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Combat Skyspot/Combat Proof radar beacon[1]
colloq: Radar Bomb Directing Central
military control system
An AN/MSQ-77 variant was captured in Laos during the Vietnam War. "Operations" refers to the structures with equipment normally in the mobile -77 "control and plotting" and radar vans. The military installation also had a TACAN beacon and near the helipad ("LZ"), a CIA watch post.
Exhibit Eighth Air Force Museum, Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana
Test site Matagorda Bombing Range, Texas
Captured site Lima Site 85 atop Phou Pha Thi, Laos
 - elevation 5,600 ft (1,707 m)
Site area 0.0 acres (0 ha) [specify]


Contractor Reeves Instrument Corporation (RICO)
Frequency 8500 to 9600 MHz (X band)
Pulse Repetition Frequency 600 pulses/second[citation needed]
RPM 30 cycles/second feedhorn rotation
→20 pulses/cycle conical scan signal
Range 200 nmi (370 km; 230 mi) beacon track[2]
135 nmi (250 km; 155 mi) skin track
130 nmi (150 mi) UHF radio reliability[3]
Diameter 8 ft (2.4 m) Cassegrain antenna
Precision tbd in range
tbd degrees (radar track)
tbd degrees (computer track w/
   joystick alignment on CCTV image)
          GDB ACCURACY
<680 ft CEP @ 200 nmi (specification)[4]
486 ft CEP @ 44 nmi (1965 testing)[5]
300-350 ft ave @ ≤100 nmi (1967 ops)[2]
Power Peak tbd kw (tbd db above 1 mw)

The Reeves AN/MSQ-77 Bomb Directing Central, Radar[6] (nickname "Miscue 77") was a USAF automatic tracking radar/computer system for command guidance of military aircraft during Vietnam War bomb runs at nighttime and during bad weather. Developed from the Reeves AN/MSQ-35,[7] the AN/MSQ-77 reversed the process of Radar Bomb Scoring by continually estimating the bomb impact point before bomb release[8] with a vacuum tube ballistic computer. Unlike "Course Directing Centrals" which guided aircraft to a predetermined release point, the AN/MSQ-77 algorithm continuously predicted bomb impact points during the radar track while the AN/MSQ-77's control commands adjusted the aircraft course. A close air support regulation prohibited AN/MSQ-77 Combat Skyspot bombing within 1,000 yd (910 m) of friendly forces unless authorized by a Forward Air Controller,[9]:135 and "on several occasions" strikes were as close as 273 yd (250 m).[5]

Post-war the MSQ-77 was used on US and other training ranges for Radar Bomb Scoring (RBS). The AN/MSQ-77 was also periodically used for post-Vietnam commanding of bombers during simulated ground directed bombing to maintain aircrew and radar crew GDB proficiency (RBS could be used to score the simulated GDB mission). Most AN/MSQ-77s ware replaced by solid-state equipment near the end of the Cold War.


Ground radar systems for automated guidance of aircraft to a predetermined point (e.g., for bomb release using a bombsight or avionics radar) included the July 1951 AN/MPQ-14 Radar Course Directing Central. By 1954 the MARC (Matador Airborne Radio Control) used the AN/MSQ-1A for missile guidance to the terminal dive point,[10] and SAGE GCI provided computer-controlled guidance of aircraft to continuously-computed interception points (1958 AN/FSQ-7 Bomarc missile guidance and the later Ground to Air Data Link Subsystem for fighters). Despite the availability of solid-state military guidance computers in 1961, planning for a USAF vacuum-tube trajectory computer/radar system began in early 1965.[11] In October 1965, F-100s tested the AN/MSQ-77 at Matagorda Island General Bombing and Gunnery Range on the Texas Gulf Coast.[11]

