.

German Brig Gen Rudolf Loeytued-Herdegg, 4th ATAF deputy chief of staff for logistics and administration, says 4th ATAF has one goal -- to work together for the common good and for freedom.

"When we came here," he continues, "it was only natural for us to feel curious as to how we would be received and how we would work with our partners who had been allied for a long time during the war and for years afterward in NATO.

"Well, it was a wonderful experience for us. We found ourselves working with friends, all of whom were eager to help. They could have misused our lack of knowledge at the outset, but they did not. Such a community as 4th ATAF is possible only among free men," the general explained.

(Source: Email from Peter Strasser, German Air Force assigned to 4th ATAF)
You're comments in regards to the HQ 4ATAF Building photo above are correct. The picture shows the headquarters building of the 4th ATAF/Ramstein AB. HQ 17th Air Force was in a separate wing of the building. The ceremony you see on the picture is the daily flag-detail (retreat ceremony?) at 4:45 pm. There is a band playing as well.

Must have been a special event. Usually the music (trumpet signal and US national anthem) came out of speakers, sitting on a pole. You can see them on the picture as well.

There were 5 flagpoles at the corner. One for the NATO flag, the 4th ATAF flag, the Stars and Stripes, Canadian and German flags as well.

I worked in that building from October 1969 until the end of March 1973 as a German Air Force soldier (enlisted man); my last rank was equivalent to your E5.
Ramstein AB

1. 4ATAF staff get together

4ATAF staff get together

4ATAF staff get together

4ATAF staff get together

4ATAF staff get together

4ATAF staff get together

7. 4ATAF Staff visits a coal mine

8. German and Canadian personnel

9. Motor Pool personnel

10. Sign near Ramstein AB

(Source: USAFE Ramstein Air Base Telephone Directory, January 1971)



Telephone listing provides some insight into the 1971 organization of Headquarters 4ATAF located at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

Page 14
Page 15
Page 16

Of special interest is the
Office of the ACOS/Defensive Operations (page 15) which dealt with planning and operations of the USAFE and GAF ground environment radar sites, and SAM and fighter interceptor units in the 4ATAF area -- the focus of this section of the USAREUR website. Also of interest is the section on the Signal Support Group (pages 15 & 16) which I am also trying to cover in the USAFE TACS section.

Would love to hear from anyone with information, stories or photos relating to these topics (Webmaster).

(Source: Email from Jim Graham)
I worked in 4ATAF from June 1971 thru June 1974 in the OIN offices. Was assigned to Headquarters Command Det 6, 1141 SAS USAF.

I have some pictures and remember a few names of folks I worked with. I also worked at Kindsbach Cave during exercises and have stories about those times also.

Do you have contact with any other folks which served at 4ATAF during the early 70's? Would love to talk with people that served there also. Most of my stories are my personal stories and some are pretty funny.
ASSIGNMENT 4ATAF - Chapter 1 (MS Word Document)

Peacetime Organization of 4th ATAF, 1974
(Source: Diego A. Ruiz Palmer, HQ NATO)

Pamphlet issued for 4th ATAF Briefing, c. 1974




2 ATAF Patch

4 ATAF Patch

SOC 3 Patch


1. Main Gate, at Husterhoeh, FALLEX '68

2. Tac HQ on soccer field

3. 4ATAF Tac HQ

4. RF-4 Phantom checks out 4ATAF hqs

5. 4ATAF vehicles

11th Radio Relay Squadron
(Source: Email from Charles E. Hargrave)
The 11th Radio Relay Squadron was responsible for communications between HQ 4th ATAF and the 1st Canadian Air Div, (Metz), 1st French AF (Lahr, Germany) and 12th USAF (Ramstein, Germany) at least until Late 1957. I wonder what happened to it after that?

I was a 1st Lt. Comunications Officer for the 11th Radio Relay Squadron from late 1954 til late 1957, under the command of Major Richard Flechsig. Other officers in the squadron were Lt. William Roy (deceased), Lt. Marvin Breaux (deceased) , Lt. Richard Cheney, Lt Brelsford, Captain Beck, and myself.

