Nautilus Institute Digital Library
july 19, 1999


U.S. Nuclear Command And Control Operations In Japan

In 1965 Yokota Air Base and Kadena Air Base in Japan were designated as dispersal bases for U.S. nuclear command and control aircraft. Since then, annual deployments of such aircraft to Japan have continued to exercise command and control of nuclear war plans including strike coordination with U.S. strategic nuclear submarines operating in the waters around Japan.

Obtained under provisions of the
U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

by the Nautilus Institute
July 1993 - September 1998


FOIA Documents

Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Forces (CINCPAC), Command History for 1965, May 2, 1966, Volume I, pp. 32-33.
pdf format

Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Forces (CINCPAC), Command History for 1974, September 25, 1975, Volume I, pp. 97-99.
pdf format

Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Forces (CINCPAC), Command History for 1975, October 7, 1976, Volume I, p. 54.
pdf format

Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Forces (CINCPAC), Command History for 1978, September 28, 1979, Volume I, pp. 43-46.
pdf format

Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Forces (CINCPAC), Command History for 1979, November 14, 1980, Volume I, pp. 34-35.
pdf format

Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Forces (CINCPAC), Command History for 1991, October 30, 1992, Volume I, pp. 149-152.
pdf format

Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Forces (CINCPAC), Command History for 1992, October 29, 1993, Volume I, pp. 138-139.
pdf format

(See below for description)

Full Excerpt From Document 1:

"Ultra high frequency (UHF) communications were not available to BLUE EAGLE. It was believed, however, that high frequency (HF) communications were the most reliable and survivable in the event of surprise attack. Therefore, BLUE EAGLE operations were initiated without the UHF capability.

An extensive program of improvements in the ground facility at Hickam AFB was undertaken to provide a suitable facility for continuous operations. From 4 October through the end of the year a minimum of one officer and one noncommissioned officer manned this facility on a 24 hour basis even days per week.

Space limitations in the aircraft required that BLUE EAGLE team kits contain only essential information in the proper format. The components of the initial kits were improved as data requirements were identified and solutions devised on the basis of operational experience. In some cases this required revising the format of certain documents to meet the unique requirements of an airborne command post. Special security measured were required because these kits contained sealed authenticators for execution of the General War Plan. One objective in establishing the BLUE EAGLE ground facility separate from CINPAC Headquarters was to preclude frequent transportation of this sensitive material on the public road from Camp Smith to Hickam AFB.

During September BLUE EAGLE aircraft and teams visited Clark Air Base, Yokota Air Base, and Kadena Air Base. Some BLUE EAGLE personnel also made an indoctrination and survey trip to General Lyman Field, Hilo, Hawaii in October. The above bases were designated BLUE EAGLE dispersed operating sites. Additionally, one BLUE EAGLE aircraft visited Bangkok in October and while in flight assumed CINCPAC's airborne command post mission.

CINCPAC's Chief, Airborne Command Post Section and a BLUE EAGLE team flew with the Strategic Air Command airborne command post for five days during October as a means of gaining further experience.

At the end of 1965 UHF vans were operational in Hawaii and at the dispersed sites. These had been exercised during nine BLUE EAGLE deployments to WESTPAC."

Source: Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command (CINCPAC), "Command History for 1965," May 2, 1966, Volume I, pp. 32-33.

Full Excerpt From Document 2:

"Airborne Command Post Activities

(S) CINCPAC's Airborne Command Post (ABNCP), called BLUE EAGLE, continued in its ground alert status as it had since 1 January 1970 when continuous airborne alert was cancelled. New in 1974, however, was a deployed alert concept in which the CINCPAC ABNCP initiated random 24-28 hour ground alert watch periods in conjunction with bi-monthly WESTPAC deployments. Also, as noted below, while BLUE EAGLE continued its series of no-notice alert exercises to prepare for or to actually launch the aircraft, the results of operations with selected nuclear ballistic missile submarines, aircraft carriers, Naval Communications Stations, and TACAMO aircraft are reported in the more detail in the material that follows. (TACAMO was the nickname for Airborne Very Low Frequency radio broadcasting done from Navy C-130 aircraft.)

