A Tribute to the Father of Electronic Warfare

5/22/2000 - 32-00r
Contact: Public Affairs Office, (202) 767-2541

Howard Otto Lorenzen
born - June 24,1912, Atlantic, Iowa
died - Feb. 23,2000, Redmond, Washington

In the early 1940s, two decades before electronic warfare emerged as an ethereal form of combat with no obvious subordination to land, naval, or air warfare - a military science that mattered equally to soldiers, sailors, and airmen - Howard 0. Lorenzen thought of it as radio countermeasures. After World War II, during his years of investigating captured German and Japanese electronic equipment, he began to think of it as electronic countermeasures, a discipline that detected and either interfered with or exploited for intelligence purposes any electromagnetic energy that an enemy might transmit for military purposes.

During the Korean War, when some of his colleagues started thinking of their art as electronics intelligence (ELINT), he deemed their view too narrow and refused to adopt the term to describe his activities. He even stuck with the concept of ECM when he led the way in the late 1950s to its first successful application in outer space - an ECM satellite. In 1965, when the Cold War got hot in Southeast Asia and U.S. aviators were first brought down over North Vietnam by Guideline missiles that had to be thwarted, he fired up his project engineers by requiring them to think from now on in terms of electronic warfare. EW remained his central focus thereafter, even when the Vietnam War wound down and he was called upon to lead space engineering for the Navy.

In his retirement, after thirty-three years of public service to the Navy and the Nation, Howard Lorenzen relived his career by reading between the lines of histories of WW II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War. Articles and books he enjoyed most were ones written by his former colleagues, electronic warfarers on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. He never wrote a book himself. He had a mania about security, and he was so renowned among those who lived the early history of EW that he felt no need to stake any claims. He satisfied his natural urge to communicate with his peers by means of letters and amateur radio, a lifelong hobby and one he shared with most EW pioneers (who got their start in radio in their teens, by building their own antennas, receivers, and transmitters).

The news is out now, by means of obituary notices, letters, HAM stations, e-mail, and word of mouth - that Howard Lorenzen is no longer with us. He died of pneumonia in a hospital in Redmond, Washington, on 23 Feb. 2000, at age eighty-seven. As the word spread in today's EW community, some of its graybeards (like William E. W. Howe, James H. Trexler, Reid D. Mayo, Charles T. Christman, Lynwood A. Cosby) reflected on Howard's contributions and thought that the next generation might profit from hearing about them. Hence, this tribute to the father of U.S. EW.

War Years

In July 1940, after five years of designing commercial radios and components for Colonial Radio and Zenith Radio, 28-year-old Howard Otto Lorenzen started his career at the Naval Research Laboratory in Southwest Washington, working under the radar pioneers: A. Hoyt Taylor, Robert M. Page, Louis A. Gebhard, Robert C. Guthrie, John P. Hagen, and Edwin A. Speakman. They had already partnered with RCA to get air search radar (200 MHz, 15 KW) installed on selected battleships, aircraft carriers, heavy and light cruisers, and one seaplane tender. Lorenzen built a high-gain receiver, including an antijam capability, for a lightweight version, successfully demonstrated on the destroyer USS Semmes in July 1941, then manufactured by RCA and General Electric for Navy destroyers and smaller ships. Radio Superintendent "Doc" Taylor and Assistant Lou Gebhard looked the other way when Howard got a lathe and welding equipment and set up his own machine shop to manufacture engineering models, and they gave him new tasks and more two- and three-man groups of engineers and technicians to supervise.

Before the U.S. entered World War 11, Lorenzen participated in NRL technical interchange with British scientists fighting the air war over Great Britain. After the Japanese struck the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, his radar work continued in receivers, cathode ray tube displays, transmitters, and motors - for naval shore installations, ships, and aircraft. He consulted to MIT Radiation Laboratory engineers who developed microwave radar sets for the U.S. Army Air Forces under Division 14, National Defense Research Committee (NDRC). As the war progressed, Lorenzen gradually expanded to radio countermeasures against enemy systems, most notably, the air-launched guided bomb. He developed a system installed on two destroyer escorts to intercept, record magnetically on steel wire, and analyze German aircraft radio signals that controlled the glide bombs built to sink allied warships in the Mediterranean Sea. The knowledge helped NRL's Special Projects Section develop intercept-jammers that defeated the Henschel 293 system, and the unwitting Luftwaffe engineers concluded that RF energy was too fickle or pilots too inept to make the intricate control mechanism work as designed. Howard's friendship with Louis W. Tordella (future Deputy Director, NSA) started when the Navy lieutenant came to his laboratory to learn how the successful intercept system had worked.

