BUIC System History
The need for a backup system for the SAGE System Direction Centers became apparent even before SAGE was fully implemented. In June 1961 the Department of Defense issued a directive to establish such a system in two phases. The system came to be known as the BackUp Intercept Control (BUIC) system. The first phase, BUIC I, returned to the pre-SAGE system of decentralized manual intercept control for backup. The second phase, BUIC II, was to be the establishment of automated intercept control facilities that could partially assume the role of a SAGE direction center if it were disabled. Limitations of the second phase led to the establishment of a third phase, BUIC III, that was approved by DoD on 30 Nov 1964.
BUIC I created a system from the existing radar sites that grouped them into NORAD Control Center (NCC) sites, Ground Control Intercept (GCI) sites and surveillance sites. BUIC I was to have 27 manual NCCs that could each take command of the airspace in the event that a SAGE direction center was incapacitated and an adjacent SAGE direction center could not assume control. The GCI stations were equipped to run manual intercepts and the surveillance sites fed track data to the NCCs and to the GCI sites. The BUIC I System was in place by the end of 1962.
The BUIC II system was a computer based intercept control system usually co-located with a Long Range Radar (LLR) site. It was designed to take over if the attached SAGE direction center became unable to direct intercepters to their targets and the adjacent direction center(s) could not assume control. Physically the system was operated by weapons controllers from a set of 10 or 11 display consoles. The display consoles were driven by a second generation (solid state) computer system, the GSA-51. The display consoles and the computer system were usually housed in a BUIC annex to the existing radar station operations building.
Limitations of the system (only five LLR sites could be attached to a BUIC II site) required two BUIC II sites to backup a complete SAGE direction center. In the end, only one site was approved for each SAGE Direction Center, thirteen in total for the then existing fourteen SAGE direction centers.
All thirteen BUIC II sites were operational by 1 Apr 1966. Two training sites, one at Tyndall AFB and one at Keesler AFB were also in place. The Keesler facility was located in Bryan Hall and provided operations and maintenance training for enlisted computer technicians. The Tyndall facility had several roles that included weapons director team training, system testing and evaluation as well as operational use.
In 1967 two BUIC II systems were deployed to the Southeast Asia combat zone and employed in a tactical environment. One system was deployed to Monkey Mountain as the primary TACC-NS (Panama) and the other to Udorn RTAFB as the alternate TACC-NS (Brigham). Two FYQ-40 Common Digitizers were also deployed to interface the radar sets to the GSA-51 BUIC II systems.
The limitations of the BUIC II system were apparent and a modified BUIC II configuration was planned and implemented as BUIC III.
The inadequacies of BUIC II led the Secretary of Defense to approved the BUIC III program on 30 Nov 1964. On 31 Aug 1965 the Secretary of Defense approved 19 BUIC III sites. Burroughs, the contractor, estimated the cost at $ 27.8 million which exceeded the planned cost by $13 million so the program was scaled back to an estimated cost of $15.6 million. The contract was signed and sent to Burroughs on 12 Jan 1966.
The Canadian Government approved two BUIC III sites of the three proposed. The two were Saint Margarets Air Station, NB, and Senneterre Air Station, QB. Othello Air Force Station, WA, was substituted for the third Canadian site.
BUIC III was an upgrade of the BUIC II system rather than a complete new set of equipment and the new designation for the system became GSA-51A. The computer memory was upgraded but was still limited by the architecture and the capacity of the system was increased so that ten long range radar sites could be accommodated. Program improvements made the area coverage more flexible. The number of display consoles was set at ten with an additional console at eight sites for the Air Defense Artillery Director (ADAD) position.
BUIC III was implemented in 1968-1969 and by the beginning of 1970 the BUIC III system was operational with thirteen systems in the United States. Two systems were active in Canada. The Tyndall system was used operationally, as a training site and for testing. A separate system was located at Keesler AFB for operation and maintenance technician training.
The decision to shut down the BUIC system came in 1973 and the majority of BUIC Systems were deactivated on 1 Jan 1974. The exceptions were the Tyndall system in Florida, the Keno AFS system in Oregon and the Saint Margarets AS system in Canada. Most of the radar sites did not close but the BUIC systems were shut down and the sites continued as long range radar site. The Saint Margarets system was probably the last one shut down on 19 Sep 1983.