The 11th Radio Relay Squadron headquarters was located at Trier, Germany, on the same base as HQ 4th Allied Tactical Air Force.
Euren, a former German air base, was a small kaserne just 2 or 4 kms. outside of Trier, on the road to Luxembourg. We provided VHF links to the 12th US Air Force at Ramstein AB, also to the 1st Canadian Air Division at Merci le Metz, and a link to the 1st French Air Force at Lahr, Germany.

I was responsible for the link to the French, by maintaininng relay stattions in Alsace Lorraine. The largest of my stations was in
Niederbronn-les-Bains, France (northwest of Haguenau, Fr.).

To get the VHF signal to the German sites we had several relay stations in France. At the time I was there Alsace Lorraine was French, although over the years it went back and forth from France to Germany, and then to France again. It was a very responsible job for a guy only 21 years old. Didn't bother me then but as I look back on it, I get the shivers.

One addition, just before I left in late 1957, the 11th Radio Relay Squadron went out of business, and the communications was maintained by some communications squadron. Don't remember the exact name and don't recall much about it. I was transferred to another building and didn't have much to do for a couple of months until I came back to the States. It was a sad ending to a tour of duty that was so important in the Cold War, so meaningful to me and such a challenge, and at the same time was a fun time in my life.

(Webmaster note: one detachment of the 11th was at Metz, France)

Air Defense Operations Center / TACC / SOC
ADOC Kindsbach
(Source: Kaiserslautern American, March 12 2004)

ADOC Kindsbach
Most are familiar with the Cheyenne Mountain underground complex in Colorado, but few know about the U.S. Air Forces in Europe’s underground Combat Operations Center. Though not in use anymore, it was located just outside Ramstein at a site known as the Kindsbach Cave.

The cave’s operations were so secretive that little has ever been published on it. As the site of a German Western Front Command Headquarters, the French took control of the underground bunker after World War II, and USAFE assumed control in 1953. After major renovations, USAFE opened the Kindsbach Combat Operations Center Aug. 15, 1954.

The center was a state-of-the-art 67-room, 37,000-square foot facility where USAFE could’ve lead an air war against the Soviet Union. The center had a digital “computer” to work out bombing problems, cryptographic equipment for coded message traffic and its own photo lab to develop reconnaissance photos. Responsible for an air space extending deep behind the Iron Curtain, the center interacted directly with the Pentagon, NATO, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe and all USAFE bases. With its massive telephone switchboard and 80 teletype machines, the cave was plugged into everything in the outside world. The center was receiving more than 1,000 calls a day.

As a further measure of protection, the cave was fully self-contained with its own water supply, electric backup-generators, climate controls, dining facilities and sleeping accommodations for its 125-man crew. Visitor passes were rarely issued to this secret facility.

AOC Room in D-Area (412L era)
Throughout the years, leadership changed but USAFE led the operations through numbered Air Forces. The center’s commander was the USAFE Advanced Echelon. His glassed-in office was on the top floor of the three-story underground command center. Directly under his office was the management for offensive air operations. And the bottom floor office was the management for defensive air operations – to include support for U.S. Army forces and German Civil Defense. All three offices had a full view of the massive Air Operations Center map on the opposing wall.

The AOC was the largest room in the complex. Its three-story map was used to plot minute-by-minute movements of friendly and unidentified aircraft. But the center was much more than just a tracking station, because it could also react to threats. They always knew the current operational status of air weapons in theater including missiles, and could dispatch armed response “at a moments notice.”

Time takes its toll on technology. What was advanced in one era quickly becomes obsolete in the next. By 1984, the Kindsbach Cave had become too small and its cost for renovation too high, and USAFE vacated the facility. On Oct. 31, 1993, control was returned to the German government. Today the Kindsbach Cave remains sealed – a relic of the Cold War in Europe and a monument to an air war that was won without ever having been fought.

