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  • Mark Foster
    The following story ran in the Boston Sunday Globe today. See original text at: http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/087/north/Peaceful_coexistence+.shtml Amid
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 28, 1999
    • 0 Attachment
      The following story ran in the Boston Sunday Globe today. See original
      text at:
      http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/087/north/Peaceful_coexistence+.shtml




      Amid rumors, military facilities quietly go about their
      business

      By Mac Daniel, Globe Staff, 03/28/99

      HAMILTON - The three white satellite dishes point
      skyward, while a
      fan-like contraption hums nearby. Thick black cables
      snake above
      ground to a nondescript building here atop Sagamore Hill,
      a setting that
      reminds one more of science fiction than the bucolic,
      horse-rich town below.

      Welcome to one of the region's two remaining military
      operations, a rare site
      that is soon to become rarer among these civilian lands
      north of Boston.

      The Sagamore Hill Solar Observatory in Hamilton and a
      radar and antenna
      testing facility in Ipswich were both built when the Cold
      War was hot, the
      Soviet Union was one, and the sparsely populated North
      Weekly region
      offered ideal conditions for hassle-free research.

      Now, running these military operations in the heart of
      suburbia generates
      questions, questions, questions. And with the changing
      role of the nation's
      military, both operations face uncertain futures.

      The Ipswich facility's mission may soon end. The radar
      testing site is
      earmarked for closure under the current round of proposed
      military
      cutbacks, according to officials at Hanscom Air Force
      Base in Bedford,
      which operates the site.

      For both operations, their small size and isolation from
      a larger military
      facility have made for a sometimes suspicious
      relationship with the civilian
      public. Air Force Sgt. Matthew Mead, chief of solar
      observatory operations
      at the Sagamore Hill station, told of a time he had to
      stop a woman from
      walking past a mistakenly open gate.

      Mead, a 6-foot-plus 35-year-old wearing standard military
      camouflage, had
      a tough time persuading her that he wasn't hiding anything.

      ''She just wouldn't believe me,'' he said. Why, asked the
      woman, were the
      radio dishes sometimes pointed toward town? And she
      pointed to a
      mysterious concrete hump behind the fence as proof that
      missiles were being
      stored at the site.

      ''She was just sure we were up to no good,'' Mead said,
      adding that the
      suspect ''missile silo'' was actually the observatory's
      septic system.

      Public relations and local suspicions weren't helped
      when, in 1982, a team of
      Army munitions experts used too much explosive when
      dismantling one of
      the older radio telescopes at the site, damaging windows
      nearby with flying
      debris, Mead said.

      Outside of its ominous appearance, Sagamore is a
      completely safe,
      unclassified site, its No. 1 job being to listen to the sun.

      Solar flares and other bursts of solar energy can play
      havoc with military
      satellite equipment and threaten the lives of astronauts
      in space. It's the
      observatory's job to monitor this activity.

      A bank of sophisticated radio receivers and computers
      inside the
      observatory monitor the strength of solar activity.
      Alarms sound if a solar
      burst goes beyond a set limit. If an alarm sounds,
      staffers have five minutes
      to gather and send the data to the observatory's home
      base at Schriever Air
      Force Base near Colorado Springs. From there, it is
      distributed to a list of
      military and civilian customers - from NASA to the North
      American Air
      Defense Command, the group that operates beneath Cheyenne
      Mountain in
      Colorado.

      After sunset, Hamilton hands the job over to an
      observatory in New
      Mexico.

      Sagamore's location atop one of the larger hills in the
      region also makes it a
      perfect place to listen to shortwave radio or broadcast
      via ham radio,
      activities that can interfere with the observatory's
      sensitive radio telescopes,
      Mead said.

      ''Half the time, if we have some interference, all I have
      to do is look outside
      and I can see the problem,'' Mead said.

      The Ipswich site is known formally as the Air Force
      Research Laboratory
      Sensors Directorate, a branch of Hanscom Air Force Base.
      Although it is an
      Air Force facility, it has no direct relation with the
      Sagamore Observatory.

      When driving up to the facility's Skytop Road location,
      there is little doubt
      that it is a military operation, with old radar antennas
      sitting around a barren
      hilltop with an impressive view of the surrounding sea
      and salt marshes.

      Built about 1942 as a field testing facility for the
      Massachusetts Institute of
      Technology's Radiation Laboratory, this was a proving
      ground for the study
      of radar and antennas, according to Livio Poles, the
      current site manager.

      To this day, radar is still tested here. The facility
      also experiments with how
      objects can better deflect radar, Poles said, adding that
      innovations
      developed here were used on the stealth fighter, which is
      said to be invisible
      to radar.

      The military's use of this site had more to do with the
      local topography than
      with any secrecy. To test the sensitivity of antennas and
      radar systems,
      scientists need an expansive area with little ground
      interference - no trees or
      houses that might throw off the low-powered radio waves
      the antennas need
      to catch.

      The Great Neck site was perfect, with 62 acres and 2,600
      unspoiled feet - a
      half mile - between antenna and transmitter, thanks to a
      large gully between
      the two buildings.

