Unsung heroes among us: What was Igloo White?

Lt. Col. Ray Greene delivers an aerospace education presentation on Operation IGLOO WHITE.  Photo by 2d Lt. Mark Patrick.
Lt. Col. Ray Greene delivers an aerospace education presentation on Operation IGLOO WHITE. Photo by 2d Lt. Mark Patrick.

Last Thursday’s aerospace education segment, presented by Lt. Col. Ray Greene, covered a Vietnam War era operation in southeast Asia called Igloo White.  His presentation was delivered not simply from the perspective of a military aviation history buff, but through that of a participant.  Lt. Col. Greene flew in this operation personally.  A highly decorated F-4 pilot, Greene’s take on the operation was delivered with his usual wry wit and commentary, possible only from someone who has “been there.”

The National Museum of the Air Force fact sheet describes Igloo White:

Using the cover of darkness, dense jungle and bad weather, North Vietnamese trucks carried critical supplies down the Ho Chi Minh Trail nearly undetected. Since large numbers of American ground troops were not permitted into neutral Laos to stop the trucks, the U.S. Air Force deployed a system of electronic equipment to thwart the enemy’s cover and alert U.S. commanders. This highly-classified electronic system was known as Igloo White.

The system became operational in late 1967, and it consisted of three elements: sensors dropped by aircraft along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, an orbiting EC-121B “Batcat” or the QU-22B aircraft that picked up and relayed signals from the sensors, and the Infiltration Surveillance Center (ISC), which received the data. Operated by Task Force Alpha at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base (NKP RTAFB), the ISC interpreted the sensor data and passed target information to combat commanders, who sent attack aircraft to the target.

Using a maps, photos and video, Greene described the formations used to drop sensors, aerial refueling, and how follow-on missions were flown using the gathered acoustic data.  His description of night air-to-air refueling during inclement weather was hair raising.

Decades later, in April of 2012, this seasoned aviator became a qualified CAP pilot as a senior member of our squadron.  As an Aerospace Education officer, Greene brings a robust background of experiences and lessons learned to his fellow senior members and the squadron’s cadets.  One of many unsung heroes among our membership, Greene continues a tradition of service to his community and country.

For more information on Igloo White, view the following period videos, approximately two minutes long and 15 minutes long, respectively.  For more from Lt. Col. Greene, join us in Mount Vernon Composite Squadron!