(Source: Email from Jeff States)

To my knowledge, we never used (or knew of) the terms
D Area and Zulu Area while I was at Kindsbach (1962-66). The pictures you posted of Kindsbach from Dr. Elliot show the remains of Zulu area which I can vaguely remember.

It was the manual area that 412L replaced. Although we worked in the manual area for a short time, I mostly remember the large plotting board that we worked behind! The posted picture shows were the various officers would have been sitting monitoring the display that we plotted. 

D area was definitely where 412L was located. It was exactly the three tier set-up shown by the drawling in the article from the “Kaiserslautern American” that you have posted under the Kindsbach section.

Zulu Area - original Operations Room (Manual Era)
I mostly remember the middle tier since that is where the Projection Control Console was located. My job was to operate the PCC which displayed a dynamic picture -- through a projector call a "light valve” -- of all European traffic on a 40’ x 40’ screen overlaid with a map of Europe. The display on this large screen was a highly enlarged version of what the computer console operators saw on their computer screens. The display was dynamic with the good guys displayed in green and the bad guys in red. The display was monitored 24/7 by officers who were located on the first floor (mostly majors) along with an ID section. The third tier was the NATO commander of the shift, (a German Lt. Colonel) but he was merely a figure head.

(Source: Email from Dick Boivin, 412L Maintenance Officer, 4th ATAF ADOC, 1962-64; CO CFMF, 1964-1965)
As a young USAF Capt, I was assigned as the 412L Maintenance Officer at the 4th ATAF ADOC in the "cave" at Kindsbach in Aug 1962 after finishing a 6 weeks 412L systems course at GE in Syracuse. Our unit was a detachment of the 86th Air Division at Ramstein.

When I arrived the air defense operations personnel were working using a small manual plotting board. This was interesting in that due to the room restrictions ( 412L being installed ) the plotters were in front of the plexiglass board instead of behind it and quite often, out of old habits, they started writing backwards on the front of the board. At that time GE was finishing the installation. We had only about a 3rd of our USAF maintenance troops there and the GE folks were providing some limited training to us on an as available basis.

I too remember we had trouble with the"light valve" used to project the big screen picture. This was in the early computer days and memory was limited. The Surveillance Technicians had to convert track and speed data etc to octal format in order to enter anything manually into the system.

Kindsbach was the first site to have its individual acceptance test completed and the old USAF GEEIA organization did most of that in 1963, with the paperwork being signed at the Palast hotel in Dec of that year.

Centralized Field Maintenance Facility ( CFMF ) was initially run by GE at Ramstein AFB. They repaired all the printed wire boards (PWB's) and electronic assemblies from all 412L sites. At some point around Aug 1964, the Air Force gave a maintenance contract to another company ( RCA, I think ) and I was given 2 weeks to transfer to a new job as Commander of the CFMF which was officially titled as Detachment 3 of the 601st ACW Sq at Birkenfeld. This was only on paper as I reported directly to the 86th AD CC.

Each of the field sites had to give up about 4 experienced maintenance and immediately re-assign them to the CFMF. Fortunately for me one of them was a top notch Master Sgt whose last name was Burt. A deal was worked with GE where 4 of their experienced people would stay on work with us as we trained our people in this function. At the 412L sites, maintenance was based primarily on a remove and replace PWB and Sub-Assembly basis. We repaired about 1200 to 1400 PWB and about 75 assemblies per month and shipped them back to the 412L sites to use again. We stayed at about that level of repair until I left in Aug 1965.


As you went in the front entrance, you followed one of the tunnels around to the left and then back up toward the front. So as you looked at the front of the cave entrance, the 4th ATAF ADOC (412L area) was to the left. As you came in the hallway to the 4th ATAF ADOC (412L area), the "no break" back up power was in a small room on the left. This was a large electrically driven flywheel connected by straight shaft to a small diesel engine generator vented to the outside. In the event of a power outage the flywheel would drive the generator until it also started the diesel engine so the equipment would not see a power interruption as this would cause loss of main memory. This smaller generator only kept the computers and consoles going until a larger diesel/generator combination located outside the cave got started to provide sufficient power for all the 412L area.

