Malmstrom Manual Direction Center P-83

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Malmstrom Manual Direction Center P-83 (1951-1960) - A Cold War Manual System Direction Center first established in 1951 on what was then Great Falls Air Force Base in Great Falls, Cascade County, Montana. The base was renamed on 1 Oct 1955 after Colonel Einar Axel Malmstrom who was killed in an aircraft accident near the base. The direction center assumed the name and became Malmstrom Manual Direction Center. Assigned a Permanent System ID of P-83. Deactivated as a Manual Direction Center in 1960.

Malmstrom Manual Direction Center P-83 Operations Dias.


The command center was established in 1951 and became operational on 1 Mar 1951 as the Great Falls Manual Direction Center P-83, under the command of the 29 Air Division. The 29th Air Division was activated on 1 Mar 1951 at Great Falls AFB, assigned to Western Air Defense Force and then transferred to Central Air Defense Force on 16 Feb 1953. Redesignated 29th Air Division (SAGE) on 1 Jan 1960 ending the role of the now Malmstrom Manual Direction Center P-83.

The Manual System Command Centers were based on the standardized AC&W infrastructure site design of the Chicago design firm of Holabird, Root & Burgee. These designs dated to 1949 but construction did not begin on any facilities until after the beginning of the Korean War. At system completion, 16 of these command centers were built. The Command Center was designated as a Type 4 Site while the most common operations center configuration at the AC&W radar sites was the Type 2. The Type 2 Operations Center had similar characteristics to the Type 4 Direction Center except the operations centers were single story. The site designs included, where appropriate, a power plant, an administrative building and one or two radomes all incorporated into a secure compound. The Command Centers and the Operations Centers can be easily identified by a small louvered ventilation tower that rises above the roof.

Key features of the Type 4 Manual Control Center
  • Reinforced concrete column-and-beam structure, oversized columns and thick beams
  • Flat, reinforced concrete roof (thick)
  • Double concrete-block exterior walls, with intervening airspace
  • Four-inch thick interior concrete-block walls
  • Heavily protected communications cable trenches
  • Exterior pilasters (reinforcing strengthening)
  • Windowless
  • Outer- and inner-lock rooms
  • Air baffles and chemical filter banks
  • Pressurized interior air system (air conditioning)
  • Ventilation shaft (tower)
  • Clean- and contaminated-clothes areas, with disinfector
  • Decontamination showers
  • Gas-proof clothes chutes
  • Communications, code equipment, and message rooms
  • Two-story, open central operations room with balcony glassed-in observation cubicles
  • War room
  • Associated administrative building (type 3 station), power plant, and radomes

The Manual System Direction Centers did not survive the transition into the SAGE System because they were far too small for the massive SAGE computers and consoles and did not have big enough power or HVAC plants. The radar site Type 2 operations centers did survive into the SAGE System but each one required the construction of an attached SAGE Annex for the large FST-2 computer system and later additions were necessary for those chosen as BUIC Sites.

The Malmstrom Manual Direction Center P-83 remained operational until 1960 when the nearby Malmstrom SAGE Direction Center DC-20 became operational.

Malmstrom Manual Direction Center P-83 Radar Sites (edit list)
Location Type State Unit ADC NORAD JSS From To GPS Notes
Yaak AFS MT 680th P-11 1952-02-06 1953-02-16 48.86222,
To Geiger SM-172
Cut Bank AFS MT 681st P-24 Z-24 1952-02-06 1960-07-01 48.94222,
To Malmstrom DC-20
Lewistown AFS MT 694th TM-178 Z-178 1958-09-01 1960-07-01 47.21754,
To Malmstrom DC-20
Dickinson AFS ND 706th TM-177 Z-177 1958-07-01 1961-01-01 46.92056,
To Malmstrom DC-20
Kalispell AFS MT 716th TM-179 Z-179 J-78 1960-02-15 1960-07-01 48.01139,
To Malmstrom DC-20
Wilmar AFS MN 721st SM-139 1959-01-01 1959-04-01 45.13890,
To Grand Forks DC-11
Sundance AFS WY 731st TM-201 Z-201 1960-12-01 1961-01-01 44.47861,
Nuclear Powered
Assigned not operational
Ellsworth AFB SD 740th M-97 1953-02-16 1961-01-01 44.15542,
To Minot DC-19
Havre AFS MT 778th P-25 Z-25 1952-02-06 1960-07-01 48.88083,
To Malmstrom DC-20
Opheim AFS MT 779th P-26 Z-26 1952-02-06 1961-01-01 1961-01-01,
To Malmstrom DC-20
Fortuna AFS ND 780th P-27 Z-27 1952-02-06 1961-01-01 48.90389,
To Malmstrom DC-20
Finley AFS ND 785th P-29 Z-29 J-75 1953-05-20
To Grand Forks DC-11
Minot AFS ND 786th P-28 Z-28 1953-02-16 1961-01-01 48.00361,
To Malmstrom DC-20
Malmstrom AFB MT 801st SM-147 Z-147 J-77 1953-06-25
To Malmstrom DC-20
Miles City MT 902d M-98 Z-98 1953-05-20 1961-01-01 46.29694,
To Malmstrom DC-20
Gettysburg AFS SD 903rd M-99 Z-99 1953-05-20
To Grand Forks DC-11
Beausejour AS MB 916th C-17 C-17 1959-01-01 1959-04-01 50.14806,
To Grand Forks DC-11

Current Status

The Malmstrom Manual Direction Center no longer exists on Malmstrom Air Force Base.

Location: Malmstrom AFB, Great Falls, Cascade County, Montana.

Maps & Images

Lat: 47.51569 Long: -111.18222

See Also:


  • Cornett, Lloyd H. & Johnson, Mildred W., A Handbook of Aerospace Defense Organization (1946-1980), Office of History ADC, Peterson AFB, Colorado, 31 Dec 1980, 179 pages, Pdf, page 55.
  • Weitze, Karen J., Ph.D., Cold War Infrastructure for Air Defense: The Fighter and Command Missions, Prepared for Headquarters, Air Combat Command Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, Nov 1999, Contract DACA63-98-P-1363 United States Army Corps of Engineers, Fort Worth District, 167 pages, Pdf


Visited: 12 Aug 2016

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