Ed Steffen  

Edward Steffen

Recollections "I" described a very unlikely event where in I was thrust into a position not normally accorded to "Captains". I had been drawn from FTD on TDY to hold-down the Tech Directors Office. Following the visit to General McKee 's Office I was transferred to AFRDA to assume the mantel of Technical Director (TD).

In retrospect I now understand why Col. Shea my boss at AFRDA had no luck in hiring a PhD into that position. I feel that the real job description went far beyond physics rather it encompassed areas quite foreign to a civilian novice. An appreciation of this broad scope might better be understood by considering the individual concerns behind each of the players in this Technical Intelligence Program.

FTD: Measurements and signatures, data reduction and finally sub system analysis.

SAC: Aircraft operation, maintenance, manning and a host of related disciplines.

AFLC (BIG SAFARI) : Finance and also Engineers assigned to contractor facilities where Tin Benders did their work and they did the guidance.

NSA (DEFSMAC) : The Oracle of Clearances without which you did not speak and the channels in which to conduct off-record conversations. Their sub units at Air Force Security Service who did the field work for another type of Intelligence.

CIA: Producers of the National Intelligence Estimate of which data requirements were one step in the overall process.

ARMY BMD: Radar and Optical signatures looking for unique quantities useful for defense weapons system constructs.

My point, understanding physics was only the beginning not the end of a Directors task. Since I was neither a physicist nor a trained Staff Officer my survival depended upon those who were so endowed.

The real world mission of a Tech Directors office was to establish a focal point for quick review of the technical problems and devise the means for expediting solutions. My "sources" for both the problems and the fixes came from Working Level Troops some of whom were outstanding players and made unique contributions to the program. Most notable are the following:

Captain Garry Barnes (FTD) the "brain" who overcame the problems inherent in obtaining useful data from LA collection. He devised the method for reading the digital radar data, and established the formats for data presentation. This effort proved critical in Project survival since HAC was over a year behind in delivery of their "radar data reduction programs". His data-dump and formatting of radar "hits" established a proof of system data collection performance however this was still a far distance from outputting an intelligence product.

My assumption at this point was "LISA ANN had collected valid data on it's only successful Test in Hawaii. I reasoned that given time, the process of reducing the data into useable intelligence was a matter of software upgrade which was bound to occur". Since I was the only one at Headquarters that understood what LISA ANN had or had not achieved I elected to concentrate on the "had". Without Garry's effort I would not have had reason to declare mission success and I would certainly have come under fire from DIA. The prospect of stretching out the LTV supported test effort while waiting for HAC data reduction completion would have ended the Intelligence part of the program.

What would not be lost even with this worse case scenario was the successful building of an airborne radar platform with power levels considered unattainable using C-135 Jet Aircraft. Not generally known was the LISA ANN 's hidden mission. DDR&E wanted "proof of principal" before starting the Airborne Warning and Control (AWACS) program.

Captains Charles Levis and Richard Reeves (SAC) who were principal among the operators trained for LISA ANN radar operation. They participated with Garry and I in making the final judgment to deploy to Shemya, in my Motel room following our "drop dead" meeting at LTV, Greenville. More important, during the on-site operation from Shemya they continually provided soft-ware fixes to the HAC radar program to accommodate changes in the collection environment. They literally became part of the radar system. Not heralded but nearly as important were the effort by three highly skilled Sergeants that kept a balky radar system on the air during the mission. (Please add Duke, Bob and George last names and any additional comments that may apply)

Note: Much later I wrote recommendation to DDR&E suggesting recognition for outstanding performance by four Officers. AFSC concurred and awarded the Legion of Merit to Garry Barnes. Much later I learned that SAC blocked a similar recommendation for Charlie and Dick and I am uncertain that the Officer at LTV was ever rewarded.

Other notables at SAC were Majors Joe Cleary, Gordon Molstead and Wil Main each of whom had essential parts in the overall management of both Programs. Major Cleary and I were in frequent contact since he had same broad responsibilities in SAC DORQX for NR, COBRA BALL and LISA ANN that I had at Headquarters.

I should note that we did have one problem. After LA completed the Hawaii deployment AFLC advised that LTV wanted $200,000.00 a month to continue operation from Majors Field. Neither "Effie" O'Rear nor I thought Captain Mike Hudock at DIA would authorize more funding. The most reasonable solution was to have SAC take LISA ANN to Shemya for test operation. Bending the truth served our need. Major Cleary after our Greenville meeting quickly charged into the Pentagon for a "what now" meeting.