Continuing down the hall on the left was the 412L equipment room which contained the computer and all the main equipment racks. I remember this very vaguely but believe it was about 75x50 ft. I could be wrong on the size of all these rooms. This equipment was cooled by running a very cold brine solution through pipes in the cabinets as a coolant. This cooling system was not on the small "no break " generator and the equipment could only run about 10 minutes without overheating. Our back up to this cooling system was to just run cold water from a well through the system and let the discharge out into a sewer drain outside the cave. This sufficed to the main back up generator provided enough power to run the regular brine system.

On the right side of the hall across the hall from the equipment room was the main 4th ATAF ADOC area with all the consoles and the large scale display. There was ( again this is a questionable memory ) only about 10 to 15 consoles. As I recall we had only Surveillance, and ID consoles with no Weapons Control consoles which were at the sites with radars. All our info was "cross tell" from the other sites.

The Large Scale Wall Display was in front of the consoles and about 20x20 ft as I remember. The infamous "light valve" projector was behind the other consoles toward the rear of the room. At the rear of the room was a second floor which housed the ADOC battle staff. It was about 20x30 with of course a glass front to view the large scale projected display. There was the usual assortment of telephones and links to radios as well here.

Back on the first floor behind the room where the consoles were located was the Electronic Switching Center (ESC) built by Northern Electric. At least when we first went operational, this served primarily the ADOC. The TACC still had there own system switchboard. We had only 2 or 3 offices, a supply room for 412L spares, and a couple of miscellaneous rooms. One of the miscellaneous rooms contained an exhaust hood workbench that was solely for the purpose of cleaning the light valve parts that were in contact with the oil bath used in projecting the large scale display as oil contamination was a frequent problem.

The main office for managing the 412L system was in the 86th Air Division HQ buildings at Ramstein on the south part of the base near the runway. The 412L was managed by the 86th Air Division Comm-Elec staff.

The 412L Consolidated Field Maintenance Facility (CFMF) was also located on Ramstein but not in the 86th Air Div general area. The CFMF was originally called the 412L Ffield Depot.

Responsibilities were basically maintenance of all the 412L equipment and operation and maintenance of the Electronic Switching Center (ESC). We had 4 maintenance crews that provided the seven-day 24-hour maintenance coverage. We used the standard ( at the time ) AF Manual 66-1 maintenance tracking system. As time went on we set our own stock and other spare parts levels based on turn around time at the CFMF. We did not repair printed wire boards ( PWB's) or 412L sub assemblies as these were repaired at the CFMF. The maintenance was for the most part trouble shooting and remove and replace. We devised and implemented our own ADOC maintenance OJT program as our site was unique.

17th Air Force COC entrance, Kindsbach, around 1966 (Dick Walker)

Kindsbach, Germany, around 1966 (Dick Walker)
(Source: Email from Dick Walker, 2135th Comm Sq, 1965-67)
I was stationed in Germany with the USAF for 3 years (1965 to 1968..... 2 years at Ramstein, and one year at Hahn).

I was a Crypto Maintenance guy (AFSC: 30650C) while at Ramstein with the AFSC's
2135th Comm Squadron, then with the 2184th at Hahn. My 2 years at Ramstein was basically spent working at the Kindsbach "Cave."

We crypto guys were somewhat familiar with the 412L System, since we had to make our daily security changes on the crypto equipment located in the 17th AF COC Commander's quarters located above the ground floor and directly in view of the giant display screen. We got to know a couple of the 412L guys at the time, but their names now escape my memory.

It was amazing to view the Cold War games.... unidentified red markers representing aircraft on the screen, turn to green when they were determined to be friendly aircraft. It was also interesting to see the red markers turning back and heading east when our planes intercepted and chased them back. The Soviets would continually challenge the airspace of West Germany's eastern border, and of course our aircraft were always up for the challenge.