      The tests involve sending a weak signal, about 10
      milliwatts, across the gully
      to the antenna, which is often enclosed in a giant
      echo-free bay lined with
      foam spikes, another imposing site when the facility's
      two bay doors are
      open.

      It was here that technicians developed antennas used by
      Hanscom Air Force
      Base officials to listen to the Soviet Union's Sputnik
      satellite when it was first
      launched in 1957. This was also the place where
      scientists developed the
      first radar to pinpoint the elevation of a distant
      object, according to Richard
      Mack, a retired staff physicist at the site.

      Summer homes dotted the landscape on Great Neck when the
      facility was
      first built, and even then locals were curious about what
      was going on at the
      mysterious building atop the hill.

      Those questions continue today. Poles said a local woman
      told him that she
      could feel her body temperature rise every time she saw
      the facility's bay
      doors open.

      ''We told her it was just the power of suggestion,''
      Poles said.

      Now, under military cutbacks proposed for Hanscom, the
      facility is
      earmarked for closure, possibly as soon as this year,
      according to Poles.

      Jack Rankin, a spokesman for Hanscom, said the proposed
      cutbacks could
      change and the facility may not close. ''It all depends
      on so many different
      factors,'' he said.

      Sagamore Hill Solar Observatory is still safe, but Mead
      said there is talk of
      automating their jobs, or hiring a civilian workforce to
      run the antennas, a
      move that would be fine for some of the nine staff
      stationed here.

      Listening to the sun is tedious work. When solar activity
      is in its cyclical
      11-year lull, Mead and Staff Sergeant Michael Eiermann
      said months can go
      by without an alarm. Even when the sun is active, Mead
      said, it's not half as
      hectic as monitoring weather.

      ''We're a very small piece of the puzzle, no doubt about
      it,'' Mead said. ''But
      somebody has to do this job.''

      This story ran on page 01 of the Boston Globe's North
      Weekly on 03/28/99.
      � Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.
    • wtroskey
      Just joined the group & was perusing some old threads out of curiosity... Judging by the description, (and not saying the AF people interviewed for the article
      Message 2 of 2 , Aug 23, 2012
      • 0 Attachment
        Just joined the group & was perusing some old threads out of curiosity...

        Judging by the description, (and not saying the AF people interviewed for the article were lying) it sounds like the OTH-B (Over The Horizon - Backscatter radar site that was part of BMEWS (Ballistic Missile Early Warning System).

        Just throwin' it out there.....



