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Rhein Control’s Forerunner and Development: The 602nd and 501st Tactical Control / Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadrons, and Cornbeef D/F & Control

Rhein Control’s Forerunner and Development: The 602nd and 501st Tactical Control / Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadrons, and Cornbeef D/F & Control

It might be helpful to learn about some of the background and forerunners which led to the establishment of RHEIN CONTROL as a military air navigation facility. It all began with various units of USAFE settling at their new locations after the war in the south of Germany. This development resulted in the establishment of remotely located USAFE bases like Hahn, Bitburg, Spangdahlem, Sembach, Giebelstadt, Zweibrücken, Ramstein, Fürstenfeldbruck, Erding, Leipheim, Lechfeld and so forth.

Regarding civil flying activities only the civil airlines of the occupation forces, PANAM, BEA and AIR FRANCE operated from the german civil airports of Hamburg, Bremen, Hannover, Köln, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Nürnberg and Berlin, as did Aeroflot and DDR-DLH in East Germany. The general political situation in the world became more and more tense, resulting in much greater flying activity by the additional squadrons of the US Forces being relocated mainly to Germany, France and the United Kingdom during those years.

Names like Etain, Laon, Evreux, Chateroux, Pfahlsbourg, Toul, Chaumont in France and Lakenheath, Upper Heyford, Brize Norton, Boscombe Down, Wethersfield, Alconbury, Mildenhall, Alconbury, Bentwaters and Woodbridge in the UK will certainly be familiar to pilots and controllers of those years, as will Moron, Getafe, Zaragossa and Torrejon in Spain, not mentioning the bases in The Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Denmark, Greece and Turkey with Wheelus air base in Libya and Nouasseur in Morocco being the farthest to reach over water.

The 602nd and 501st Tactical Control / Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadrons
Let us take a look at the various predecessors of RHEIN CONTROL over those years. The 602nd TCS moved to the town of Birkenfeld in 1948 and set up Birkenfeld Air Base. In early 1955, the decision was made to move the 602nd AC&W squadron to Giebelstadt, Germany, and on 5 December 1955, control over Birkenfeld air base passed to the 619th Tactical Control Squadron. This unit provided a whole palette of differing services to military airspace users between 1948 and 1955. The squadron’s mission was to provide early warning radar coverage to the limits of its equipment and to provide navigation assistance to all allied aircraft flying over the occupied western  zones of Germany and its neighbouring countries under the radio call sign of CORNBEEF.

Cornbeef D/F & Control
In addition to the installation of search (AN/CPS-1) and height finder (AN/CPS-4) radars on the technical site at Erbeskopf, the 602nd also established, manned and operated several radio relay sites under the call sign of ZERO THREE ZULU and direction finder sites (D/F).

The call sign changed to  COMBED D/F, which ultimately was designated a net control master station and directed the position fixing efforts of five other sites in the Northern Europe UHF D/F net. CORNBEEF and those stations in the south of Germany (LOGROLL, GUNPOST and RACECARD) had been under the command of the 501st Tactical Control Wing. The 501st TCW under the 12th Air Force of USAFE was finally tasked to establish an ATS unit at Birkenfeld to be operated by AACS. In 1956 the 1807th AACS wing, HQ USAFE and 12th Air Force, AACS tried to convince 12th Air Force to let BFS provide the ATS in the upper airspace, because they had the legal jurisdiction over this portion of the airspace. The next meeting on 12 December at HQ BFS in Frankfurt agreed to declare the airspace above 20.000 feet to be controlled airspace, whereas the MoT of the FRG in a meeting with USAFE on 27 November had already declared not to be in a position to provide ATS above 20.000 feet within the forthcoming years. Finally, a 7424th Support squadron became the operator of Rhein Control under HQ USAFE ADVON command.

Read More:
German Air Traffic Control During The Cold War
The Story of Rhein Control
Vol 3, The Operation of ATC in South Germany's Upper Airspace 1957-1977


Die umfassende Dokumentation über den Luftverkehrsdienst Flugsicherung. Eine Buchreihe in mehreren Bänden, die von Frank W. Fischer im Verlag der International Advisory Group Air Navigation Services (ANSA) herausgegeben wurde.