Although I didn't realize at the time; but those days were really special, as I have many fond memories of the people: (Skidmore, Sudreth, Wooldridge, Alford, Billiter, Jones, and Zill), and the places where I worked.

2135th Comm Sq base communications center, Ramstein AB, around 1966 (Dick Walker)

Ramstein at the time, had a Base Communications Center in a small building, directly across from an multiple floor L-shaped building that housed 17th Air Force Headquarters. Base Comm had a switchboard, and I'm guessing the Cave did too. I know there were additional communications capabilities and facilities inside the Cave; but the units had their own secured areas, and we had no "need to know" what went on at those places.

Once inside the 412L area, we had our own key to the Commander's "War Room". The room had a conference table, and a large curtained window facing the huge 412L display screen.


Operations Room in the Kindsbach Cave, 2006
The photo above shows the Kindsbach Operations Room in 2006 (source: Dr. William Elliott, HQ USAFE). The top room (with the lights on) was an addition that was added after I left Ramstein in 1967. The old War Room was the one on the 2nd floor in the 2006 photograph. Brings back good memories.

The 2135th Comm Squadron wore the AFCS patch, as did (I'm fairly certain) all of the other Communication Squadrons in Europe.

We were bussed to the Kindsbach site in one of those small Air Force dark blue school buses, that ran continuously every half hour between Ramstein and Kindsbach. After hours, if you missed the bus, or got called in, you had to notify base transportation, and then you were chauffeured to the site by a German civilian driver in a Air Force station wagon.

And, for what it's worth, the white sign near the entrance door parking spot to the Kindsbach "Cave" (see photo at top of post), reads: "RESERVED FOR COMMANDER 17th AIR FORCE."
2135th CS      

1. 2135th CS formation at Ramstein

2135th CS formation at Ramstein

3. Kindsbach Lake, 1966

(Source: Email from Robert Jordan, Kindsbach COC (Det 1, 615th AC&W, 1972-74)

Det 1, 615th AC & W Sqdn Insignia
I was stationed at Kindsbach from 1972-74. Unfortunately, I don’t have as many pictures as I wish I had. Just a few external pics, and 5-6 within the AOC three-story area where I worked as a radar operator.

The console in picture #4 was on the 2nd floor of the operations center. There were two consoles, one on the far right side and the other on the far left side. Directly in front of us, still on the 2nd floor, would be where the French Liaison officers would sit. We faced the projected overhead at the front of the room (or back...depending on your perspective).

I don't recall anyone ever being in the room above, or 3rd floor.

I don't recall ever hearing the term D-Area, or Z as mentioned on your page. We just referred to it as the operations room or SOC (Sector Operations Center), if I recall correctly. The 2nd floor was strictly radar operations with the two large consoles across from each other. With exception to the French Liaison, and I never really figured out why they were there except as simply "liaison" as the term applied. Just in case we had to deal with flight issues over France, I suppose. I was good friends with two of them, and spent several weekends visiting with them and their families in off time.

The consoles were part of the 412L system and radar display consoles. Individual switches or buttons allowed for filtering of types of radar detail, along with enlargement of certain areas. Our jobs, as 276xx radar operators, was pretty boring at Kindsbach. We were just there to oversee traffic throughout the 4ATAF's area of responsibility. We did not control flights, and it was very similar to my job in Vietnam at Motel, on Monkey Mountain near DaNang. That was the TACC-NC (Tactical Air Command Center - North Sector). We watched, warned, and plotted traffic. The same occurred at KUF. Other dets were control sites, not us. Below the 2nd floor is where the shift commander, and any other officers or visiting brass, would sit.

Most of my time was spent, when we were not playing war games, playing endless games of cards, reading, studying for APRs....etc.

