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ROTOR information


Entrance bungalow to former ROTOR station at Kelvedon Hatch

ROTOR was an elaborate air defence radar system built by the British Government in the early 1950s to counter possible attack by Soviet bombers. To get it operational as quickly as possible, it was initially made up primarily of WWII-era systems, notably the original Chain Home radars for the early warning role, and the AMES Type 7 for plotting and interception control. Data from these stations was sent to a network of control stations, mostly built underground, using an extensive telephone and telex network.

Work also began on a new microwave frequency radar to replace Chain Home c. 1957. The experimental system Green Garlic was so successful that it began replacing Chain Home starting in 1954. In service, these proved so accurate that they could replace the Type 7 radars as well, and their greatly improved range meant that fewer radars would be needed to provide coverage over the entire United Kingdom. This led to the Master Radar Stations that filled both early warning and ground controlled interception roles. The original ROTOR plans for 66 radars was repeatedly reduced, ultimately only requiring half that number of stations. Many of the operations rooms, recently completed, were sold.

ROTOR called for the continual upgrading of the network over time, both the radars and the command and control systems. The introduction of the carcinotron radar jammer in the mid-1950s was a serious blow to these plans; a single aircraft carrying a carcinotron could jam the ROTOR radars so completely that they were rendered useless. At the same time, the introduction of the hydrogen bomb and ballistic missile greatly changed the nature of the strategic threat, and the idea of whole-country defence became untenable. The only way to defend against missile attacks was deterrence, and if that failed, interceptor aircraft and missiles would have no measurable effect on the eventual outcome.

ROTOR was initially to be replaced by a new network dedicated largely to defending the V-bomber force, the "1958 Plan". This role was eventually abandoned, leaving only the task of locating aircraft carrying jammers to keep the BMEWS radars free from interference and prevent a successful sneak attack by missiles. Such a system did not require a large number of radars nor country-wide coverage. To reduce the cost of this much smaller network, studies on integrating the military radars with civilian air traffic control led to the Linesman/Mediator system of only five primary stations. The original ROTOR was replaced by Linesman in stages, starting in 1967.

A similar expedient system in the United States was the Lashup Radar Network.

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