In March 1966,[2] AN/MSQ-77 operations using the "reverse MSQ method"[8] began and continued through August 1973 [4] for guiding B-52s and tactical fighters and bombers[12] ("chiefly flown by F-100's").[8] By March 1967, 15,000 Skyspot sorties had been flown, and raids controlled by AN/MSQ-77s included those of Operation Menu from Bien Hoa Air Base, Operation Niagara,[13] and Operation Arc Light. Additional AN/MSQ-77 missions included those with MC-130 Commando Vault aircraft to clear landing zones and at least 1 helicopter evacuation of wounded on August 13, 1966.[14]

Commando Club
To allow command guidance bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong targets out of range of the initial Skyspot AN/MSQ-77 sites, the "1st CEVG began “Combat Keel” tests using F-4s guided by an MSQ-77 on the USS Thomas J. Gary" in the Gulf of Tonkin during late 1967 after the March 1967 "Combat Target" task force recommended a closer site.[5]:68 By 1 November 1967, the USAF Heavy Green operation had prepared a Laos mountaintop site and installed an MSQ-77 variant in rugged shelters without trailer frames, wheels, etc. for helicopter transport. Although the central's range was limited by the UHF radio reliability for A/C commands during the bomb run, "Commando Club" used a relay aircraft to retransmit communications between Lima Site 85 and the bomber. LS-85's operations ended with the 1968 Battle of Lima Site 85 defeat by sappers after North Vietnam had correlated bombings were occurring during LS-85 transmissions (the site's central and other buildings were destroyed by a later U.S. air raid.)[11]

Additional casualties of AN/MSQ-77 personnel included 1 killed in an enemy rocket attack [5] and 6 Skyspot personnel killed in a 1966 ambush on a survey mission.[14] Following -77 modifications in 1968,[specify] [15]:45 subsequent changes included a solid-state digital printer for RBS ("Digital Data System")[16] and implementation of a USAF suggestion for RBS to use a late-1970s programmable calculator to supersede the Bomb Trajectory Group, eliminating alignment procedures for its amplifiers. In 1989, remains of an F-4C Weapon System Officer shot down during a November 10, 1967, AN/MSQ-77 bomb run were recovered in Southeast Asia.[17] Developed from the AN/MSQ-77 and also used in Vietnam was the monopulse India-band[verification needed] Reeves AN/TSQ-96 Bomb Directing Central[6] with a solid state Univac 1219B ballistic computer[18] (Mark 152 fire control computer),[7] and the AN/MSQ-77/96 systems for GDB were replaced c. 1990 by the US Dynamics AN/TPS-43 Radar Bomb Scoring Set ("Seek Score").[19] There were 5 MSQ-77s at Nellis Air Force Base in 1994,[8] and the "MSQ-77 or equivalent" was still listed in 2005 as support equipment for airdrops from Ground Radar Aerial Delivery System (GRADS) aircraft.[9] The AN/MSQ-77 antenna at the "Combat Skyspot Memorial" on Andersen Air Force Base was destroyed by a typhoon c. 2007.[10]


Initial AN/MSQ-77 sites were the production plant Reeves-Ely had built in 1958 at Roosevelt Field[20] on East Gate Blvd in Garden City, New York; and the Matagorda Island test site also used for "Busy Skyspot" training of Vietnam crews [11] (moved to Bergstrom AFB in 1970). Deployment sites were the Vietnam War operating locations, the wartime site at the Nellis Range, and post-war CONUS RBS and overseas sites (e.g., Korea). The last AN/MSQ-77 locations (e.g., at museums after c. 2000 retirements)[12] included the Ellsworth Air Force Base Museum[21] (near the Antelope Butte, Belle Fourche, Conner, & Horman RBS sites) and:

Equipment and functionsEdit

In addition to the communication and maintenance van, other AN/MSQ-77 trailers were the 33 ft (10 m) radar van with roof-mounted Cassegrain antenna, "control and plotting van, two diesel generator vans, [and] an administrative and supply van" which were emplaced as a military installation at the surveyed site.[11] The primary modification for the AN/MSQ-77 was the control equipment for aircraft guidance (ballistic computer, guidance/release circuitry, and UHF command equipment). The central also had an added beacon tracking capability used when the aircraft had a receiver/transmitter (e.g., Motorola SST-181 X Band Beacon Transponder)[15] to increase the range so the radar site could be located farther from the hostile region of bombing targets. Beacon track upgrades included radar circuitry to switch the heterodyne receiver to demodulate the transponder frequency, compensation for the transponder delay, and modification of the central's plotting board circuitry to allow display for increased ranges. The plots were of tracks calculated by the computer's Aircraft Coordinates and Plotting Group which converted radar spherical data to plotting board cartesian coordinates (non-inertial east, north, up coordinate system) using sine/cosine voltages and radar-estimated range respectively from the Antenna Group (azimuth/elevation resolvers) and from the Track Range Computer. Additional A/C Coordinates amplifiers computed the velocity components (not plotted) which along with the track position components were provided as initial bomb conditions to the ballistic computer (Bomb Trajectory Group).

Bomb Trajectory GroupEdit

The Bomb Trajectory Group (BTG) was the AN/MSQ-77's analog ballistic computer using 3-dimensional double-integration to continually predict the bomb impact point from an aircraft track during a bomb run. The Cartesian aircraft data were propagated by the BTG mathematical modeling which included aerodynamics for different bombs, Earth "curvature and Coriolis corrections", and vacuum tube integrating amplifiers. The integration was based on the varying aircraft position and velocity prior to the bomb release, so as with the use of the Norden bombsight analog computer in World War II, a nearly steady bomb run was required for the AN/MSQ-77 to provide sufficient bombing accuracy. As in the 1950s Nike missile guidance system(s), electro-mechanical servos controlled sine/cosine resolvers in a feedback loop for computing the simulated bomb's horizontal velocity and along with the drop rate, the simulated bomb's airspeed and dive angle ("Pitch Servo"). Likewise, a "Z servo" allowed the Air Resistance Circuits to adjust for altitude-varying air density, and the drag aerodynamics were vectorized by a servo operating potentiometers to pick-off 3 bomb-specific deceleration voltages based on each cartesian velocity voltage.[16]

Ground directed bombingEdit

The AN/MSQ-77 radar track began after the aircraft (A/C) arrived near the Initial Point (IP) on a heading toward the target. When the computer's groundspeed and elevation rate servos had stabilized to the A/C cartesian velocity from the differentiating amplifiers, an operator placed the central into "computer track" to provide rate-aided tracking signals to the radar. With the computer track and the central having target position, A/C heading, & bomb type information; and with the Bomb Trajectory Group's servos tracking the bomb-in-aircraft course and pitch, the operator then activated the BTG integrators for the computer simulation to begin integrating a bomb trajectory from the A/C coordinates at that integration start point. Acceleration voltages from the BTG dynamic models were double-integrated by the 6 computer amplifiers which generated 3 voltages for the simulated bomb displacement (altitude, north, & east deltas) which were summed to the A/C position (simulated bomb release point, BRP). Use of the continually-changing current A/C position as the simulated BRP ensured a more accurate Earth Curvature Correction (ECC) was generated for the simulated bomb's horizontal range from the radar. When the simulated bomb's altitude (simulated BRP altitude - integrated altitude delta + altitude ECC) equalled the target height, the integration automatically stopped and the integrated displacements were held as constant altitude, north, and east delta voltages. Subsequent summing of more current simulated bomb release points (A/C bomb run positions after the integration ended) with the integrator deltas generated a path of simulated bomb impact (SBI) points that moved relative to the A/C position throughout the remainder of the bomb run. The latest SBI was the AN/MSQ-77's best estimate of the impact position if bomb release was from the current A/C position:[16]