To thwart enemy jamming and eavesdropping, Lorenzen engineered a selectable 880-channel UHF voice receiving and transmitting system. He coordinated U.S./British UHF efforts and became well acquainted with the men who focused on radio and radar in the British Admiralty's Signal and Radar Establishment in Portsmouth, England, and their counterparts in the Royal Air Force and Royal Army. (His UHF transceiver transitioned to Raytheon, AN/URC-3, and was later mass produced as the AN/ARC-27 for use during the Korean War by U.S. and allied

By war's end, Howard Lorenzen supervised 11 small groups working in different areas of radio engineering. He was a key member of a countermeasures partnership between NRL and the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) in the Pentagon, which interfaced with NDRC Division 14 (Countermeasures) and industry. Sponsorship for NRL's intercept, direction finding, radar jamming, and decoy systems came from the Navy Bureaus of Ships and Yards & Docks, which also shepherded transition to industry for systems produced in quantity.

Post War

After the war, when many Navy scientists and engineers returned to their civilian occupations, Howard Lorenzen and some key members of his groups remained government employees and concentrated on captured electronic equipment sent to the United States from Europe and Asia. He and Jim Trexler arranged to permanently borrow certain other gems that fell into British hands, such as the Athos crystal video receiver and the Wullenweber goniometer. The WW II NDRC evolved to the Office of Scientific Research and Development (later Joint Research and Development Board), and Lorenzen maintained his military and industrial contacts. He represented the Navy to joint and allied committees and working groups with interests in countermeasures, particularly in the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain. He underwent nuclear orientation at facilities in New Mexico, in 1948 and became an ECCM consultant to NATO's Mutual Weapons Development Program.

When the Soviet Union emerged as a new threat, Ed Speakman and Howard Lorenzen organized NRL's
Countermeasures Branch and initially focused on Russian adaptations of western lend-lease equipment. Lorenzen's prior investigations of German equipment and documents soon paid off, for Soviet adaptations of German technology and techniques began to appear. The Branch developed intercept and DF systems for deployment to Navy ships, shore stations, and aircraft. A collaboration with Airborne Instruments Laboratory (Dr. Hector R. Skifter) yielded the first tunable airborne microwave intercept receiver (later AN/APR-9), which was integrated at NRL with James E. Gall's ECM signal display and analysis equipment, including multi-gun CRTs. The new capabilities enabled the outfitting of naval landbased ferret probes along the periphery of the Sino-Soviet Bloc. Their first airborne systems were installed on P4M-1Q Mercators, PB4Y-2 Privateers, and P2V Neptunes. Other versions were tailored to surface ships and submarines. To get operational feedback on the UHF signal environment and the systems' usefulness and shortcomings, Lorenzen undertook an unofficial program to analyze intercept operators' logs at NRL. Initially, most of this analytical work was performed by himself and Robert D. Misner. By 1949, in cooperation with the Stromberg-Carlson Company, they had created the first U.S. magnetic tape recorder for intercept work, the Radio-Countermeasures Sound Recorder-Reproducer IC/VRT-7.

National ELINT Program

To broaden participation in NRL's log analysis effort, Lorenzen promoted in ONI and helped organize a Countermeasures Intercept Analysis Group with sponsorship from the Joint Communication and Electronics Committee (JCEC) of the JRDB. Participating organizations were ONI, NRL, Naval Security Group (NSG), Army Signal Corps, and Air Technical Intelligence Center (ATIC). He chaired the JCEC analysis working group during the Korean War, until it evolved in 1953 to the Army-Navy Electronic Evaluation Group (ANEEG), collocated with NSG Headquarters at 3801 Nebraska Avenue in Northwest Washington. By then his branch had added drum recorders to the arsenal of intercept equipment, and second-echelon analysis of raw data tapes had become a practical objective.

