US Naval Facility, Eleuthera, The Bahamas

The “US Navy Experimental Facility, Eleuthera”, the base originated in November 1950 when Western Electric was selected to construct a demonstration SOSUS (Sound Surveillance System) installation on the island. This was part of the larger Project Hartwell initiated by the Americans and MIT.  Initially, the base consisted of a wooden Generator Building, a wooden Western Electric Laboratory building and a Communications Center which was little more than a tent. Six hydrophones were also installed at sea as part of the project. A few years later the US navy sent over a construction battalion, The Seabees, to established a more permanent base and five green huts consisting of administration, a galley and barracks were built.

In 1957 the Eleuthera Auxiliary Air Force Base (AAFB) begun operations as part of the Atlantic Ballistic Missile Test Range,  The Eleuthera AAFB was part of the Air Force Missile Test Center’s Atlantic Missile Range, which was used for long-range monitoring of rocket and guided missile launches, controlled targets, drones, satellites, and lunar probes for the Air Force, Army, and Navy.  The Eleuthera AAFB was the fourth tracking station in along the length of the test range and formed part of there MISTRAM system.

The base was supported by twenty contractor employees of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) (the primary contractor for operation and maintenance of the site’s instrumentation, including the MISTRAM system) and Pan American Airways (PAA) (the primary contractor for management, engineering, operations, and maintenance) during the 1960’s and 1970’s, and Western Electric in the 1950’s.  Pan Am employed the support staff, whilst RCA employed the electronic technicians, engineers, and related equipment operators.  At its peak, 45 Bahamian employees also worked at the base.  The MISTRAM facility was part of Eleuthera AAFB.  The Air Force Base Commander was evidently the only military officer assigned to the AAFB.  The top PanAm employee had the title of Base Operations Manager, and the top RCA employee was the Instrumentation Manager. The MISTRAM system was superseded in the 1970’s and the AAFB was taken over by the NAVFAC and finally closed in 1982.

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Modified: 21st Feb 2015