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SEVEN SISTERS - THE SAGE RADAR SUPPORT OF PROJECTS OXCART AND TAGBOARD

By: Col. Sam Ursini

In early 1964 when I joined the YF-12/SR-71 test force--it was obvious to me that with all the hundreds of intercepts scheduled for the YF-12 against our targets of choice, like the F-106 and F-104 aircraft assigned to the Test Force and a B-57 from Edwards operations---that the program needed a controlling agency. Since I was a former Sage controller, I arranged for Los Angeles sector the southern California Integrated Radar agency, located at Norton AFB, San Bernardino, to set up the intercepts for each sortie. The Seven Sisters radar sites were sites we integrated into the Sage system within the Los Angeles sector and Phoenix sector (located at Luke AFB).

For every intercept sortie, either Gary Heidlebaugh (both former sage controllers) or I would fly to Norton AFB in the blue bird (Cessna 310) to control the intercepts.

I cleared into the Tagboard program because of this sage setup that we arranged. The authorities wanted the integrated radars of the sage system to be available to monitor the flight of the A-12 Tagboard missions. This was setup to augment the Seven Sisters radars. We had several meetings at Groom Lake prior to the flights of Tagboard. I really enjoyed all of these setup meetings.

On 1 May 1965, the famous speed and altitude records day---I took a French official to Phoenix Air Defense Sage Sector to monitor the flights of the YF-12. The French required this to provide assurance by integrated radar coverage that the YF-12 that entered the chute for the 15/25 km and altitude records east to west and west to east was the same aircraft. This insured the Air Force not slipping in a second aircraft. The integrated radar system requirement insured coverage of the YF-12 due to the distance and large turn radius required. This enabled the French to say, "Yes the same aircraft that entered the course also exited it."