We seldom went elsewhere in the Cave, except to the chow hall, admin rooms,and occasionally to the comm sector. Two very good friends were in the comm group. One now lives up in northern Colorado. The dining hall was open only for breakfast and lunch. Dinner, if you were working "mids," had to be caught elsewhere. For me, living on Ramstein, it was at the Ramstein chow hall. Our KUF chef was an Italian civilian, and man could he cook. Because we hosted all the forces, from German, French, Canadian, and other NATO allies, and often had lots of higher end brass onsite, the food was EXCELLENT. We could always count on steak and eggs for breakfast, and at least once a month on Friday lunches....lobster.

The tunnels would end at sealed doors, which from what I was told back then, were left with all switches locked into the positions they were found in, when the cave was first renovated for use.

We came in only one way, at the front of the cave, and everyone had to pick up and leave their badges with the guard as they came & left, with the exception of our detachment. We were allowed to keep and carry our badges. There was a large heavy metal turnstile type of doorway system going in & out. And, it could be quickly locked down by the guard within his booth between the in & out sides.

Kindsbach COC, 1972-74      

1. Kindsbach COC Main Entrance (193 KB)

2. Insignia of units working at COC (111 KB)

3. (107 KB)

4. (170 KB)

5. (115 KB)

6. (
105 KB)

7. (
150 KB)

8. (
141 KB)

9. (114


ADOC Kindsbach Map
For a really BIG version of the map - courtesy CAPT Erik Gustafson, USAFE - click here (careful - 585 KB).

Kindsbach Underground Facility (KUF)      

1. Path leading to the E4 entrance (173 KB)

2. Group enters the cave through E4 (167 KB)

3. Installation map ()

4. E4 Security Post (170 KB)

5. Connecting corridor (143 KB)

6. Sign pointing towards CENTAG TOC (98 KB)

7. DISTAFF office ()

8. Liaison office ()

9. Entrance to the AOC ()

10. ZULU Area - operations room (97 KB)

11. Looking down into the operations room (67 KB)

12. Consoles (85 KB)

13. Restricted area - Comm center? ()

14. CENTAG Signal Group ()

15. Room B-4 -- the COMCENTER (84 KB)

16. Telephone exchange ()

17. Generator room ()

SOC-3 Langerkopf, Germany; Börfink, Germany

Flag and insignia display inside the Boerfink Bunker, 1969 (Watson)
(Source: STARS & STRIPES, Oct 7, 1963)
Voices in a Dark Room

If an unknown aircraft enters the airspace of the Federal Republic of Germany, probably the first man to sound the alarm will be sitting in a dark room, surrounded by the low hum of electronic equipment and a subdued babble of voices speaking French, German and English.

This man is a radar air surveillance operator and his job is one of the least known yet most demanding in all the Air Force. He -- along with dozens of other specialists -- will be working
in one of the air defense units which protect NATO countries from air attack.

One such unit is the 86th Air Div's
603rd Aircraft and Warning Sq at Langerkopf, near Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The 86th has three other air division radar units in Allied Sector III, but operationally, the 603rd is the controlling agency and focal point for all information.

Allied Sector III together with Allied Sector IV to the south make up the 4th Allied Tactical Air Force (4th ATAF) area of defense responsibility in Central Europe.

SOC 3, Langerkopf, 1963

SOC 3, Observation Room

In the Sector Operations Center (SOC) of the 603rd, the aircraft are mere blips on the radar scope. On the giant plexiglass wall technicians plot the course of planes across the sector controlled by Langerkopf. Writing in reverse with grease pencils, the technicians record on the glass screen the data given them through microphones by the scope watchers.

Let's say there is an alarm. This could be an unidentified plane -- one that hasn't filed a flight plan to cross this area. The plane shows on the radar screen of an air surveillance operator. The master controller alerts the sector commander. The powerful air-ground complex of the 86th Air Div is set into motion.

The sector commander may divert aircraft on routine training missions for a look at the stranger. Or, he may scramble a flight of aircraft which are on 24-hour alert.

When the F102s are airborne, one of the division's radar stations guides them to the unidentified plane. When they are within range, the interceptor's internal radar system takes over and the pilot makes a visual identification pass. What happens next is at the discretion of the sector commander.