(C) In the alert timing exercises for the aircraft to taxi to a runway hold area or to actually launch on a local flight, average response times for the year 1974 were well within the prescribed 15 minutes. In the first type of exercise, called BLUE EAGLE #2, the average time for the 64 exercises was 7 minutes, 24 seconds; for the launch, called BLUE EAGLE #4, the 24 exercises had an average time of 8 minutes, 39 seconds.

(S) The concept of ground alert had been developed to augment TACAMO Pacific's declining Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP) alert role in 1974-75 when the TACAMO resources were temporarily reduced. ABNCP ground alert periods were randomly scheduled among Clark Air Base in the Philippines; Ching Chuan Kang Air Base, Taiwan; and Kadena (Okinawa) and Yokota in Japan. From those locations, which bordered the submarine patrol areas, the ABNCP could rapidly enter an operational orbit within Very Low Frequency (VLF)/Low Frequency (LF) and High Frequency (HF) range with the capability to relay SIOP emergency action messages to the submarines. By April 1974 the ABNCP had performed deployed alert at the bases selected. By the end of 1974, 20 such deployments had been conducted to assume periods of deployed ground alert, as well as to provide CINCPAC with a survivable command center while airborne and to exercise the PACOM Command and Control System.

(S) Testing of the ABNCP VLF/LF operations had begun in February 1973. In March 1974 the results of tests to PACOM SSBNs from the commencement of the program through January 1974 were presented to CINCPAC. There had been 21total missions flown, but only 16 reports had been received from the submarines at the time of this study. The 40 SSBN reports analyzed indicated that they had received or could copy 21 emergency action messages (receiving on either continuous wave (CW) or teletype). The overall success rate from the ABNCP to the submarines was 52.5 percent. Best reception was in a range up to 1,200 nautical miles.

(S) Throughout the year testing continued, usually with about three operations a month to selected SSBNs, aircraft carriers, and Naval Communications facilities in Guam, Japan, and the Philippines. Operations usually included CW and secure teletype transmissions. Throughout the year the success rate stayed about the same as it had in the earlier tests.

(C) The ABNCP participated in various other tests throughout the year. For example, the Operations Facility on the ground at Hickam Air Force Base and a deployed airborne team enroute to the Western Pacific monitored an operational test of the Emergency Rocket Communications System (ERCS) nicknamed GIAN MOON 6 on 23 October. The missile had been launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The test was monitored on two frequencies. The ground facility at Hickam maintained valid (5"x5") reception of the JCS WHITE DOT ONE message for 22 minutes and on the other for 14. Both of these frequencies were also 5x5.

(U) During the summer of 1974, certain newly assigned personnel arrived without proper security clearances, which reduced the number of active Battle Staffs from five to four for a period.

(S) The Alternate Command Authority program consisted of a series of briefings and an optional orientation flight . It was designed to prepared designated general and flag officers to assume interim command of the PACOM for SIOP operations during an airborne alert posture. The program had been temporarily discontinued, and as resumed in November. By the end of the year four CINCPAC staff officers (the Directors for Security Assistance and Communications-Electronics and the Director and Deputy Director for Operations), two CINCPACAF officers, and the 5th Air Force Vice Commander had completed the program. It included briefings on ABNCP staffing and operations, the CINCPAC Continuity of Operations Plan, the PACOM Alert System, and the General War Plan.

Source: Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command (CINCPAC), "Command History for 1974," September 25, 1975, Volume I, pp. 97-99.