During the 1950s, ECM technology advanced by Lorenzen's engineers included electronic signals intercept, direction finding, jamming, and deception techniques. Howard Lorenzen and John C. Link supported BUAER and the Air Force Tactical ECM Wing in Biloxi, Mississippi, with new forward-launch dispensers and lightweight chaff that worked. Lorenzen's team provided equipment (antennas, receivers, recorders, analysis devices), technical support, and technology transfer for various surveillance and reconnaissance platforms - via the Navy Bureaus of Ships and Aeronautics, the Army Signal Corps (ELINT vans), the CIA Office of ELINT (U-2 aircraft, crash boats, and agent devices), and ONI (covert installations and equipment loan to friendly foreign navies). Equipments were regularly upgraded to exploit new technology and keep pace with the threat signal environment as it spread into higher regions of the RF spectrum.

A National ELINT Program was established in 1955, under Air Force Secretary Donald A. Quarles, who had previously chaired the JCEC. ANEEG was reorganized as the National Technical Processing Center (NTPC). Soldiers, sailors, and civilian technicians, including some from CIA, were joined by an influx of airmen and civilians from ATIC at Wright Patterson AFB, Dayton, Ohio. NTPC's primary mission was to inform the Strategic Air Command about Soviet air defense radar that SAC's B-47 and B-52 bombers would encounter in the event of nuclear war. Lorenzen's Countermeasures Branch participated in and supported the National ELINT Program by serving on technical committees; developing intercept equipment; collaborating with Army Signal Corps Signals Research and Development Laboratory in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, and Air Development Centers in Rome, New York, and Dayton, Ohio; and evaluating data acquired from ECM configurations. NTPC was headed by an Air Force lieutenant colonel, and continuity was provided by senior civilian engineers like John E. Libbert and Henry F. (Hank) DeCourt. Lorenzen continued to chair the steering committee of the Navy's Technical ELINT Panel, which supported NTPC.

Jim Trexler was Lorenzen's project engineer for PAMOR (PAssive MOon Relay, a.k.a. "Moon Bounce"), which collected interior Soviet electronics and communication signals reflected from the moon. It was Trexler who first started calling Howard, "Father," and he also led the way to Communications Moon Relay, which established operational communication circuits between Washington and Hawaii in the mid-1950s and set the stage for communication satellites in the 1960s. Charles W. Price, the Branch's chief mechanical engineer, designed the mechanical structures employed in several generations of Trexler's massive Moon Bounce antennas.

When ELINT was assimilated under the charter of the National Security Agency in March 1959, Lorenzen provided technical and engineering support to the Advanced Signals Analysis Division of NSA's Office of Collection and Signals Analysis and successor offices (C-1 and K-4), headed by John Libbert and, in the latter 1960s, by Raymond B. Potts. GCHQ mathematician Sylvester Stanley Strong worked there, too, and Stan was a Lorenzen friend from the post WW II years.

Communications and radar intercept systems on aircraft, ships, submarines, and shore stations captured signals near the periphery of the Soviet Union and Communist China. Project Boresight created a global Navy network of HFDF stations to intercept and fix the source of radio transmissions from Soviet surface ships and submarines. Boresight successor Bullseye's huge circularly disposed antenna arrays included up to two rings of dipole antennas and two reflector screens and grew to an effective diameter of 800 feet. The first of the CDAA arrays, installed at the Hybla Valley Coast Guard Station, Alexandria, Virginia, in 1957, was used to track the Soviet Sputnik's 20 MHz signal and determine its orbit. Mack J. Sheets was Lorenzen's antenna engineer for Boresight and Bullseye; Bob Misner, signal processing.

