Presque Isle Air Force Base

Presque Isle Air Force Base was a military installation of the United States Air Force in Maine. In the late 1950s and early 1960s it became a base for Strategic Air Command.

North Atlantic Transport Route 1945
North Atlantic Transport Route 1945

The original airport was constructed in 1930 by the Civilian Conservation Corps as a commercial airport located 1.5 miles (2.4 km) west of the "business center". In 1941, the federal government appropriated the local airport, establishing Presque Isle Army Airfield for planes bound to and from Great Britain. It was activated as an Army Air Corps field on 15 September 1941. The main Army Air Force unit at Presque Isle was the 23d AAF Ferrying Wing, assigned to the Air Transport Command. It was closed after the war ended

The airfield was reactivated by the United States Air Force and redesignated Presque Isle Air Force Base on January 12, 1948, assigned to the Air Defense Command (ADC) Eastern Air Defense Force.

Snark missile launch complex

Presque Isle AFB became the site for the only operational launch complex for the Northrop SM-62 Snark Intercontinental Cruise Missile (ICM).[1] Adjacent to the base, its coordinates were 46°42′17″N 68°2′28″W / 46.70472°N 68.04111°W[2]

"Operational Snark Launching Site I"[3] was selected by the SAC Strategic Missile Site Selection Panel[4] on 21 March 1957, land for the "new base [with] 740 men" was acquired in January 1958,[5] and construction of the $12,000,000 base began in May 1958[6][7] by the J.R. Cianchete Construction Company.[4]

The 702d Strategic Missile Wing was activated on 1 January 1959, and the first Douglas C-124 Globemaster II with a Snark arrived on 27 May 1959.[8] The complex had 6 corrugated hangars ("missile assembly and maintenance buildings") each of 420 ft × 80 ft (128 m × 24 m) with 2 fixed outdoor launch pads. For each launch pad with diameter 160 ft (49 m),[4] a missile was stored within the building on a launcher trailer attached to a tow vehicle, 1 at ready storage to launch from the outdoor pad within 15 minutes and behind it, 1 capable of launch in 30 minutes. Each building had 3 additional missiles in line behind the first wave (readiness of 4 hr, 3 days, and 5 days), and the missile launch control center was a hangar balcony.[9] In addition to the hangars and pads, the complex included "a jet engine run-up building, the warhead maintenance and inspection building, missile maintenance and guidance lab", a dormitory for night alert personnel,[9] and a compressor house for each hangar.[10]

External image
row of hangars when new
map of complex with dimensions
modern hanger photo

First alert status was 18 March 1960, and 30 missiles were available in December[11] with 4 on alert.[12] After the 702d SMW was declared operational on 28 February 1961, 20 Snarks were on alert in the summer of 1961,[13] :28 and on 25 June 1961 the wing was inactivated[14] following President Kennedy's earlier announcement for "73 military establishments" to be closed[15] (Congress was informed on 30 March.)[16]

Civilian use after base closure

The Snark Missile Launch Complex was purchased by the city of Presque Isle, Maine, in early 1962 for $56,000 (the city also bought "other parts of the former Presque Isle Air Force Base, ...known as the Skyway Industrial Park" in 1962)[17] and some of the remaining AFB area was redesignated "Presque Isle Air National Guard Facility".[12] Four of the hangars were used for woodworking in 1962[18] and in 1995, one was used as a flax mill.[19]

The former launch complex now has the designation Environmental site ME500.[20]

See also


  1. ^ "My First Adventure: Trans Lab, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia on a BMW G650X-Challenge | Adventure Rider". Retrieved 2015-09-12.
  2. ^ "Former SNARK missile hangers and launch pads". Retrieved 2015-09-12.
  3. ^ "Ocala Star-Banner - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 2015-09-12.
  4. ^ a b c Lonnquest, John C.; Winkler, David F. (November 1996). To Defend and Deter: The Legacy of the United States Cold War Missile Program (PDF) (Report). Project 94-1264: USACERL Special Report 97/01. Champaign, IL: U.S. Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratories. LCCN n96-88039. OCLC 035600289. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2013-08-13. power and water pumping plant measuring 160 by 102 feet; an engine run-up facility that was 99 by 61 feet; a two-story launch and surveillance building measuring 44 by 39 feet, and a 15,000-gallon fuel tank farm with a pump house and truck filling stand. (cites the "Installation Plan, SM-62 (Snark) for Presque Isle, Maine," in the archives at the U.S. Strategic Command, History Office, Offutt AFB, Omaha, NE.)
  5. ^,2404724&dq=snark+presque&hl=en,5405872&dq=snark+presque&hl=en
  6. ^ "Air Force To Build Snark Base" (Google news archive). Beaver Valley Times. 16 December 1957. Retrieved 2013-08-13.
  7. ^ Turner Publishing Co (1998). Air Force Missileers. Turner Publishing Company. p. 20. ISBN 9781563114557. Retrieved 2015-09-12.
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b "SNARK". Retrieved 2015-09-12.
  10. ^ "Plans for Construction Bidding on Presque Isle Snark Base Within a Week" (Google news archive). Lewiston Evening Journal. 4 April 1958. Retrieved 2013-08-13. one contract. It calls for six assembly and checkout buildings, each about 420 by 86 feet, a power and water pumpting plant, an engine run-up building, six compressor houses, a fuel oil tank, a fuel pump house, water distribution and sanitary sewer systems, and rehabilitiation of the existing administration [sic] and control building.
  11. ^ Zaloga, S. (1993). Target America: The Soviet Union and the Strategic Arms Race, 1945-1964. Presidio. ISBN 9780891414001. Retrieved 2015-09-12.
  12. ^ a b "Northrop SM-62 "Snark" - Deployment". Strategic Air Retrieved 2013-08-13.
  13. ^ "Preliminary Comments on an Article from the Official Soviet Journal, Information Bulletin of the Missile Troops" (PDF). Washington D.C.: Central Intelligence Agency. 25 June 2009. Retrieved 2015-09-12.
  14. ^ John C. Lonnquest And David F. Winkler (1996). "To Defend and Deter: The Legacy of the United States Cold War Missile Program" (PDF). Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management Program. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-09-12.
  15. ^ "The Lewiston Daily Sun - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 2015-09-12.
  16. ^ "Bangor Daily News - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 2015-09-12.
  17. ^ "The Lewiston Daily Sun - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 2015-09-12.
  18. ^ "The Lewiston Daily Sun - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 2015-09-12.
  19. ^ "Bangor Daily News - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 2015-09-12.

