Ed Steffen  

Edward Steffen

Project NANCY RAE also had a number of unclassified nick names like LITTLE BIT, SOFT SHOE, MUSIC BLUE, WANDA BELLE and finally the ubiquitous COBRA BALL.  (also referred to as RIVET BALL by the BIG SAFARI).

The frequent name changes were thought to hinder Soviet Intelligence in their understanding of the mysterious flights from Shemya Island to a holding pattern off Kamchatka, Peninsula. The fact that the timing coincided with their own ICBM range activity at UKA village must have been quite a mystery! So naturally they launched fighters to intercept NR. The APR –17 receiver was tuned to their acquisition radar frequency and a crew member called out "lock-on" when the "audible pitch" changed. The informal after-action report noted the increased " pucker-factor" by all concerned.

The first Crew's existence on Shemya was austere. No TV and no local radio station. This was remedied when Captain George Krieg scavenged radio parts and connected to a record-changer to it's input. The output was linked to a long wire hanging in Hanger #2 and could be heard around Shemya. (I hope George learns of this WEB site and offers to fill us in on the details of their existence. George was also known for his keen sense of humor and lack of appreciation for the Ranks above his own.

George also characterized the idiot responsible for the "Window Box Calibrator" because of the difficult task of moving from window to window outside NR and the good chance of bodily harm. Over the next few month another Captain, D. Kyrazis at FTD was able to prove that Barnes Engineering had poorly characterized this source of absolute intensity (the internal lamp was certified by the National Bureau of Standards). This led to an early redesign and construction of a new unit in 1964.

Some of the other problems identified began with the Ballistic Streak Camera (BSC). It lacked a "chopper" and tape recorded "time" marks. Also the navigation unit LN-6 was a poor source of "heading and vertical" reference used with and other cameras to orient the data with a the elements of a reentry event. Hence the two LN-12 and a second navigator to concentrate efforts on providing this information.

Captain Ken Miller at FTD worked missile trajectory problems and found a way to employ LORAN C data to position the aircraft position relative to the event and made possible trajectory reconstruction using the FPS-80 radar data. Note: Sperry Gyroscope produced the first airborne LORAN C unit and it was flown on NR. It too had problems caused by "break lock" when the aircraft changed headings. Improvements to our system were difficult to come by however the technology did help with a more accurate time reference, the Rhybidium Standard.

Regardless of the problems BALL had a number of significant intelligence takes from this system. Before the Soviets started flying their birds in daylight, the wide angle of coverage by the BSC recorded something no dish radar of that day could hope too.

The Soviet SS-13 showed us the first use of the ICBM's Tank age to create an out-of-plane target. From our BSC the incoming Tank was first visible but where one would expect to see the RV come "honking in", Nada. Instead 45 miles displaced to the left of our view. the RV much later was seen reentering. This was a neat, cheap countermeasure to confuse a defense radar. Not until AMBER 's Phased Array Radar, that could also "see" the entire reentry area and record "off axis" and delayed time events, did we have the compliment of the BSC.

Due to my somewhat unique position in DIA, I continued receiving data results from my friends (read co-conspirators) at FTD. Usually I briefed results from BSC photo's especially when it recorded the first instance of a SS-9 Multiple Reentry Vehicle. Word came from the Sec Def Office (Melvin Laird) that they needed copies of the film data showing MRV 's. Good bye picture and the next day he showed the picture and made the case before Congress for building the US defense against MIRV 's.

This misidentification however it did not take long for the reality to catch up with the intent. (but then, who knew more then we experts…ha.) It also might highlight how intelligence is "used" to make a case.

Telemetry had great potential for answering questions about In flight performance parameters and it was very successful early on. Later the fun began when the Soviets decided to hide their data in a digital code system.

Because of the emphasis placed on such data, BALL experienced numerous changes to it's antenna's and receiver systems. Our "phase reviews" at LTV/E Systems became a "tug of War" for money to support these changes and those required by an Optics System facing daylight operation.

A new Framing Ballistic Camera was expected to improve collection, but it didn't do a lot. Near the end of my own tenure, we, DIA, AFIN, BIG SAFARI worked out a scheme to use Real Time Optic System (RTOS) with AVCO Everett in Boston to employ the new sensor "CCD" with both staring and tracking optic systems. The system was built and later flown but I did not have the pleasure of seeing the results. My term with BALL finished in October, 1982.

Kingdon R. Hawes (Webmaster)
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