Serving Operational Needs

Typical of the way Howard Lorenzen operated, was the overnight revolution in the way his branch supported the silent service. Starting with the USS Pike in July 1944, all of NRL's submarine intercept and DF systems had located the intercept antennas on the conning tower, necessitating exposure and attendant risk when collecting signals. In December 1957, Rear Admiral Elton W. Grenfell, a submariner and mechanical engineer, came in from the Pacific Fleet, where he commanded U.S. submarine forces, and complained to Howard Lorenzen that he had written his last memorandum to BUSHIPS. He wanted hardware - now!

Lorenzen summoned several engineers and technicians to a brainstorming session in his office. Submariner Grenfell accepted Ralph A. Carpenter's proposed communications intercept configuration (15 KHz-265 MHz) and Reid Mayo's ELINT amplifier and crystal video detector (2.5-12 GHz), but rejected all of his ELINT antenna offerings as too large and grotesque - which stimulated William Edgar Withrow's design of a double-armed spiral antenna, not much bigger than a silver dollar, to fit inside a periscope.

A month later, following integration and testing at Kolmorgen Optical, Inc. in North Hampton, Massachusetts, Kolmorgen's modified periscope (type 8A) and NRL's intercept equipment were installed on the USS Dogfish in New London, Connecticut, to support its mid-January deployment to the Barents Sea. Reid Mayo and Ed Withrow observed the installation, tested the ECM system, participated in sea trials, and trained operators. They did the same in February for a second system on the USS Wahoo in Yokusaka, Japan. Wahoo would operate in the western Pacific. The full-production system (AN/BLR-6) transitioned to industry in June, just six months after Rear Admiral Grenfell pounded the table.


When Russian Sputniks and Lunas, Army Explorers, and Navy Vanguards began orbiting the Earth a dozen or so times daily, Lorenzen was already so renowned in ECM that the Director of Naval Intelligence, Rear Admiral Laurence H. Frost, forbade him from attending the launch of GRAB 1 or follow-on missions, for fear his presence would give away their ELINT mission.

Lorenzen's vision for a low-cost ELINT satellite was first published late in 1957, a section of the NRL's secret proposal for a U.S. satellite and space vehicle program beyond Vanguard. The space agenda, proposed by Navy to the Armed Forces Policy Council, defined military and scientific objectives that would later be parceled
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out, respectively, to DoD's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), when it was formed February 1958, and to the NASA, which became operational October 1958 and assimilated NRL's Vanguard team.

Lorenzen hoped for, but could not count on, DoD to promptly approve and fund his proposal. So he persuaded BUAER to task NRL for an intercept system, subminiaturized and lightweight, to be installed on "supersonic vehicles, manned or unmanned" and to automatically retransmit intercepted data to existing naval receiving stations on the periphery of the Communist Bloc. The task was on NRL's books before ARPA's new bureaucrats could find their way around the Pentagon, and Lorenzen's first quarterly engineering progress report was submitted to BUAER in July 1958. If anyone objected, then the supersonic vehicle was a high performance jet aircraft; otherwise, a satellite.

Enough Vanguard veterans stayed with the NRL to build the GRAB satellite and, later, form a new Satellite Techniques Branch under Martin J. Votaw. Lorenzen's own Countermeasures Branch designed the ELINT payload, ground electronics, and transportable equipment shelters for ELINT stations overseas. Beyond imparting the vision and addressing technical problems raised to his level, he entrusted design and engineering to a loosely coupled team of engineers and technicians supporting project engineer Reid Mayo. "Don't worry about money," he told Mayo, "I'll get you the money. just don't let me down."

While their work progressed, Lorenzen led a parallel campaign to get the project approved and fully funded. Starting with ONI in July 1958, using large briefing boards mounted on a pedestal, Project Tattletale was sold at the Pentagon, Main Navy on Constitution Avenue, CIA Headquarters, NASA, and Capitol Hill. Congressmen were delighted to be briefed on a project "not costing tens of millions." In the spring of 1959, DNI Laurence Frost, ARPA Director Roy W. Johnson, and OSD's Graves B. Erskine (Special Operations) agreed that Tattletale was too visible, though. ARPA officially killed it and established Project Canes as a top secret security control system. Oaths were signed by those authorized for indoctrination, under two hundred people altogether, with President Dwight D. Eisenhower heading the list.