The AN/MSQ-77 control algorithm continually commanded the A/C so the BTG simulated bomb impact point, which was plotted separately from the A/C track,[16] would move toward the target. While the A/C was being guided, an AN/MSQ-77 bomb release algorithm used a model for the future path of simulated bomb impact points to predict the nearest impact to the target (a No Go condition aborted before effecting an outlying bomb release). Instead of releasing from the A/C position corresponding to the nearest predicted impact point, the AN/MSQ-77 began the bomb release sequence just prior,[specify]

which accounted for the delay in generating the radio command, in transmitting the command, and in the A/C effecting the mechanical release.  The delay time was based on calibration testing of the AN/MSQ-77 with A/C bomb release circuity (e.g., mean bomb release time for salvo drops from B-52s).


Although the 1967 Commando Club missions against North Vietnam by the 7th Air Force were temporarily suspended due to successful enemy defenses on November 18, the AN/MSQ-77 variant at LS-85 had effected a direct hit (zero miss distance) as well as a 5 mi (8.0 km) miss—its Commando Club CEP through November 16 for "14 runs was 867 feet".[25] The suspension period for modifying attack tactics was used to reduce GDB errors of LS-85 since other Skyspot sites had been more accurate. AN/MSQ-77 errors included the typical automatic tracking radar errors such as the antenna lag due to the conical scan tracking, Track Range Computer error, any inaccuracy of the A/C transponder delay value used by the central, and the range offset of the A/C transponder antenna from the actual position of the bomb release point(s) on the A/C (particularly negligible when the radar was tracking from the side of the A/C). The AN/MSQ-77 compensation for antenna lag during[specify]

rate-aided computer track used a telescopic CCTV system with operator's joystick [16] to aim the antenna axis toward the A/C (e.g., bomb bay section of the fuselage).  Additional AN/MSQ-77 errors were in the bomb trajectory algorithm (e.g., different simulation rates for each of 6 integrating amplifiers)[16] and in the bomb release algorithm.