        --- In coldwarcomms@yahoogroups.com, Mark Foster <mfoster@... wrote:
        >
        > The following story ran in the Boston Sunday Globe today. See original
        > text at:
        > http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/087/north/Peaceful_coexistence+.shtml
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > Amid rumors, military facilities quietly go about their
        > business
        >
        > By Mac Daniel, Globe Staff, 03/28/99
        >
        > HAMILTON - The three white satellite dishes point
        > skyward, while a
        > fan-like contraption hums nearby. Thick black cables
        > snake above
        > ground to a nondescript building here atop Sagamore Hill,
        > a setting that
        > reminds one more of science fiction than the bucolic,
        > horse-rich town below.
        >
        > Welcome to one of the region's two remaining military
        > operations, a rare site
        > that is soon to become rarer among these civilian lands
        > north of Boston.
        >
        > The Sagamore Hill Solar Observatory in Hamilton and a
        > radar and antenna
        > testing facility in Ipswich were both built when the Cold
        > War was hot, the
        > Soviet Union was one, and the sparsely populated North
        > Weekly region
        > offered ideal conditions for hassle-free research.
        >
        > Now, running these military operations in the heart of
        > suburbia generates
        > questions, questions, questions. And with the changing
        > role of the nation's
        > military, both operations face uncertain futures.
        >
        > The Ipswich facility's mission may soon end. The radar
        > testing site is
        > earmarked for closure under the current round of proposed
        > military
        > cutbacks, according to officials at Hanscom Air Force
        > Base in Bedford,
        > which operates the site.
        >
        > For both operations, their small size and isolation from
        > a larger military
        > facility have made for a sometimes suspicious
        > relationship with the civilian
        > public. Air Force Sgt. Matthew Mead, chief of solar
        > observatory operations
        > at the Sagamore Hill station, told of a time he had to
        > stop a woman from
        > walking past a mistakenly open gate.
        >
        > Mead, a 6-foot-plus 35-year-old wearing standard military
        > camouflage, had
        > a tough time persuading her that he wasn't hiding anything.
        >
        > ''She just wouldn't believe me,'' he said. Why, asked the
        > woman, were the
        > radio dishes sometimes pointed toward town? And she
        > pointed to a
        > mysterious concrete hump behind the fence as proof that
        > missiles were being
        > stored at the site.
        >
        > ''She was just sure we were up to no good,'' Mead said,
        > adding that the
        > suspect ''missile silo'' was actually the observatory's
        > septic system.
        >
        > Public relations and local suspicions weren't helped
        > when, in 1982, a team of
        > Army munitions experts used too much explosive when
        > dismantling one of
        > the older radio telescopes at the site, damaging windows
        > nearby with flying
        > debris, Mead said.
        >
        > Outside of its ominous appearance, Sagamore is a
        > completely safe,
        > unclassified site, its No. 1 job being to listen to the sun.
        >
        > Solar flares and other bursts of solar energy can play
        > havoc with military
        > satellite equipment and threaten the lives of astronauts
        > in space. It's the
        > observatory's job to monitor this activity.
        >
        > A bank of sophisticated radio receivers and computers
        > inside the
        > observatory monitor the strength of solar activity.
        > Alarms sound if a solar
        > burst goes beyond a set limit. If an alarm sounds,
        > staffers have five minutes
        > to gather and send the data to the observatory's home
        > base at Schriever Air
        > Force Base near Colorado Springs. From there, it is
        > distributed to a list of
        > military and civilian customers - from NASA to the North
        > American Air
        > Defense Command, the group that operates beneath Cheyenne
        > Mountain in
        > Colorado.
        >
        > After sunset, Hamilton hands the job over to an
        > observatory in New
        > Mexico.
        >
        > Sagamore's location atop one of the larger hills in the
        > region also makes it a
        > perfect place to listen to shortwave radio or broadcast
        > via ham radio,
        > activities that can interfere with the observatory's
        > sensitive radio telescopes,
        > Mead said.
        >
        > ''Half the time, if we have some interference, all I have
        > to do is look outside
        > and I can see the problem,'' Mead said.
        >
        > The Ipswich site is known formally as the Air Force
        > Research Laboratory
        > Sensors Directorate, a branch of Hanscom Air Force Base.
        > Although it is an
        > Air Force facility, it has no direct relation with the
        > Sagamore Observatory.
        >
        > When driving up to the facility's Skytop Road location,
        > there is little doubt
        > that it is a military operation, with old radar antennas
        > sitting around a barren
        > hilltop with an impressive view of the surrounding sea
        > and salt marshes.
        >
        > Built about 1942 as a field testing facility for the
        > Massachusetts Institute of
        > Technology's Radiation Laboratory, this was a proving
        > ground for the study
        > of radar and antennas, according to Livio Poles, the
        > current site manager.
        >
        > To this day, radar is still tested here. The facility
        > also experiments with how
        > objects can better deflect radar, Poles said, adding that
        > innovations
        > developed here were used on the stealth fighter, which is
        > said to be invisible
        > to radar.
        >
        > The military's use of this site had more to do with the
        > local topography than
        > with any secrecy. To test the sensitivity of antennas and
        > radar systems,
        > scientists need an expansive area with little ground
        > interference - no trees or
        > houses that might throw off the low-powered radio waves
        > the antennas need
        > to catch.
        >
        > The Great Neck site was perfect, with 62 acres and 2,600
        > unspoiled feet - a
        > half mile - between antenna and transmitter, thanks to a
        > large gully between
        > the two buildings.
        >
        > The tests involve sending a weak signal, about 10
        > milliwatts, across the gully
        > to the antenna, which is often enclosed in a giant
        > echo-free bay lined with
        > foam spikes, another imposing site when the facility's
        > two bay doors are
        > open.
        >
        > It was here that technicians developed antennas used by
        > Hanscom Air Force
        > Base officials to listen to the Soviet Union's Sputnik
        > satellite when it was first
        > launched in 1957. This was also the place where
        > scientists developed the
        > first radar to pinpoint the elevation of a distant
        > object, according to Richard
        > Mack, a retired staff physicist at the site.
        >
        > Summer homes dotted the landscape on Great Neck when the
        > facility was
        > first built, and even then locals were curious about what
        > was going on at the
        > mysterious building atop the hill.
        >
        > Those questions continue today. Poles said a local woman
        > told him that she
        > could feel her body temperature rise every time she saw
        > the facility's bay
        > doors open.
        >
        > ''We told her it was just the power of suggestion,''
        > Poles said.
        >
        > Now, under military cutbacks proposed for Hanscom, the
        > facility is
        > earmarked for closure, possibly as soon as this year,
        > according to Poles.
        >
        > Jack Rankin, a spokesman for Hanscom, said the proposed
        > cutbacks could
        > change and the facility may not close. ''It all depends
        > on so many different
        > factors,'' he said.
        >
        > Sagamore Hill Solar Observatory is still safe, but Mead
        > said there is talk of
        > automating their jobs, or hiring a civilian workforce to
        > run the antennas, a
        > move that would be fine for some of the nine staff
        > stationed here.
        >
        > Listening to the sun is tedious work. When solar activity
        > is in its cyclical
        > 11-year lull, Mead and Staff Sergeant Michael Eiermann
        > said months can go
        > by without an alarm. Even when the sun is active, Mead
        > said, it's not half as
        > hectic as monitoring weather.
        >
        > ''We're a very small piece of the puzzle, no doubt about
        > it,'' Mead said. ''But
        > somebody has to do this job.''
        >
        > This story ran on page 01 of the Boston Globe's North
        > Weekly on 03/28/99.
        > © Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.
        >
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