The President approved Project Canes on 24 August 1959. On 5 May 1960, just four days after a CIA high-altitude U-2 reconnaissance aircraft was brought down over the Soviet Union (by an SA-2 Guideline missile, according to Soviet claims), he approved launch of the first Canes-controlled satellite. Known operationally as GRAB (Galactic RAdiation and Background), the ELINT satellite was launched successfully from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on 22 June 1960 and tested by NRL in Hawaii 5-8 July. Howard Lorenzen, Reid Mayo, Ed Withrow, Edgar L. Dix, and Vincent S. Rose were the first to hear the medley of radar signals detectable by a wide-open receiver in outer space. On the recommendation of State, Defense, and CIA, President Eisenhower authorized NRL to "trigger Project Canes on 12-15 passes over the Soviet Union during the course of a two- to four-weeks period of time," subject to a final phone-check with State, CIA, and the White House chief of staff before each turn-on. The Canes/GRAB ELINT tapes soon saturated U.S. analytical capabilities. On 18 October 1960, President Eisenhower approved the request from State, Defense, and CIA for more Navy ELINT satellites.

Bob Misner led the way to machine processing of the GRAB take, and Howard Lorenzen collaborated with Lou Tordella on a joint NRL/NSA effort to automate ELINT data processing. Intelligence derived from GRAB satellites, processed by the NSA and SAC, marked a turning point in U.S. strategic doctrine. The Soviet air defense system was too robust for penetration by SAC's high and medium altitude bombers, which were succeeded by low altitude bombers and ballistic missiles, sea and land versions. (An air-launched version, Skybolt, was scrapped in the mid sixties.) GRAB also yielded the first intercept of a signal associated with the developmental Soviet Galosh anti-ballistic missile system.

While the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) was being formed, Bill Howe looked out for Navy interests on behalf of ONI. He had high level help from the DIRNSA, Vice Admiral Laurence Frost, who wanted to continue the Navy ELINT satellites in the National Reconnaissance Program. (Lorenzen was then busy helping to save the Navy aircraft carrier by deception techniques that foiled U.S. Air Force simulated air attacks while President Kennedy monitored the exercise.) Project GRAB was assimilated in the NRO in July 1962.

EW Division

Lorenzen became NRL's first Superintendent of Electronic Warfare when his branch was upgraded to division status in September 1966. He typically managed upwards of a hundred scientists, engineers, and technicians, who were kept busy pushing the state of the art, sharing their technology and ideas with cleared firms, and harvesting any useful components produced by industry. Their achievements, under his leadership, spanned the entire breadth of EW. During the late 1960s, his highest priority was the development of equipment for naval aircraft, particularly for defense against guided missiles, which he considered the Laboratory's most vital support to U.S. Navy aviators at war in Vietnam. When the battleship USS New Jersey was refitted in 1968, to shell enemy supply routes inland, Lorenzen's EW Division equipped her with every device in their arsenal that could foil attack from North Vietnamese MIGs, missiles, or fast attack boats. He so overweighted his defensive EW branch that it emerged as a separate division under Lyn Cosby within a few years.

Lorenzen had the status of a presidential appointee (under Public Law 313), and he was as comfortable in acquisition management and operations circles as in science, engineering, and manufacture. When need be, he explained his projects on Capitol Hill, the Pentagon, the United States Intelligence Board, the President's Scientific Advisory Committee, the Bureau of the Budget, the General Services Administration, and the intelligence agencies (CIA, DIA, NSA, and NRO). Throughout the 1960s, he helped represent the United States at NATO and SEATO EW conferences and served as an advisor to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense. When he was written up for an award, someone went through his personnel record and figured that he had spent nearly ten percent of his career since WW II abroad, 78 trips to 17 different foreign countries.