Excerpt From Document 3:

"[] (C) In its ground alert posture, two kinds of training exercises were conducted throughout the year. The exercises were initiated by the CINCPAC Command Center, normally about five a month. In 1975 ten exercises were conducted while the ABNCP was deployed in the PACOM, rather than at its home base at Hickam Air Force Base. The deployed alerts were conducted at Kadena (Okinawa), Clark Air Base in the Philippines, and Yokota, Japan. There were two basic BLUE EAGLE exercises: BLUE EAGLE TWO was an alert training exercise in which the aircraft taxied to a runway hold area, BLUE EAGLE FOUR was an exercise that launched the aircraft on a local flight. In 1975 all of the exercises in both series were successful in that all were completed within the 15 minutes allowed. BLUE EAGLE TWO exercises took an average of 7.4 minutes each and BLUE EAGLE FOUR just 8 minutes.

(C) An Alternate Command Authority program, a series of briefings and operational orientation flights for certain general and flag officers, continued in 1975. Five members of CINCPAC's staff received the briefing at 15 members of other commands in the PACOM were also briefed, principally when ABNCP was deployed in the Western Pacific area. Additionally, orientation briefs and a tour of the aircraft were conducted on 29 September for officers from the COMUS Korea Command Center and Osan Operations Center.


Source: Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command (CINCPAC), "Command History for 1975," October 7, 1976, Volume I, p. 54.

Excerpt From Document 4:

"Airborne Command Post Activities

(U) CINCPAC's Airborne Command Post maintained the ground alert status that had begun in January 1970, prior to which it had maintained a continuous airborne alert for some years. The CINCPAC Airborne Command Post was called BLUE EAGLE.

(C) There were four EC-135C aircraft assigned to the operations, with two or three mission-configured aircraft available for service at any time, and with one non-mission configured aircraft available for aircrew training. Aircraft returned periodically to Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, for depot maintenance.

(C) There were two kinds of training exercises throughout the year. BLUE EAGLE TWO was an alert training exercise in which the aircraft taxied to a runway hold area; BLUE EAGLE FOUR was an exercise that launched the aircraft on a local flight. For each the standard of completion was to be less than 15 minutes. The 51 BLUE EAGLE TWO and 36 BLUE EAGLE FOUR exercises conducted in 1978 were all within the 15 minutes allowed; only six exercises all year too over nine minutes. No exercises were conducted in February.

(C) Typically, also, the five Battle Staffs deployed to the Western Pacific area, with about two of the staffs going out each month. The more routine deployments stopped at Andersen on Guam, Osan in Korea, Yokota and Kadena in Japan, and Clark in the Philippines. In 1978 certain Airborne Command Post deployments included stops at Taipei Air Station on Taiwan, Elmendorf and McChord AFB in the United States, Kunsan in Korea, and Richmond Royal Australian Air Force Base in Australia.

(C) Among the four local sorties flow in the Hawaiian orbit area in April, one sortie was flown in support of Exercise POLO HAT 78-2 and another in support of Exercise Elite Trooper 78.

(C) Distinguished visitors through the year included senior CINCPAC staff officers and various officers from Hawaii and Washington agencies, some of who deployed with the aircraft. In September those distinguished visitors included the Japanese Defense Agency Command Center Overseas Study Team and the Navy's Monterey Post-Graduate School for Telecommunications Tour Group.


Source: Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command (CINCPAC), "Command History for 1978," September 28, 1979, Volume I, pp. 43-46 (rewritten excerpt only includes pp. 43-44, but all four pages are included in the PDF format).

Excerpt From Document 5:

"Airborne Command Post Activities


(U) The five Battle Staffs deployed periodically to the Western Pacific area with each staff deploying, typically, approximately five times a year. The most frequent calls were at Yokota Air Base, Japan; Clark Air Base in the Philippines; Kadena (Okinawa), Japan; and Andersen Air Force Base on Guam; with less frequent stops at Osan, Kunsan, and Kimpo in Korea; Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, and Richmond Royal Australia Air Force Base in Australia.


