Air Force Bases

Nike Missile Providence Defense Area

Site designation and locations of the five Nike batteries guarding Providence are as follows: (PR-38) Bristol, (PR-58) North Kingston, (PR-69) Coventry, (PR-79) Foster, and (PR-99) North Smithfield.

Two additional sites in Massachusetts contributed to the defense of Rhode Islands capital city. The five batteries became operational between 1956 and 1958. From 1959 through 1960, sites PR-38 and PR-99 were upgraded to launch Nike Hercules missiles. Site PR-79 at Foster was preserved, to be used as a State Police facility.

Command and Control was handled from a BIRDIE/Missile Mentor facility located in PR-69 Coventry. This facility assumed the target designation role for all batteries in New England after the four New England defense areas were consolidated in the late 1960s.

Site PR-99 at North Smithfield stayed in operation until 1971 while PR-38 at Bristol held on until 1974.

Much of the following information is taken from drawings on microfiche in the Real Estate Office of the COE, Waltham, MA.

Rhode Island's five batteries were located in Coventry PR-69, which was the headquarters site. North Kingston PR-58, North Smithfieid PR-99, Foster PR-79 and Bristol PR-38, forming an arc around Providence. The Providence Defense Area also included NIKE Battery PR-29, which was located in Swansea and Dighton, Massachusetts and PR-19 in Rehoboth, Massachusetts. Providence Defense Area was under the 68th Artillery/4th Battalion Command which was part of the 751st Battalion. Coventry NIKE Battery PR-69 was the 4th Battalion Headquarters of which Foster PR-79 was Battery D of the 4th Battalion, 68th Artillery.

Only two sheets of drawings have been found, so far, for PR-79. These are paving plans, generated by Green Engineering Affiliates, Inc., Boston, MA, in 1957. They clearly show the Launch and Control Areas and it is from these, and additional information, that site changes have been documented. Drawings generated for PR-38, Bristol, Rhode Island, are, according to Index of Microfiche at the COE, Waltham, MA, the standard drawings for PR-79.

Documentation concerning specific construction activities relating to the Providence batteries is spotty, but there is enough information to provide some construction history of the Rhode Island sites.

Although the Providence Defense Area consisted of six individual sites, much of the design and site work was done by one or two contractors for all of the sites. Site specifics were different, but general layouts were similar. For example, PR-58 appears to have had only an Administration Building, in addition to all radar facilities, at the site, thereby indicating that Barracks and Mess Hall were probably located at the Launch Area. PR-99 was laid out in a similar plan to that of PR-79, with buildings in a U-shape and all radar equipment north of the structures.

In 1955, North Smithfieid PR-99's general plan and a layout for both Launch and Control areas were completed by the Crandall Engineering Company. The following year. Fay, Spofford and Thorndike, Boston architects and engineers, designed the layout for both the Launch and Control sites for North Kingston PR-58. Grading, layout and utility plans for the Interconnecting Corridor for all five sites were completed by Fay, Spofford and Thorndike in 1956. In 1957, a layout and a general plan were designed for PR-38 in Bristol. The same year, a paving plan showing existing conditions was produced for PR-79 by the Crandall Engineering Company, indicating that Foster was virtually completed by this time. PR-69, Coventry, was laid out between 1955 and 1957 and because it was the Battalion Headquarters of Providence Defense, it contained additional buildings to house commanding staff and officers.

From 1959 through 1960, PR-38 and PR-99 were converted to Hercules missiles, with PR-38 receiving High-Powered Acquisition Radar (HIPAR). These were the only batteries in the Providence Defense Area to receive Hercules missiles. [89] Retrofitting entailed upgrading construction of a Warheading Building, modifying the Underground Missile Storage structure, adding fallout shelters, and modifying existing radar. Since Hercules missiles were longer and wider than Ajax missiles, changes to Underground Missile Storage involved new storage and launching racks, modification of guides and hatches, and the extension of elevator platforms.

Leon Chatelain and Spector and Montgomery provided standard drawings for the conversion of Underground Missile Storage structures. It is presumed that one or the other provided drawings for the Warheading Building as well. James Farina Corporation, of Newton, MA, was authorized by the Corps' Providence, RI, office to build Warheading Buildings in the Boston and Providence Defense Area.

Fay, Spofford and Thorndike was founded in 1914 in Boston and is still actively engaged in architecture and engineering. Over the past 78 years, it has been involved in over 12,000 projects, many of which were and are in New England. They have been doing military work since their inception. To date, no information on the other construction contractors has been found.

Seventy-six units of housing were constructed for families of married officers at Providence Defense Area sites. Those for Providence Defense Area were single-story, detached, with two and three bedrooms, depending on whether the housing was for an NCO or Grade Officer.

The Foster site, PR-79, was the first of the Providence Defense Area to be decommissioned. In 1974, Bristol PR-38 was also decommissioned and is unused at present. North Kingston PR-58, although decommissioned, was located on an Army Post, and is still Army property and used for military activities. PR-69 in Coventry was taken and retained by the Army National Guard until 1981, when it was excessed by the Town. The launch silos have been demolished and the site is part of the town's Parks and Recreation facilities. No information is available concerning the North Smithfield site.

Site PR-79 Control Area Photos
Site PR-79 Launch Area Photos
Site PR-79 More Launch Area Photos