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Cold War Radar

Texas Towers

Texas Tower

Texas Tower station in the North Atlantic Ocean

The Texas Towers were an American radar system at sea which resembled oil-drilling platforms.  There were three of them (although there were five planned) and they were created by the United States Air Force.

The towers were around 100 miles off the coast, into international waters and were to protect city and industrial centres, allowing an extra 300 to 500 miles east to be covered.

They each had 3 steel legs which sat in the floor of the sea, while the tower reached 210 feet.  There was a pad for helicopters on each tower as well.

The radar used in the towers included two AN/FPS-6 long-range height finders and one AN/FPS-3A long-range search radar, all covered with fifty-five foot radomes.

The first tower built was TT-2 (Texas Tower 2) in 1955, 100 miles from Cape Cod, working by 1956.  This was followed by TT-3 in 1959, 100 miles southeast of Rhode Island, and TT-4, 84 miles southeast of New York City.  The other two were never built.  During the creation of the Towers the Soviets sent submarines to spy.

The stations originally had 22 staff, but this doubled.  However being at sea was hard on the staff and weather problems inferred with safety and operations. 

The 1960s saw a decline of American radar, especially between 1961-1964.  By 1963 the Texas Towers were closed and instead the area was covered by AWACS.  Apart from the Texas Towers, AN/FPS-74 radar which was used to help fill holes, AN/FPS-3, 32 height finding radars, 16 CONUS (Continental United States) main radars, and 9 gap fillers were all shut down. 

Other sea extensions suffered too.  The Navy was still using radar, operating ten picket ships, half on each coast, and four navy EC-121C surveillance aircraft, as well as two extensions at the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom Line.  However, they too saw a decline in this 1960s as early warning was no longer as important on ships.  The DEW Line extensions and picket ships were then phased out as well.