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EASTERN AIR DEFENSE SECTOR HISTORY|
Printable Fact Sheet
Eastern Air Defense Sector was originally established on 1 April 1956 as the 4621st Air Defense Wing (SAGE) Semi-Automatic Ground Environment, assigned to the 26th Air Division and was stationed at McGuire AFB, NJ. It received the bulk of its personnel, one wing and four interceptor squadrons from the 4709th Air Defense Wing upon its inactivation on 18 October 1956.
At that time the 4621st became responsible for manual air defense and exercised operational control over air defense units in the vicinity of New York City, to include US Army Nike missile batteries and Ground Observers Corp posts. In addition, it was preparing for the SAGE air defense system. Its area of responsibility ran along the Atlantic coast from New Bedford, MA to Cape May, NJ, inland between Wilmington, DE, and ten miles northwest of Jervis, PA. On 8 January 1956, less than a year into its existence it was re-designated the New York Air Defense Sector (NYADS).
NYADS became SAGE operational on 1 July 1958, the first sector to achieve this status. In a ceremony marking this achievement, Gen. Curtis E. LaMay was the guest speaker. He described SAGE as, "A system centralizing many air defense functions, minimizing manual tasks and allowing electronic devices to perform hundreds of complex computations accurately and simultaneously to improve air defense capability."
Long distance telephone lines connected long range radars to the SAGE Whirlwind II computer. They also connected Aircraft control and Warning (AC&W) units, Texas Towers, Fighter-Interceptor Squadrons, and NIKE and BOMARC missile batteries to NYADS. This significantly improved the time it took to respond to an unknown track from the old manual system.
To test this system, three exercises were conducted called SKYSHIELD. This nationwide exercise grounded all non-exercise air traffic to test the new SAGE air defenses. It encompassed the whole network to include Picket ships, Texas towers, Aircraft Control and Warning (AC&W) Squadrons, Fighter-Interceptor Squadrons and the Nike and BOMARC missile batteries.
NYADS continued to be on the cutting edge of air defense upgrades and exercises until the end of the sector system of air defense. On 1 April 1966, NYADS inactivated, as did the other 22 sectors in the country. The air divisions took over the sector components and the air defense mission. As time progressed, and the soviet threat diminished, equipment upgrades allowed many reductions in air defense assets. By the end of the 1970s, plans were in the works for another re-organization.
As 1980 dawned, the next major evolution in air defense began. By 1983, the country was divided into quarters and the air divisions were reduced to four. The 23 AD covered the southeast, the 26 AD had the southwest, and the 25 AD the northwest, and the 24 AD moved to Griffiss AFB to cover the northeast.
This change, and the advances in computer technology, ushered in the ROCC/SOCC (Region/Sector Operation Control Center) Air Defense System using the AN/FYQ-93 Communications System. The system, composed of a suite of computers and peripheral equipment configured to receive plot data from ground radar systems, performs track processing, and presents this track data to both weapons controllers and forward and lateral communications links for air sovereignty decision making. These advances of solid-state technology took up a fraction of the space, power, and manpower that the SAGE system needed.
In 1987, four of the previous sectors were reactivated, re-designated, assigned and co-located with the four remaining air divisions. The Montgomery Air Defense Sector (MOADS) became the Southeast Air Defense Sector or SEADS, the Los Angeles Air Defense Sector (LAADS) became the Southwest Air Defense Sector or SWADS, the Seattle Air Defense Sector (SEADS) became the Northwest Air Defense Sector or NWADS, and the New York Air Defense Sector (NYADS) became the Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS).
In 1990, the four remaining Air Divisions were inactivated. Their components passed to the sectors. More consolidation during this time saw the Southwest sector inactivate passing its components to the Northwest Sector. The Sector was then re-designated the Western Air Defense Sector (WADS).
The next evolution started in 1993 with the planned transition of all three sectors and First Air Force to the Air National Guard. NEADS, always the leader, transitioned first. This was a big step for the Air Force; one that many thought was a big mistake. The past successful transitions of the fighter wings and other units to the Guard; the need for the Air Force to save money; and the Guard's long standing tradition of defending this country made for a successful transition. During these decisions, Griffiss AFB fell victim to BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) and was slated to close in 1995. The transition needed to be completed before the base closed.
The 108th and 113th ACS (Air Control Squadron) also slated to close, supplied the initial contingent of personnel for the transition. Other personnel came from active duty people transferring to the guard, personnel from other guard units and recruiting efforts. Many hurdles were overcome from status of personnel to states' rights issues and states' agreements. Issues were worked out and NEADS was re-designated Northeast Air Defense Sector (ANG) on 1 December 1994. The lessons learned during the northeast's transition helped smooth out the other sectors' transitions.
The next few years presented many new challenges. Modernization of the system was one of the top issues as was the consideration of further consolidation. The Cold War over, and the threat of attack on US soil very small, some questioned the need for air defense. As these questions on air defense and homeland security were being sorted out, tragedy struck.
The air attacks on 11 September 2001 brought air defense, homeland security, and related modernization issues squarely to the forefront. The attacks have brought many new changes and improvements to both equipment and missions. Many more improvements are under development for the near term future. This new evolution is an ongoing process that is breaking new ground as modern air defense/homeland security issues and missions are addressed.
Whatever form this new evolution finally takes, the Northeast Sector with its proud heritage is up to the challenge of the 21st century and beyond.