Monday, December 2, 2013

1976, Top Secret Clearance TDY

Detachment 460 is the largest field detachment of HQ Air Force Technical Applications Center (AFTAC) and the only detachment with three distinct mission areas.

Primarily, Det. 460 operates and maintains the largest and northernmost seismic network in the United States Atomic Energy Detection System.

Secondly, the detachment operates and maintains a network of gaseous and particulate air sampling units to detect airborne signatures of nuclear events.

Lastly, it is a field backup to AFTAC's operations center for analysis of foreign nuclear weapons tests. Stretching from Point Barrow above the Arctic Circle, to the Canadian border and to the most distant Aleutian Island of Attu, Det. 460's area of responsibility comprises a vast and unique set of challenges with the varied geography, climate and cultures of the largest state in the Union.

The detachment has a long and distinguished history at Eielson. Its roots derive from several AFTAC detachments originally scattered across the Last Frontier.

At its height, there were six detachments and about 200 AFTAC people in Alaska.


Detachment 460 is located at Eielson Air Force Base, 26 miles southeast of Fairbanks in the heart of the Alaskan interior.

Hosted by the 354th Fighter Wing, Det. 460 is the largest and most varied detachment of its type in the command.

Operationally, Det. 460 is controlled by the Air Force Technical Applications Center and administratively, it is directed by the 692nd Intelligence Group, Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii.

Its overall mission is to conduct nuclear treaty monitoring through seismic and atmospheric data collection and/ or analysis for national command authorities and to conduct information warfare operations for U. S. and allied warfighters. Supporting the most comprehensive seismic facility in the United States Atomic Energy Detection System, Det. 460 maintains a network of gaseous and particulate air sampling units and seismic arrays stretching from above the Arctic Circle to Canada and the farthest Aleutian Island of Attu. In addition, the unit mission includes an Information Warfare element which conducts telecommunications monitoring and communications exploitation training.

Det. 460 has a long and distinguished history in the service of the United States Atomic Energy Detection System. Its roots are actually derived from several AFOAT-1 and AFTAC detachments which were scattered across the "Last Frontier." During the 1950's, there were six detachments and approximately 200 personnel in Alaska. Air sampling operations conducted in Alaska in the late 1940's provided the first confirmation that the Russians had exploded an atomic bomb. Daily "surveillance" sampling flights were flown from Eielson for the next 25 years using WB-50, WB-47E, WC-130 and WC-135 aircraft. Also during the 1950's, a field laboratory and an air operations section, Team 202-Western Field Operations, were established at what was then known as "Mile 26," and additional ground system sites were established throughout the state.

Years following, the unit was renamed Detachment 202 and played a key role in operations against Russian atmospheric tests conducted in the late 1950's and early 1960's. The mid-1960's brought an expansion of Det. 202's mission and deactivation of four other detachments in Alaska Det. 202 began to conduct daily missions flown from Alaska to Europe and into the Far East. In support of these air operations, the detachment maintained and operated an analytical radiological laboratory and aircraft sample recovery facility for the next 30 years. With nuclear response expertise, Det. 202 was also responsible for six geographically separated ground-based atmospheric sampling units. During the 1970's, a ground site operation was consolidated with Detachment 202's operations. The detachment was renamed Detachment 460 in 1976, with operations remaining constant until 1992 when an Information Warfare mission was incorporated. Laboratory operations were terminated in 1996, following an era of exciting international progress in gaining signatories on worldwide nuclear treaties. Det. 460 maintains 45 seismic sites in seven arrays across Alaska. The farthest site is located 9,000 miles away. Each site location provides a valuable geological view of the world-wide seismic activity, but also presents unique challenges in transportation and personal protection.

The geological data gathered is the largest single combined data feed to the USAEDS. This data is also shared with the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, a close relationship extending even beyond the seismic mission boundaries. Det. 460 seismic technicians also maintain six geographically separated ground-based atmospheric sampling units. Two automatic cryogenic rectifiers collect gaseous samples; ground filter units collect particulate samples. They also conduct very limited support of TC-135 operations.

The Information Warfare Securities office primarily supports the 354th FW and Pacific Air Force's Aerial Combat Exercise COPE THUNDER. Providing CET and Communications Security/ Operations Security information, the detachment's people train aircrews and support personnel on wartime threats and countermeasures.

The operational environment presents unique challenges. Snowfall begins in early October and remains until the end of May. The temperature during this time varies from above 40 to negative 65 degrees Fahrenheit, offering multiple challenges to personal protection.

Long underwear, parkas and mukluks are daily necessities. With daylight declining through Dec. 21, the detachment has approximately 30 minutes of daylight in the deep winter.

During the summer, Alaska becomes the "land of the midnight sun." Gaining daylight until June 21, midnight looks like 1 p. m. in the continental United States. The mosquitoes, casually referred to as the state bird, are ever-present. The unique challenges at Detachment 460 create an environment of opportunities. The detachment looks forward to meeting each one head-on with the motto that symbolizes their Information Warfare mission: "In God we trust. All others we monitor, jam, or deceive."

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