On 11 February 1970, the interagency ELINT RDT&E Coordinating Group met at NRL. NSA's David Wolfand chaired the ERG, but Howard Lorenzen was recognized as leader by most of the members. These captains of ELINT included Army Security Agency Chief Scientist Ed Speakman, Army ACSI Senior Technical Adviser Bill Howe, CNO Development Technical Director Stirling Thrift, NSA R&D Directorate's Robert J. Hermann, Air Force Colonel John B. Marks, NSA's Art Thom, Army Missile Intelligence Directorate's Mel Bachman, and representatives from CIA and DIA. Lorenzen's scientists and engineers displayed and discussed their latest technologies for every sort of platform: surface ships, submarines, early warning (VQ) and long range patrol (VP) aircraft, transportable equipment vans (land and sea), SIGINT stations, satellites, and even human beings (e.g., crystal video receivers appearing to be eye glasses and hearing aids). It was a most productive session and reunion of old friends and pioneers in ELINT. No one guessed that Howard Lorenzen would soon embark on a new mission.

Space Systems Division

In September 1970 Deputy Defense Secretary David Packard aligned space systems acquisition responsibilities with those for weapon systems acquisition and authorized the military departments to pursue departmental need for space systems, including "unique surveillance (i.e., ocean or battlefield) needs" (DoDD 5160.32, Development of Space Systems). The Navy established a Navy Space Project Office (PM-16) in the Naval Material Command as a successor to NAVAIR's Astronautics Division (Air 538). NRL had been Air 538's prime space engineering asset. SOLRAD supported NASA's Apollo Program by monitoring solar radiation and predicting sun activity that could interfere with communications during moon missions. TIMATION (forerunner of GPS) provided time transfer and navigation data, via satellite, to mobile platforms. SURCAL calibrated the Navy Space Surveillance (NAVSPASUR) CW fence across and above the southern United States. CALSPHERE calibrated the Navy's Bullseye HFDF system. A classified program supported national capabilities. Wanted were Navy space systems for communications, ocean surveillance, and global positioning. At NRL, the satellite platform now seemed to eclipse the electronic warfare mission and would become the basis for a new, first-echelon Space Science and Technology area.

NRL turned to Howard Lorenzen to repeat in space what he had accomplished in EW: design total systems for military operational support. In February 1971, Lorenzen was appointed Superintendent of Space Systems and organized a new division that consolidated moon relay SIGINT and most of NRL's on-going space projects, including fabrication of lightweight satellite platforms by Peter G. Wilhelm's Satellite Techniques Branch and development of payload electronics and ground readout systems for communications, ELINT, time & navigation, ocean surveillance, and scientific experiments. Some of the former EW branches became a new Tactical EW Division under Lyn Cosby, specializing in systems for Navy ships and aircraft. Those specializing in HFDF systems at naval shore stations joined an expanded Communications Sciences Division, soon assigned to Bruce Wald.

Presiding over the southeast end of NRL's main mall, near the front gate, Howard stayed in touch with his EW and SIGINT colleagues in buildings across the street, even as he concentrated on tactical applications of space technology. His advocacy of space systems was motivated, not only by cost-effectiveness, but by Navy losses, since 1950, of seventy-eight killed or missing and eight wounded crewmen by Sino-Soviet destruction of eight naval reconnaissance aircraft, most of which had been outfitted by his team. Within two years, NRL's major space R&D projects were destined for operational systems development and management by Navy or Air Force systems commands as joint or national programs. (The Space Systems Division underwent several transformations and expansions in the next three decades and is now the Naval Center for Space Technology, directed by Pete Wilhelm.)

His missions accomplished, Lorenzen retired in June 1973, at the peak of his intellectual power and capabilities but suffering increasingly from an adulthood affliction of Meniere's disease, particularly vertigo. He and wife Etta Mae moved to Bellevue, Washington, in 1976, to be near their daughter Susan A. Black's family.

There, he enjoyed family and new friends; built the amateur radio station of his dreams; welcomed visits from old friends from back East; and gardened some. Physical infirmities prevented Howard from participating in NRL's Diamond Jubilee in June 1998 and the initial public disclosure of Project GRAB by DNRO Keith R. Hall, but he enjoyed video tapes of those proceedings attended by GRAB alumni. He is survived by Etta Mae, Susan, grandsons Timothy and Dale, three great grandchildren, and dozens of electronic warfare and space systems he pushed into operational use, many of them still classified, that have evolved and will continue to support the nation in the year 2000 and well beyond.

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