BUIC System

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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 interceptors 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.

BUIC System Data Flow.

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 approve 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 CFB Chatham - St. Margarets Detachment, NB, and CFS Senneterre, 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 completely 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 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 sites. The Saint Margarets system was probably the last one shut down on 19 Sep 1983.


  • Searle, Lloyd V.; Rosove, Perry E.; Sydow, Eugene H. , Systems Management Applied to Large Computer Programs in BUIC III; Review of Experience, USAF Air Force Systems Command, Jun 1969, Prepared under Contract No. F19628-67-C-0026 by System Development Corporation, Pdf
  • Southeast Asia Tactical Data Systems Interface, Pdf
  • NORAD/CONAD Historical Summary Jan-Dec 1966, dated 1 May 1967, Command History Division, HQ NORAD/CONAD, Unclassified (originally classified Secret), pdf, pages 28-31, Backup Intercept Control Systems, pages 28-31.


See Also:

BUIC II & III Sites (edit list)
Site Type State Unit ID BUIC II BUIC III Deactive GPS Notes
Calumet AFS MI 665th AD Gp Z-016 1965-00-00 1969-10-00 1974-01-01 47.37111,
Charleston AFS ME 765th AD Gp Z-065 1966-03-01 1969-12-00 1974-01-01 45.09167,
Fortuna AFS ND 780th AD Gp Z-027 1966-03-01 1969-00-00 1974-01-01 48.90389,
Fallon AFS NV 858thAD Gp Z-156 1966-04-01 196?-00-00 1974-01-01 39.40528,
Havre AFS MT 778th AD Gp Z-025 1966-04-01 196?-00-00 1974-01-01 48.88083,
Keno AFS OR 827th AD Gp Z-180 1966-03-01 196?-00-00 1977-00-00 42.06889,
Mount Laguna AFS CA 751st AD Gp Z-076 1966-04-01 196?-00-00 1974-01-01 32.87667,
North Truro AFS MA 762nd AD Gp Z-010 1965-09-01 1968-00-00 1974-01-01 42.03149,
Port Austin AFS MI 754th Radar Sqdn Z-061 1965-00-00 1968-00-00 1970-01-15 44.03028,
Lost BUIC III Status 1970
Tyndall AFS FL 678th AD Gp Z-198 1966-04-01 1968-03-07 1983-03-01 30.0760296,
Keesler AFB MS Tech Training 1965-00-00 1968-00-00 30.401932,
Maint Training
Bryan Hall
Blaine AFS WA 757th Radar Sqdn Z-046 1966-03-01 1969-00-00 48.91333,
Finland AFS MN 756th Radar Sqdn Z-069 1966-04-01 1969-00-00 47.45361,
Cape Charles AFS VA 771st Radar Sqdn Z-056 1966-03-01 37.13278,
Montauk AFS NY 773rd Radar Sqdn Z-045 1966-04-01 41.0675,
Palermo AFS NJ 770th Radar Sqdn Z-054 1965-00-00 39.22194,
Fort Fisher AFS NC 701st AD Gp Z-115 1969-00-00 1974-01-01 33.99,
Othello AFS WA 637th AD Gp Z-040 196?-00-00 1974-01-01 46.72139,
Baudette AFS MN 692nd AD Gp Z-132 1968-00-00 1974-01-01 48.66992,
Saint Margarets RCAF NB 21 Radar Sqdn C-5 1969-01-01 1983-07-19 46.909167,
BUIC II Manual
Senneterre RCAF QC 34 Radar Sqdn C-8 1968-12-01 1973-00-00 48.36195,
BUIC II Manual
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