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Safeguard Missile Site Radar Facility

(Excerpt from Historic American Engineering Record, HAER No. ND-9)

IV. Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex

B. Facility Description

3. Missile Site Radar Facility

The MSR site housed the shorter range missile control radar and nearly half of the defensive missiles. It was 470 acres in size, 164 km (102 miles) northwest of Grand Forks, 19 km (12 mi) south of Langdon, and about one mile from the tiny agrarian town of Nekoma. About 40 km (25 mi) separate the MSR and PAR sites. The radar was of a phased-array type with more than 20,000 antenna elements distributed equally among its faces; its function was locating and tracking incoming ballistic missiles, discriminating between warheads and other objects, providing intercept trajectories, launching and guiding Sprint and Spartan missiles, and using target data acquired from the PAR.

A circular phased-array about 4 m (13 ft) in diameter was mounted on each of the four faces of the pyramid, generally pointed toward the north east, north west, south east, and south west. It had a detection range of some 1,100 km (690.5 mi). Although the radar could only transmit or receive in one direction at a time from a face, the collaboration of all the faces provided a 360o azimuthal coverage. The MSR scanned the complete hemisphere. Its northwest and northeast faces were positioned toward the same ICBM threat corridor scanned by the PAR. In the event of loss of PAR data, the MSR could conduct further surveillance and engage attackers within its capabilities. At the time, the MSR transmitter operated at a higher average power than any other radar in its frequency band.

The sensitivity and selectivity of the receiver enabled the detection and discrimination of targets within a background of electrical noise and debris and could detect targets of small cross section at ranges of several hundred miles. This also enabled it to engage an incoming salvo without destroying its own warheads. Also important, in battle conditions, was the fact that the MSR could suffer the loss of hundreds of its antenna elements before its operations would be appreciably deteriorated.

As with the PAR, the radar equipment was housed in the MSCB, a reinforced concrete structure shielded against nuclear electromagnetic radiation. The MSCB was designed to contain all tactical operational control functions associated with surveillance, target acquisition, and Safeguard missile guidance and control. It had approximately 11,798.3 m2 (127,000 ft2) of usable floor area, two subterranean main floors, and two above-ground turret floors which housed weapon and tactical support equipment and contained the four phased arrays for providing hemispheric coverage. The underground building was 21.5 m2 (231 ft2) and 16 m (53 ft) high. The above ground exposed antenna turret was 12.6 m2 (136 ft2), 24 m (79 ft) in height, and had a sloping angle of 56 degrees. As a whole, the building looked like a truncated space-age pyramid.

Other MSR site facilities included an associated partially-buried earth-mounded power plant, a heat sink, fuel storage tanks, two test towers, the Universal Missile Building, the Warhead Handling Building, Sprint and Spartan launch areas, sentry stations, an industrial building, a cooling tower, water storage ponds, waste water stabilization ponds, enlisted men's quarters and dining complex, officers' quarters complex, a community center, a dispensary, a chapel, a gymnasium, outdoor recreational facilities, family housing, and miscellaneous structures.