Look out!

Military History Carnival #29 is up at Cliopatria. There are quite a few airpower posts this time around; consider this one at Bring the Heat, Bring the Stupid on the DEW Line, the North American continental early warning system built in the 1950s and lasting into the 1980s. I knew about the DEW Line itself, a radar chain built along the north coast of Canada and Alaska to provide early warning of Soviet bombers. But I didn't know about the Texas Towers, effectively radars sited on oil rigs, nor did I know about the radar picket lines formed from destroyer escorts and Lockheed Constellations. The former bring to mind the Maunsell forts in the Thames and Mersey estuaries, some of which were for air defence, fitted with AA and searchlights (though I'm not sure if they were used for early warning as such). The latter remind me of suggestions made in 1939 (April) by the pseudonymous Ajax for both sea pickets ('observation ships equipped with sound locators, detectors, range-finders, and searchlights') and air pickets ('reconnaissance air-cruisers', five-man flying boats with long range and endurance) to extend the pitiful range of land-based sound locators and give some warning of an impending air raid on London.1 Nothing new etc.


  1. Ajax, Air Strategy for Britons (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1939), 82, 83. 

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4 thoughts on “Look out!

  1. On the DEW line, at our last CHSTM reading group we read a paper that touched on the construction of the DEW line (P. Whitney Lackenbauer and Matthew Farish, “The Cold War on Canadian Soil: Militarizing a Northern Environment,” Environmental History 12 (2007), 920-50.); apparently the authors are currently collaborating on a book specifically about the system.

  2. Bill the Shoe

    As weapons officer of a USN DDG, I participated in NATO operations in the early 1980s that used missile ships of several nations as pickets/layered defense in the North Sea.

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