In wartime, when identification of a hostile aircraft is positive, the pilot of an F102, using radar, could track, fire on and destroy a hostile plane without ever actually seeing it.

Control and Reporting Center (CRC) section of the 603rd organizes and disseminates the information it gathers from the other radar sites. The operators use UHF, VHF, and microwave circuits as well as teletype. Within the 603rd center they also use the general situation map display -- the plexiglass wall.

The fighter aliocator is one of the key men in the system -- he's the guy who verbally coordinates the control functions of the entire 86th Div system. During an exercise (or an emergency), he is the man who assigns a given track or target to its specific radar site for interception.

Still another specialist -- the intercept controller -- actually gives the directions for intercepts. A third specialist labelled "ascent and recovery" directs departures and terminal approaches of fighters when they are in the air.
The SOC requires such intense concentration that its controllers and technicians work only short periods before being relieved for a break.

There's a peacetime aspect of the SOCs that makes them popular with the pilots of all nations -- that's the help the technicians give aircraft in trouble. Since 1957, the radar net of the 86th Air Div has saved well over 100 aircraft which without help from the radar net would have been abandoned.

The most common problem Is radio and navigational equipment failure. One pilot in trouble wrote "Hahn" in the frost of his cockpit window, and an interceptor pilot promptly led him to his home base.

Col Winton W. Marshall, sector commander, commented: "You could say that the Sector Operations Center functions along the lines of a big computer, except that we use men instead of electrical circuits. You must also consider that we are working with three languages ourselves, in addition to the languages spoken by the pilots who fly through our sector.

"Of course, we have many problems. Some of these will be solved through the introduction of our new radar system,
412-L, similar to the SAGE system in the United States. Some of them will always be with us, such as the tension associated with the mission itself, the need for better technicians as our systems become more complex and the burden of split-second decisions forced by faster-reaction weapons, both offensive and defensive.

"Despite these problems, I feel that the men in the SOC and throughout the 86th Air Div and allied units under SOC control are doing a magnificent job in providing an effective air defense system in this vital sector of Central Europe," he said.

Allied Sector III is co-located with a
Missile Control Center of the U.S. Army. The Nike-Hawk surface-to-air missile system is an important complement to the air defense capability of Allied Sector III and NATO as a whole. The 603rd is the vital link in the Army-Air Force chain of operations.

Langerkopf SOC wears two hats -- it's tied to both the United States Air Force and to the NATO defense setup and conducts normal day-to-day operations under both chains of command.

In the unlikely event of the United States taking unilateral action, the 86th Air Div would make use of its complex of ground radar and supersonic interceptors spread over the Federal Republic of Germany under USAFE.

More probably, an attack on one NATO nation would be considered an attack on all, and the division units would operate under the NATO concept of air defense, involving ground and airborne forces of member nations welded into a single force.

"Air defense is a complex and demanding mission:" Brig Gen. F. W. Gillespie, 86th Air Div commander said. "Perhaps it lacks the spectacle of a missile launch, but, unlike the missile, air defense can be actively used to keep peace as well as wage war. As long as we can use manned interceptors to visually identify unknown aircraft the free world will not be faced with a 'go' or 'no go' decision based only on radar returns.

"Man is still our most dependable weapone system."

(Would appreciate feedback from former members of any of the USAFE ACWS units during the 1950s-70s who can provide additional details on the Sector Operations Center (III and IV) and the various CRC operations centers in the 4th ATAF sector of southern Germany - please contact me)

(Source: STARS & STRIPES, Dec 31, 1971)
412L Air Defense System at Börfink

n overhaul project of the computerized electronic equipment of the 412L system at the underground Boerfink bunker (SOC-3) was recently completed. Ten different units were involved in the more than 3-month effort. The electronics facility was turned over in November to the operational unit at Boerfink, the 615th Aircraft Control & Warning Sq, and put back into full operational status.

The overhaul tasks performed included repair of computer cabinets, replacement of power and signal wiring as well as replacement of other electronic and computer components.

