National Museum of the USAF   Right Corner Banner
Join the Air Force

Home > Fact Sheets > Emergency Rocket Communications System


Posted 11/19/2014 Printable Fact Sheet
Previous ImageNext Image
DAYTON, Ohio -- Emergency Rocket Communications System exhibit in the Missile and Space Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Download HiRes

As the threat of Soviet nuclear weapons grew in the 1960s, the U.S. Air Force needed a way to ensure that its strategic forces could be controlled after a Soviet attack. The Emergency Rocket Communications System (ERCS) made sure that national and military leaders could send pre-recorded attack orders to Strategic Air Command bombers and missiles if land-based and airborne command and control systems were destroyed.

Each ERCS unit comprised two powerful UHF transmitters and was to be launched at a very high trajectory in place of a nuclear warhead on a Minuteman missile. ERCS could transmit nuclear orders or "go codes" to receivers within its line of sight -- bombers in flight and ground-based nuclear forces in the US and around the world -- for up to 30 minutes. 

Allied Signal Aerospace Communications Systems produced the ERCS system. Planning for ERCS began in 1961, with the first successful test flight the following year on a small Blue Scout Junior rocket. An interim system using these rockets remained in place until late 1967, when ERCS became operational on six Minuteman II missiles at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. By the mid 1980s, the ERCS system included up to 12 Minuteman II missiles of Whiteman's 351st Strategic Missile Wing, 510th Strategic Missile Squadron. With the introduction of secure communications satellites, ERCS became unnecessary and was inactivated in 1991. 

Click here to return to the Missile & Space Gallery.

 Inside the Museum

ima cornerSearch

ima cornerSpace History


tabRelated Links

Museum Virtual TourMuseum Facebook PageMuseum Twitter PageMuseum Instagram
Museum Google Plus PageMuseum Pinterest PageMuseum YouTube ChannelMuseum Flickr Page
Museum PodcastsMuseum E-newsletter Sign-upMuseum RSS Feeds

Site Map      Contact Us     Questions     Security and Privacy notice     E-publishing  
Suicide Prevention    SAPR   IG   EEO   Accessibility/Section 508   No FEAR Act