Source: Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command (CINCPAC), "Command History for 1979," November 14, 1980, Volume I, pp. 34-35 (rewritten excerpt only includes p. 34, but the full two pages are included in the PDF format).

Excerpt From Document 6:


Alert Exercises

(S) There were three types of alert exercises conducted by the ABNCP. They used SLBM threat timing criteria, which changed according to actual intelligence data. [Deleted]. (S) There were 23 recorded BLUE EAGLE SIERRA exercises during the year. In a SIERRA exercise, alert personnel proceeded to the aircraft, started engines, and prepared to taxi. They were initiated by klaxon, and exercise timing stopped with the aircraft was ready to taxi. At least one SIERRA exercise was conducted in each of the months for which records were available. The busiest month was May, with five SIERRA exercises conducted.

(S) Nine BLUE EAGLE TANGO exercises were recorded, in which alert personnel proceeded to the aircraft, started engines, and taxies to the Emergency War Order (EWO) departure runway. TANGO exercises were also initiated by klaxon, and timing stopped when the aircraft reached the runway hold line. One TANGO exercise was recorded each month fore which records were available except December 1991.

(S) No BLUE EAGLE LIMA exercises were conducted during the periods January through May and August through December. A LIMA exercise was like a TANGO carried to the next step, the actual takeoff, and timing stopped at brake release.

Monthly Highlights


(C) In December, Team One conducted a 11-18 December WESTPAC deployment, and provided alternate command authority (ACA) training for the J3. During the deployment, and inflight engine shutdown on a flight from Yokota AB, Japan, to Cubi Point, Philippines, caused the crew to divert to Kadena AB, Okinawa. From there they returned to Hickam AFB. Team Three participated in Exercise POLO HAT 91-2 on the 17th as a battle staff component of the USCINCPAC Enhanced Management Capability (ECMC) facility. Also, on 23 December the ABNCP alert force moved into renovated living quarters in Building 2155, Hickam AFB.

Source: Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command (CINCPAC), "Command History for 1991," October 30, 1992, Volume I, pp. 149-152 (rewritten excerpt only includes portions of pp. 151 and 152, but all four pages are included in the PDF format).

Excerpt From Document 7:

"ABNCP Deployments

(S) During the period 10-24 June 1992, the 2 ACCS from Offutt AFB deployed an EC-135 aircraft to the USPACOM AOR [area of operations] to conduct ABNCP training with J39. Four missions were flown in support of J39 airborne battle staff training in both SIOP and conventional operations, and one mission was flown in the air-borne command post role in support of JTF-510 for Exercise ELLIPSE CHARLIE. JAIS-PAC was successfully integrated into the EC-135 for the first time to test the feasibility of using it to support a JTF commander while he was enroute to his AOR and pending deployment of the ECMC. Lessons learned from the deployment were used to develop a Theater ABNCP CONOPS.

(S) ABNCP training was again conducted by J39 during 15-22 November 1992. 2 ACCS deployed an EC-135 aircraft and crew from Offutt AFB, and J39 provided the battle staff. The ABNCP visited Wake Island, Kadena AB, Japan, and Osan AB, Korea. Battle staff straining covered all facets of the SIOP and theater nuclear C2, and site surveys were conducted at each location to determine the feasibility of using those locations during ACF [Alternate Command Facility] operations. Although logistics support for the deployment at Kadena AB was considered outstanding, support at Osan AB was only marginally satisfactory and reflected a lack of concern on the part of Seventh AF. The battle staff commander noted that while the 2 ACS aircrew and communications team were highly professional, they were not readily knowledgeable in USPACOM operations and communications requirements. The ECMC and 2 ACCS exchanged draft CONOPS for further coordination."

Source: Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command (CINCPAC), "Command History for 1992," October 29, 1993, Volume I, pp. 138-139.

A picture is available of the TACAMO aircraft.

Return to top  |   FOIA Documents  |   Nautilus Digital Library   |  Security  |   Nautilus Home