Units involved included maintenance personnel of the 615th; the 1836th Electronics Installation (EI) Sq (1); 1829th EI Sq (Griffis AFB, NY); 1833rd EI Sq (McClellan AFB, Calif); 1839th EI Gp (Keesler AFB, Miss); 1969th Comm Sq (South Ruislip, England); 2063rd Comm Sq (Wiesbaden); 2134th Comm Sq (Sembach); 2139th Comm Sq (Bitburg); 1945th Comm Sq (Rhein-Main). In addition to the military units, civilian tech reps from the General Electric Company were also involved.

(1) The 1836th EI Squadron is the only unit of its kind in Europe. It is responsible for the installation and maintenance of ground electronics equipment (radar, radio, microwave, telephone, teletype, navigational and weather aids and antenna systems) for the Air Force and NATO in an area that stretches north to south from the Arctic Circle to Central Africa, and west to east from Spain to Pakistan.)

SOC-4 Drachenbronn, France; Messtetten, Germany
(Source: Email from Aurélien Poilbout , France)

BA 901
I'm reading your website about the Tactical Air Control system. I would like to say that you do not have all the information about the SOC-4 of Drachenbronn.

In 1960, the "
Groupe de Chasse et de Contrôle Aérien 72" (like a TACG) of the 1er CATAC moved to Drachenbronn (Base Aérienne 901 Drachenbronn), France.

Since 1961, the French General Risso was in command of the French Air Force base of Drachenbronn.

The integration of national air defense assets, ordered by
NATO document MC 54/1 in 1958, was approved by France in 1960. As a consequence, in 1963, 
SOC-4 at Drachenbronn was created.  (SHD-Air, carton 1 E 4033)
Aurélien Poilbout
Besides Gen Risso mentioned above, there were other senior officiers who were very important in the relations between the French Air Army and NATO. Here are a few of the:
- General Stehlin, commandant of 1er CATAC (1956 - 1958), then chief of staff of Air Army, "
Chef d'Etat Major de l'Armée de l'Air" (CEMAA)
- General Raymond Brohon, member of Standing Group, second to Norstad, SACEUR, commandant at Suez Operation, commandant of 1er CATAC (1958 - 1960)
- Gen Accart, cdt of 1er CATAC (1960-1962), then he was the chef of expert who created NADGE since 1965 to 1967.
- Gen Maurin, cdt of 1er CATAC (1962-1964), where nuclear-capable F100's are entering the French services, cdt of Forces Aériennes Stratégiques, FAS on Mirage IV, then CEMAA.
- Gen Forget, cdt of 1er CATAC in 1980s
The first two, Stehlin and Brohon, represented the Atlantic trend in Air Army. That is the reason why Brohon never become CEMAA.

Lots of officiers were more focused in
the Algerian war, like Jouhaux or Challe, putschist in 1961. Maurin become CEMAA because he was competent in nuclear questions after he stay next americans teachers.
Gen Forget had a lot of relations with 4e ATAF after France left NATO. He is still alive and he wrote a lot of books where he referred to relations Air Force and NATO.
Of course, you know Gen Gallois, one of the "Hot colonels", like Richardson, who under Norstad, SACEUR, theorised the "massive retaliation". He was employed by Dassault Industry and was
a proponent of
french nuclear independance.

(Source: Various sources)
An air defense radar site was established at Drachenbronn in 1952.

In 1957, a Station Maitre Radar 50/921 was installed.

In 1960, the
Groupement de Contrôle Tactique Aériee N° 451 (GCTA) was stationed at Drachenbronn. (It appears that the Drachenbronn installation was designated as Air Base 901 at the same time.)

Between 1963 and 1966, Drachebronn served as
Allied Sector Operations Center 4 (Centre d’Opérations du Secteur Interallié N° 4) under 4th ATAF. (Commander of SOC-4 from 1963 to 1965 was Gen Joseph Risso, FAF.)

In 1964, Drachenbornn was the first French radar site to be equipped with the STRIDA II air defense system (developed by Alcatel) -- noticed that the system was designated as Visu II.