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Automatic Voice Network (AUTOVON)
Defense Communications Agency

Looking for more information from military/civilian personnel assigned to or associated with the U.S. Army in Germany from 1945 to 1989. If you have any stories or thoughts on the subject, please contact me.

SCAN (US Army)

NAAD Network (USAF)



Theater Switching Centers
Coltano, Italy
Donnersberg, Ger.
Feldberg, Ger.
Hillingdon, UK

Humosa, Spain

Langerkopf, Ger.

Martlesham Heath, UK

Mt. Pateras, Greece

Mt. Vegine, Italy

Schoenfeld, Ger.

Related Links

Switched Circuit Automatic Network (US Army)

North American Air Defense Network (US Air Force)

European Theater AUTOVON 1960s-1980s
(Source: STARS & STRIPES, Jan 22, 1966)
USAREUR's first AUTOVON switch in Europe was originally scheduled to be at Le Chenoy, France. But due to FRELOC, the location was changed (to Donnersberg).

(Source: several STARS & STRIPES issues between Nov 1969 and March 1970)
The Automatic Voice Network (AUTOVON) is a military long distance telephone network that now provides direct dialing capabilities in Europe and the Middle East (previously only available in the U.S.). The Defense Communications Agency is the manager of the overall AUTOVON program. (The program is officially known as the 490L Overseas AUTOVON Switching System.) The overseas electro-mechanical switching centers were developed, produced and installed by General Telephone and Electronics Corporations' s Automatic Electric Company (AECO) under the Air Force's $34 million 490L contract.

AUTOVON was designed to carry mission-critical and administrative voice (telephone) traffic for the US Armed Forces. Globally, the network connects military installations in CONUS, Europe, Japan, Korea, Hawaii, Alaska and Panama.

Access to the computer-controlled network is provided either through the local military telephone operator (through manual base switchboards modified for AUTOVON operation) or via direct dial telephones. The AUTOVON switching centers are capable of interconnecting with most existing military and commercial networks. Each center has its own computer memory which stores user information and call routine instructions to help speed up the connections.

One of the features of the computer-controlled system is that it can automatically route and re-route calls to allow maximum use by a maximum number of users. If the primary routes between any two points are busy, the switch will automatically search for an alternate way to route the call. (AUTOVON is the first worldwide switched network for telephones.)

In addition, each AUTOVON switch provides multi-level precedence preemption that allows selected users with higher precedence to preempt routine users if no additional circuits are available. The system provides four levels of precedence: (FO) Flash Override; (F) Flash; (I) Immediate; and (P) Priority.

There is also a two-second "hot line" for use between top level commanders.

The plan for the installation of AUTOVON switches in the European Theater is divided into three phases:
Phase 1 - Langerkopf, Feldberg, Hillingdon, Naples - was completed on June 7, 1969
Phase 2 - Donnersberg, Schoenfeld, Martlesham Heath, and Humosa - was completed on Nov 1, 1969
Phase 3 - Athens and Coltano - is scheduled to be completed on Mar 1, 1970

When the last two centers become operational on March 1, 1970 the 10-site European system will be completed. The European AUTOVON network is part of a 19-site overseas network that (by 1972) will service more than 2,000 overseas installations.

The eight Air Force switches will be turned over to the European Communications Area (AFCS) at Lindsey AS, Germany, for operation and maintenance when fully operational.

The two Army switches will be operated and maintained by STRATCOM-Europe.
AUTOVON Switch Location
O & M UNIT (information still speculative)
Coltano, Italy
59th Sig Co
Donnersberg, Germany
298th Sig Co
Feldberg (Taunus), Germany
Det 12, 1945th Comm Gp
Hillingdon, UK
Det 8, 2130th Comm Sq
(1); first AUTOVON switch in Europe; cut over on July 14, 1969;
Humosa, Spain
Det xx, 1989th Comm Sq --> Det 1, 2186th Comm Sq
Langerkopf, Germany
Det 4, 2134th Comm Sq --> Det 25, 1945th Comm Gp
Martlesham Heath, UK
Det 3, 2164th Comm Sq --> Det 8, 2130th Comm Sq
activated Nov 1969
Mt. Pateras, Greece
Det 20, 2140th Comm Sq
Mt. Vergine, Italy
Det xx, 2187th Comm Sq --> 2181st Comm Sq
closed 1993? last operational AUTOVON site?
Schoenfeld, Germany
Det 2, 2139th Comm Sq --> Det 23, 1945th Comm Gp
(1) - I was stationed there, it was Detachment 8 or Det 8 2130 Comm Sq. (Hillington). It was on RAF Uxbridge. I was assigned there in 1979. I was looking for pictures of the graduating classes from Shephard AFB. Do you know if any exist? Would like to show my grand children (Source: Email from Kenneth Sharp)

(Source: DSN Description and Operation)
At the height of the Cold War, DoD began looking for a common user, long distance telephone system that would survive enemy attack and still provide command and control capabilities to appropriate levels of the government and the military. DoD selected the Army's SCAN as the basis for a worldwide communications link, eventually listing SCAN as a DoD resource in 1963 and renaming it the Automatic Voice Network (AUTOVON). By the mid 1970s, AUTOVON had been deployed in the European and Pacific theaters.

The European Theater AUTOVON reached Final Operational Capability (FOC) in 1969 as the principal long-haul Command and Control (C2), non-secure, common user, switched voice communications network. The European AUTOVON consisted of ten AECO 490L switches serving C2 users and PBX's within the theater. It provided global calling to authorized users, as well as inter-base connectivity.

Eight of these switches also served as gateway switches with IST connectivity to the WESTHEM AUTOVON.

European Theater AUTOVON Switching Centers
Martlesham Heath, England
(Source: STARS & STRIPES, Nov 27, 1969)
The European AUTOVON switch was officially activated at Martlesham Heath, England in Nov 1969. The operating and maintenance unit for the switch is Det 3, 2164th Comm Sq.

With the help of the new system, RAF Bentwaters subscribers can place long distance calls in a matter of seconds. If the call is going to the (European) Continent, an operatopr at the Feldberg (Taunus) switching center will switch the call request to the local operator of the desired installation.

Related Links:
  Pruem Air Station - wonderful site presenting the Pruem AS, primarily a USAFE communications and radar installation but also home to Company "A", 447th Signal Battalion  
  Feldberg-Det 12.com - very active website on MyFamily.com moderated by Pat Souders. This is a great "meeting place" for anyone interested in the Feldberg Radio Relay site (Taunus Mountains, north of Frankfurt).  
  DCS Coltano - a Yahoo Group page for anyone interested in or previously assigned to the military communications site known as "CLO" (Coltano, Italy).  
  The AUTOVON Exchange at Ipswitch - a very interesting page on the Bunkertours web site.