Barriers over the oceans
"M-4 Bison' deployment. This quadri-jet bomber, for many sources similar to American B-52, was built in a limited number of units, because the 'Tu-95 Bear' was preferred.

For over a decade, from 1954 to 1965, the US Navy spent many efforts to participate in the defense of North American continent against the threat of Soviet Union nuclear bombers. The first Soviet nuclear experiment dated August 1949 represented a dramatic signal for United States, waking them up from the euphoria due to the victory in the II World War and then involved in an indiscriminate disarmament campaign. The worry raised with the confirmation that Moscow fitted some aircrafts to deploy the atomic bomb over North American targets, even if with a 'one way ticket' ; ironically, the candidate aircraft was the copy of the American B-29's, some of which were forced to land in Manchuria (a Soviet controlled territory), while in mission against Japanese targets.
At the beginning of 1952 rumors said that a big number of Tu-4 was grouping in the oriental Siberia, from where they would have been able to attack the United States. The problem raised to a maximum level of alert in 1954. Washington analysts, probably on the base of false information obtained by Stalin's secret services, foresought a massive bomber manufacturing program in USSR that would have brought in the half of 1959 to a line of at least 700 aircrafts (300 Tu-95 Bear and 400 M-4 Bison) capable to strike targets in the North American continent and to return to bases; other 700 aircrafts with more limited range (Tu-16 Badger) had to be kept in account.
In the February 1954 issue, aeronautical magazine 'Aviation Week' published a detailed study, initiating a firestorm about the threat and about the inadequacy of the American defenses, synthesized by the term 'bomber gap'; only two years later and after millions dollars in additional military expenses, truth was reestablished on the base of the incontrovertible photos shot over Soviet Union from the CIA U-2s. Anyway, which was the real situation of American defense? Practically invulnerable to the Japanese threats during the war, thanks to the distance that separated them from the Pacific war theater, United States began to mind about that problem only in 1948, on the wave of the Berlin crisis. Radar stations around the most sensitive places of the Country were set up, reactivating from the stores old war time devices, in order to protect the North-East, the areas of Seattle and Hanford, WA (where the production of the atomic ordnance were located), of Albuquerque and Los Alamos, NM (centers of nuclear research). The system was gradually extended, and in 1950 became operational the 'Lashup Net' embracing California, northern Mid West and Tennessee Valley, where the Atomic Energy Commission main plants were located.

Defense lines

In 1951 was set up the first American defense line, named "Pine Tree", that gave anyway a too close forewarning to allow the positive interception of bombers coming from the north, because it extended in the South Canada only.
To search a more effective solution, the 'project Lincoln' was started by the MIT. The MIT was, during the war, the main radar research center in the USA. Project Lincoln came to the conclusion that should be necessary to move the discovery devices as northward as possible, but, for that time, the project seemed technically and economically unfeasible, and met strong oppositions.
President Eisenhower started the 'Project 752' to build the DEW line (Distant Early Warning), located at the northern border of American continent, whose American portion was completed in 1953, and Canadian portion in 1956, to become fully operational in 1957.
As the national defense was an interforce matter, and it could not financially weigh on one armed force only, was established the CONAD (CONtinental Air Defense command), in order to centralize command and control, with its headquarter on Ent AFB, at Colorado Springs, Colorado. For the international DEW Line management, on September, 12 1957, was created the NORAD (NORth American Defense command).

Navy contribution

Let's make a back step: in 1949, facing the need to contribute to the 'Lashup' network, and because of its 44 fixed land-based sites, the US Navy assumed the task to defend naval approaches to north-eastern USA. The service was reluctant to directly participate to air defense, because of the need to operate with and maintain huge forces, but it was forced to consent when became clear that the project would be carried on in any case and that, because of the poor sight range of radars, a great part of it will be projected in the oceanic environment.

 

In September 1954, was created the 2-barriers system, one over Atlantic Ocean, the other over Pacific Ocean, to defend the sides of the continent. The schema planned an inner barrier, managed by USAF, with land-based radars, or, as for Atlantic coast, based on towers built at sea, and with airborne radar pickets "EC-121" (derived from Navy's WV-2), and an outer barrier under the responsibility of US Navy. The barriers was part of the "Contiguous Barriers" system. CONAD requested 19 radar picket station to the Navy, but, because of limited funding, only 10 station could be built up, equally distributed over the two shorelines.
From an organization point of view, on September, 1st, 1954 was established on the Ent AFB, the COMNAVFORCONAD (COMmander NAVal FORces CONAD), commanding three regional commands: Western, Central and Eastern. COMNAVFORCONAD had also the task of coordinate and program the US Navy Forces deployed to defense missions under the CONAD's ROC (Regional Operation Centers) command.
The key forces were the surface units, equipped like radar pickets, bur six over seven class "Buckley" destroyers, transformed during 1943/44 in DER (Radar Picket Destroyer Escort) were decommissioned at the end of war, and only one survived as a trainer in the reserve.

The idea to refurbish these old DER, whose equipment were now obsolete was soon abandoned, was instead chosen to transform some "Edsall" class DE (built around 1943/44): these units, with diesel engines, had a doubled range with respect to "Buckley" 's.
Six units were transformed during February 1951 and June 1952: the first was USS Harveson (DER 316), followed, between January 1955 and December 1957 by other 28 "Edsall" class ships and 2 class "John C.Butler". The Navy then had in 1957 36 DER: the "Edsall" mounted a long distance "SPS-6" air search radar, a surface search "SPS-4" radar, IFF equipment, a radio-beacon and a TACAN (TACtical Air Navigation) to give assistance to aircrafts. The "Edsall" DER had a crew of 130 and a range of 21,000 km at over 20 Knots.
USS Wagner (DER 539) and USS Vandivier (DER 540) were part of an experiment carried on to evaluate the feasibility of the transformation of the over 70 "John C.Butler" class DE: these ships had steam engines that gave them a range of only 10.200 km at 22 knots, and for this reason the program was discontinued, and in 1960 the two ships were decommissioned, and the "DER" line was unified on the "Edsall".

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Flying the Barriers - by Robert Shaver - from WIngs of Gold - Spring 2005
 
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