I took the position that we had no choice in view of the circumstances but to go to Shemya. This would solve the miserable aircraft maintenance situation we underwent with LTV's efforts and also use SAC O&M money to support continued operation. Joe had to take the SAC position saying " No Way Hosay!" He commented that unless I ordered them to go forward SAC would not accept the Program. So it was "down and dirty" for me and I gave my word that I would send them a message directing LA to Shemya. (which I did sans any Air Staff coordination which was the way I usually acted as TD. I must admit to leading a charmed life due partly to my own ignorance of appropriate Staff work and the limits that would have imposed on getting on with the program).

A foot note: The first mission flown to Kamchata was a bust! It was Radar system performance not aircraft function that now reared it's ugly head. After I received the miserable news I consulted with Col. March (my new Boss and friend) telling him I wanted to take the next flight to Shemya. My excuse was "if they were going to fail again I would rather be out of reach for a while." He saw the wisdom of my choice. Somehow I had the idea that my being there might shock the system into operation. Hah. Just hours after I arrived the 2nd came up and we flew. On that and the next five missions all systems were operational and collected data. When I returned to Headquarters F.E.O'Rear called and said we were on standby to brief General Ryan, AFCC and about 9 pm that night we were ushered into his office and I once more "sailed off into the blue" extolling the wonders of LISA ANN. My effort was too good for at the end Gen. Ryan said "OK now build me six more for my AWACS fleet". (ME? or BIG SAFARI…How?)

I quickly jumped in (again) and said LISA ANN could not perform that mission, which had to do with it's limiting, one sided radar antenna. Even at that late hour the General was quick to understand the difference. So as not to loose the opportunity, I recommended we be given another C-135 for the program (this time for COBRA BALL) and he turned to his "Strap Hanger" saying "get him one". (DAM! Talk about luck?) Of course in the outer office some Colonel told me that General Ryan doesn't own any aircraft and that they belonged to Mr. Mac Namara. However he said I could mostly like have and "attrition aircraft" (the extra a/c budgeted for in case of an a/c loss). At any rate we did have that aircraft "assigned"…not that we ever would get it.

Headquarters AFLC was given authority from DDR&E to support the Tech Director Office. F.E. O'Rear head of the BIG SAFARI Office had a rare talent in Air Staff for getting "one of a kind" projects funded and was able to adjust priorities without significant interference. I learned much about Pentagon maneuvering from him. During the Hawaii test program we ran out of O&M money and I talked to Major Pat O'Malley (my contact in O'Rear's Office) asking him where we might get $500 K. Pat reminded me that he had that much in his budget to be applied to Amplitron Tube rework. I had months earlier convinced Captain Hudock my DIA Program Element Manager for LISA ANN to make these funds available. Pat asked if I would agree to his transferring funds to the Test Program. I agreed that it was worth the gamble and this was done without further consultation with Mike Hudock or anyone else. (My Pentagon Strategy: never tell unless asked)

AFLC (BIG SAFARI) Detachment at LTV. Here I had the help of Det people assigned to LISA ANN in keeping tabs of various phases of both the sensor system integration and the airframe modification effort. Two major efforts were underway. Carving out a 12 by 16 foot hole in the right side of the air frame to mount the radar's antenna radome. This removed structure from outer skin to the ships center line and required a "Z" box to support the entire section in front of the wing root. Also necessary was the redesign of control cable placement from overhead to beneath the floor. I understand the design alone required 100,000 man hours by LTV. I recall that we encountered a "leak" of glycol fluid into this under-floor cable box. LTV ran test to assure Air Force that the cables were not damaged by this exposure. I mention this because I never did hear any reference to this condition as a possible cause for LISA ANN 's last demise.

NSA, DEFSMAC the place where much of our special communications originated giving real time activity indicators for both Programs. They too suffered Shemya tours just like everyone else. Civilian Mr. Dave Barry was my principal contact at Ft. Meade and we would feed off each other's Intell. especially as concerns the Broad Ocean Area reentry events.

CIA Science and Technology Group. Notably the work of Mr. John Berquist who had before joining CIA worked as Reentry Physicist. John was my sounding board throughout the development phase of LISA ANN keying me to critical analytical needs.

In my dotter age I wonder "Did this all really happen to me?" I was allowed to function in a manner I could never have dreamed. (Captains writing orders and never being held to account ) I had what might be termed "ostensible authority" which meant no rank ( just that which others perceived I had) and lots of responsibility for a job nobody else wanted. At the outset I had no time to consider the consequences for failure rather I tasted some of the elixir that comes with "imagined power". The best part was working where I could observe the way "things" really were accomplished and how my inner circle of "friends" controlled the outcome.

Click Here for a 1966 memorandum from the Secretary of The Air Force (Harold Brown) to the Chief of Staff, USAF regarding Project Lisa Ann.

Ed Steffen

Kingdon R. Hawes (Webmaster)
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