The United States Air Force
553rd Reconnaissance Wing
at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base
and their EC-121R and other aircraft
Igloo White - Infiltration Surveillance Center (ISC)
Task Force Alpha at Nakhon Phanom
The Igloo White operation consisted of three major components:
1 - Delivery of the sensors, first accomplished by U.S. Navy squadron VO-67 and later by the USAF 25th TFS,
2 - Monitoring of the sensors by the 553rd Reconnaissance Wing, Batcat, and 3 - Assimulation of the sensor
data by the Infiltration Surveillance Center (ISC) at Task Force Alpha at Nakhon Phanom, or in flight by
the Batcat EC-121R Combat Information Center. This page provides information about the ISC at Task Force Alpha.
Page added 05/12/15, Last updated 07/08/15.
Task Force Alpha the Main Complex
Task Force Alpha sign in front of the Main Complex
Task Force Alpha complex was housed in it's own area on Nakhon Phanom RTAFB. In addition to the USAF,
there were two main contractors; Radiation (now Harris Corp.), and IBM who supported TFA.
Base personnel referred to the complex as TFA or "The Project." It was so top secret that during
construction no one knew what was being built in the isolated area of the base, hence the term "The
Project" which stuck. TFA was a series of connected buildings surrounded by revetment.
Radiation had responsibility for connecting TFA with the Batcat EC-121R (and later the Baby Bat QU-22)
data link, acquire the data using the tracking antennas, processed the data (including magnetic tape
backup) and sent it to IBM's computers.
IBM received the processed data from Radiation and organized it into activity reports for the Air Force.
Inside the main complex were two IBM System/360 model 65 computers used to "crunch" the sensor
data. In the late 1960's the System/360 model 65 computer was capable of having up to 48KB (Kilo Bytes,
a Kilo equals 1024 bytes) of core memory (today personal computers often have 8GB (Giga Bytes) or more.
The IBM System/360 model 65 took awhile to make the calculations. IBM System/360 computers generated a lot
of heat, especially in the environment which exists in Thailand. So the bunker which housed the computer
required considerable air conditioning.
The U.S. Air Force was then able to monitor sensor data real time from their main control room and make
suggestions/decisions (such as Arc Light strikes). Frequently audio information from the sensor(s) provided
more conclusive information regarding traffic activity than the sensors' digital "blips" alone
During 1970 the "Baby Bat" Beech QU-22B aircraft began operations and sent the sensor data picked
up exclusively to Task Force Alpha via data link at NKP because they had no onboard plotting capability. With
the itroduction of the QU-22B the 553rd Reconnaissance Wing, Batcat, began to wind down. Officially the 553rd
Reconnaissance wing inactivated on December 15, 1970, however one squadron, the 553rd Reconnaissance Squadron
with it's EC-121R aircraft, was immediately reassigned to the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing also at Korat
RTAFB and continued to fly the EC-121R. During this period, late 1970 until late 1971, truck traffic down the
Ho Chi Minh Trail declined significantly. With the reduced U.S. ground presence in South Vietnam the North
Vietnamese changed tactics moving by men and supplies all across the Demilitarized Zone rather than south along
the Trail. By late December 1971 the last EC-121R aircraft had returned to the CONUS. By the end of 1972 the last
QU-22B aircraft had returned to the CONUS. At this point Task Force Alpha was shut down, the IBM system 360
model 65 computers were removed and returned to the U.S., and TFA personnel were reassigned.
By late 1972 all the equipment and personnel which supported Task Force Alpha at NKP were gone, the buildings
which made up the complex empty. With the U.S. wind down in Vietnam, Seventh Air Force moved its headquarter's
out of Saigon and set up 7th AF headquarters at Nakhon Phanom. Seventh Air Force used the complex of buildings
which once was Task Force Alpha until mid 1975 when 7th AF headquarters in Thailand was inactivated. Once again
the Task Force Alpha complex of buildings was vacant. This overview was added 05/15/15,
last updated 06/15/15.
Task Force Alpha Complex Images
This is an image of the Task Force Alpha Main Complex.
The dish antennas are parabolic tracking antennas, three 10' and one 30.' Most orbits could be tracked using one
of the smaller dishs. However, some orbits were so far out that the large dish was necessary in order to
acquire a "lock" and "track" on the aircraft. My thanks to
Mike Doran for this image. Color, about 180K.
This is an Aerial View of Task Force Alpha Main Complex.
Note the camoflage on top of the buildings. The TFA complex was located at the southeast part of Nakhon Phanom RTAFB.
Color, about 45K. Added 07/08/15.
This is another different aerial view of
the entire Task Force Alpha Complex. TFA is located in the square area at the bottom right of this image. A small image,
however it gives a good overview. B&W, about 18K. added 07/08/15.
View of the Thirty foot Parabolic Antenna. This image
more of TFA's roof and revetment structure. My thanks to Mike Doran
for this image. Color, about 246K. added 05/15/15.
This is an elevated view of the power house, security
gate and parking lot. The actual mission equipment was below and to the right of this view. Note the perimeter area in the upper
right. This perimeter was mined and had trip flares. My thanks to Mike Doran
for this image. Color, about 214K. added 05/15/15.
Task Force Alpha Antenna Farm
Task Force Alpha has an extensive antenna system. Not only was data link from the aircraft, but also UHF
voice communications from the CICO/ACICO in the EC-121R to confirm at each change of aircraft that the data
link was actually established and received by Task Force Alpha.
This is an elevated view of the Task Force
Alpha UHF Antenna System taken from another antenna tower. These antennas were used for voice communications
with the aircraft. My thanks to Mike Doran for this image. Color, about 166K.
Here is another elevated view showing a different area of the
Task Force Alpha UHF Antenna farm taken from another antenna tower. These antennas were used for
voice communications with the CICO/ACICO on board the Batcat EC-121R aircraft.
My thanks to Mike Doran for this image. Color, about 175K.
This is a ground view showing additional TFA
antennas. The 100' tower on the left supported a highly directional bore sight antenna used for insuring
the proper calibration of the 4 tracking dish's azthimuth and elevation data. The tower on the right contained
additional mission support antennas. My thanks to Mike Doran for this
image. Color, about 172K. added 05/15/15.
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