Further reading

  • Maurer, Maurer. Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office 1961 (republished 1983, Office of Air Force History, ISBN 0-912799-02-1).
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947–1977. Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Office of Air Force History 1984. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.
  • USAF Aerospace Defense Command publication, The Interceptor, January 1979 (Volume 21, Number 1).

External links

132nd Air Refueling Squadron

The 132nd Air Refueling Squadron (132 ARS) is a unit of the Maine Air National Guard 101st Air Refueling Wing located at Bangor Air National Guard Base, Bangor, Maine. The 132nd is equipped with the KC-135R Stratotanker.

23rd Fighter Group

The 23rd Fighter Group (23 FG) is a United States Air Force unit. It is assigned to the 23rd Wing and stationed at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.

The 23rd Fighter Group was established in World War II as the 23rd Pursuit Group of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF). Redesignated the 23rd Fighter Group before its activation, the group was formed in China on 4 July 1942, as a component of the China Air Task Force and received a small cadre of volunteer personnel from the simultaneously disbanded 1st American Volunteer Group (AVG) – the "Flying Tigers" of the Chinese Air Force.

To carry on the traditions and commemorate the history of the AVG, aircraft of the USAF 23rd Fighter Group carry the same "Shark Teeth" nose art of the AVG's Curtiss P-40 Warhawks, along with the "FT" (Flying Tiger) tail code. The 23rd Fighter Group's aircraft are the only United States Air Force aircraft currently authorized to carry this distinctive and historical aircraft marking.

23rd Wing

The 23rd Wing is a front-line United States Air Force Air Combat Command wing currently assigned to Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.

318th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron

The 318th Fighter Interceptor Squadron is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its last assignment was with 25th Air Division based at McChord AFB, Washington. The squadron was inactivated on 7 December 1989.

32nd Air Division

The 32d Air Division (32d AD) is an inactive United States Air Force organization. It was last active with Air Defense Command, assigned to First Air Force at Gunter Air Force Base, Alabama, where it was inactivated on 31 December 1969.

The division was first activated by Continental Air Command in November 1949 at Stewart Air Force Base, New York. It controlled air defense units in the northeastern United States from Stewart, and later from Hancock Field, New York until being inactivated in August 1958.

The division was activated again in November 1958 at Dobbins Air Force Base, Georgia to provide air defense of the southeastern United States, moving to Oklahoma City Air Force Station, Oklahoma in 1961. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, it was the primary air defense command for potential attacks from Cuba, acting through its Montgomery Air Defense Sector and a provisional organization at Key West Naval Air Station. The division was inactivated in September 1963.

In April 1966, the 32d was again activated at Gunter, where it replaced the Montgomery Air Defense Sector. At Gunter, it also reported to North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) as the 32d NORAD Region. It was again responsible for air defense in the Southeast until 1969, when its mission, personnel and equipment were transferred to the 20th Air Division.

352nd Special Operations Wing

The 352nd Special Operations Wing is an operational unit of the United States Air Force Special Operations Command currently stationed at RAF Mildenhall, United Kingdom. The unit's heritage dates back to 1944 as an air commando unit.The 352nd Wing serves as the focal point for all U.S. Air Force special operations activities throughout the European theater for U.S. European Command (USEUCOM), as well as Africa for U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) and Southwest Asia and the Middle East for U.S. Central Command. The wing is prepared to conduct a variety of high priority, low-visibility missions supporting U.S. and allied special operations forces during peacetime, joint operations exercises, and combat operations. It trains and performs special operations primarily in the USEUCOM and USAFRICOM area of operations, including establishing air assault landing zones, controlling close air support by strike aircraft and gunships, and providing trauma care for wounded and injured personnel.

The group's origins date to 1944 as the 2nd Air Commando Group. The unit was assigned to Tenth Air Force in India, whose elements operated in Burma flying a mixture of fighters, bombers, transports, military gliders and small planes performing operations behind the Japanese lines, and providing close air support for the British Fourteenth Army in the Burma Campaign.

528th Air Defense Group

The 528th Air Defense Group is a disbanded United States Air Force organization. Its last assignment was with the 4711th Air Defense Wing at Presque Isle Air Force Base, Maine. It was inactivated on 18 August 1955. The group was originally activated as a support unit for the 97th Bombardment Group at the end of World War II in Italy.

The group was activated once again in 1953, when ADC established it as the headquarters for a dispersed fighter-interceptor squadron and the medical, maintenance, and administrative squadrons supporting it. It was replaced in 1955 when ADC transferred its mission, equipment, and personnel to the 23d Fighter Group in a project that replaced air defense groups commanding fighter squadrons with fighter groups with distinguished records during World War II.

57th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron

The 57th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, also known as "The Black Knights of Keflavik", is an inactive United States Air Force unit. The 57 FIS was last stationed at Naval Air Station Keflavik, Iceland. It was inactivated on 1 March 1995.

75th Fighter Squadron

The 75th Fighter Squadron (75 FS) is a United States Air Force unit. It is assigned to the 23d Fighter Group and stationed at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.

During World War II, the 75th Fighter Squadron was one of the three original squadrons (74th, 75th, 76th) of the 23rd Fighter Group.

On 17 December 1941, the AVG 2nd Fighter Squadron was redesignated as the 23rd Pursuit Group 75th Pursuit Squadron and subsequently the 75th Fighter Squadron.

Aroostook Valley Railroad

The Aroostook Valley Railroad (reporting mark AVR) was a railroad that operated between Presque Isle and Caribou, Maine from the early 1900s to 1996. The railroad operated maroon interurban cars with grey roofs on 1200 volt DC power until 1945.

F-89 Scorpion units of the United States Air Force

The Northrop F-89 Scorpion was a subsonic second-generation jet interceptor of the United States Air Force. After a long development during the postwar era of the late 1940s, it began reaching operational units in the early 1950s. A stablemate of the North American F-86D Sabre Interceptor, the F-89 replaced the first-generation Lockheed F-94 Starfire interceptor, primarily in the Air Defense Command (ADC). It was phased out of active service in the late 1950s, being replaced by supersonic McDonnell F-101B Voodoos and Convair F-102A Delta Daggers. interceptors.

John T. Olson

John T. Olson (April 7, 1929 – February 26, 2011) was a Brigadier General in the United States Air Force.

John Yerxa

John Eliot Yerxa (April 23, 1904–June 22, 1967) was an American politician who served on the Boston City Council, the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and the Massachusetts Senate.

Louis G. Leiser

Louis G Leiser (November 6, 1927 – October 17, 2009) was a Major General in the United States Air Force.

Maine World War II Army Airfields

During World War II, the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) established numerous airfields in Maine for training pilots and aircrews of USAAF fighters and bombers.

Most of these airfields were under the command of First Air Force or the Army Air Forces Training Command (AAFTC) (A predecessor of the current-day United States Air Force Air Education and Training Command). However the other USAAF support commands (Air Technical Service Command (ATSC); Air Transport Command (ATC) or Troop Carrier Command) commanded a significant number of airfields in a support roles.

It is still possible to find remnants of these wartime airfields. Many were converted into municipal airports, some were returned to agriculture and several were retained as United States Air Force installations and were front-line bases during the Cold War. Hundreds of the temporary buildings that were used survive today, and are being used for other purposes.

Northern Maine Community College

Northern Maine Community College is a public community college in Presque Isle, Maine. It is part of the Maine Community College System. The 87-acre (350,000 m2) campus was founded in 1961 on the grounds of the former Presque Isle Air Force Base.

Presque Isle, Maine

Presque Isle is the commercial center and largest city in Aroostook County, Maine, United States. The population was 9,078 in 2017 as estimated by the US Census, a decrease from the count of 9,692 in the 2010 Census. The city is home to the University of Maine at Presque Isle, Northern Maine Community College, Husson University Presque Isle, Northern Maine Fairgrounds, The Aroostook Centre Mall, and the Presque Isle International Airport.

Presque Isle is the headquarters of the Aroostook Band of Micmac, a federally recognized tribe.

SM-62 Snark

The Northrop SM-62 Snark was an early-model intercontinental range ground-launched cruise missile that could carry a W39 thermonuclear warhead. The Snark was deployed by the United States Air Force's Strategic Air Command from 1958 through 1961. It represented an important step in weapons technology during the Cold War. The Snark took its name from the author Lewis Carroll's character the "snark".The Snark missile was developed to present a nuclear deterrent to the Soviet Union and other potential enemies at a time when Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) were still in development. The Snark was the only surface-to-surface cruise missile with such a long range that was ever deployed by the U.S. Air Force. Following the deployment of ICBMs, the Snark was rendered obsolete, and it was removed from deployment in 1961.

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