  1. Lake, Jon (2004) (Google Books). B-52 Stratofortress Units in Combat 1955-73. Osprey Publishing. p. 23. Retrieved 2012-06-22. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Wheeler, Gen. Earl G (25 Apr 1967). "Installation of MSQ-77 in Northern Laos" (CJCS memorandum). Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  3. Schlight, John (2003) ( image). Help From Above: Air Force Close Air Support of the Army1946-1973 (Report). Air Force History and Museums Program. p. 330. Retrieved 2012-06-25.  (also available from Scribd
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Wolk, Herman S (June 1969). "R&D for Southeast Asia, 1965-1967". USAF Plans and Policies (Office of Air Force History). Retrieved 2012-05-21. "On 1 November 1967, another MSQ-77 became operational in Laos, but it was destroyed by the enemy in March 1968."  (p. 58). Wolk cites "DJSM-800-68 (TS ), Memo for DDR&E, CSAF, CNO, et al, 28 June 68, subj: Update of the NIGHT SONG Study"
  6. "DoD 4100.38-M: Appendix HI A" (scan at date tbd. 
    "Motor, Alternating C" (motor nameplate). Retrieved 2012-06-22. 
  7. "MSQ-77" (draft Wiki article).,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.,cf.osb&fp=ef3e1d785cd21160&biw=993&bih=685. Retrieved 2012-05-24. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Rowley, Lt. Col Ralph A. (February 1976). "Tactics and Techniques of Close Air Support Operations 1961-1973". The Air Force in Southeast Asia (Office of Air Force History): 92. Retrieved 2012-07-04. "In March 1966 the first MSQ-77 arrived at Bien Hoa. … Skyspot's accuracy let heavy bombs be dropped on occasion within 250 meters of friendly positions. …many maps of South Vietnam contained distance errors of up to 300 meters. … Skyspot (S) MSQ-77 and TPQ-10 ground radars" 
  9. Schlight, John ([when?]). The War in South Vietnam: The Years of the Offensive (1965-1968). The United States Air Force in Southeast Asia. Retrieved 2012-06-16.  NOTE: Lake 2004, p. 48, mistakenly says the "normal limit (with two Skyspot beacons) was 3300 yards from friendly forces", but TACAN used multiple beacons, not Skyspot--which used only one radar even if a non-transmitting Skyspot backup receiving the A/C transponder returns later tracked/commanded the bomb run.
  10. Minding, George; Bolton, Robert (year tbd) (Google books). U.S. Air Force Tactical Missiles. Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Castle, Timothy N (2000) (Google books). One Day Too Long. p. 15. Retrieved 2012-05-17. 
  12. "Why Air Forces Fail: Learning From History Lessons". (Air Force Association). [when?]. Retrieved 2012-05-21. " In SEA, the MSQ-77 system is utilized by tactical fighters, tactical bombers, and B-52 bomber aircraft for controlled release of ordnance on targets during periods of darkness and adverse weather. It was used by: F-100, F-4C, F-105, A-1E, A-26, B-52, and B-57, though most frequently used by F-100s and B-52s." 
  13. Morocco, John (1985). Rain of Fire: Air War, 1969–1973. Boston: Boston Publishing Company. p. 14. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 ( image) 1st Combat Evaluation Group (SAC): April-June 1966 (Report). Volume I. Retrieved 2012-07-14.  (partial transcription at
  15. Wolk, Herman S (July 1970--declassified 1986). "R&D for Southeast Asia: 1968". USAF Plans and Policies (Office of Air Force History). Retrieved 2012-07-14. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 "Bomb Trajectory Group". AN/MSQ-77 Technical Order. United States Air Force.  (includes Figure 1-1 Bomb Trajectory Group functional block diagram)
  17. Lieutenant Honeycutt and Lieutenant Colonel Cook parachuted alive from their aircraft and reached the ground seriously wounded. Both were later reported to have died."
  18. Leyva, Ken. "TSQ-96 J-band Mono Pulse" (anecdote webpage). Retrieved 2012-07-13. 
  19. Jost, Alan C. (2007). ConOps:The Cryptex to Operational System Mission Success (Report). Raytheon. Retrieved 2012-07-09. 
  20. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". October 15, 1971. "…the gain from this real estate sale should be attributed to Reeves Instrument Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of the plaintiff … Claude Neon, Inc. … Effective April 15, 1955, [Neon] merged into Dynamics Corporation… Effective January 20, 1956, Reeves-Ely Laboratories, Inc…also merged into Dynamics. Prior to the latter merger, Reeves-Ely had been a controlled subsidiary of Neon" 
  21. Karaszewski, Eugene B (January 2007). "Det. 8 & 8th AF Memorial Sites" (newsletter article). Retrieved 2012-07-02. "working to find an MSQ-77 [for] the 8th AF Museum… The curator … found another one…at Ellsworth AFB… given to the museum there when CEVG was decommissioned."  [1]
  22. Murphy, Shane (July 3, 2006). "Re: New member looking for information" (1CEVG newsgroup posting). (message 23682). Retrieved 2012-07-11. "around 1972/1973? There was a plaque in the Day room about the Day and year the site was commissioned in Guam, w/ the original crew members names. …on the very Northern tip of the Island. Not sure why it was moved [to a 2nd Guam site.] the AN/MSQ-77 was shipped direct from Vietnam to Guam." 
  23. 23.0 23.1 "Installation of the TSQ-81 at Phou Pha Thi". "copyright 2002". Retrieved 2012-07-01. 
  24. Steeves, Mike. "OL-27, Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Base". Retrieved 2012-04-05. "Earlier in the war, OL-23 and OL-27 were co-located at NKP. OL-23 later was moved to Udorn. OL-23 was the TSQ-96 system while OL-27 was the TSQ-81"  NOTE: "Teepee" equipment "moved from Quangtri to Mukdahan in 68-69"[2] and Mukdahan equipment was moved to NKP. (Mukdahan was a planned Skyspot site and didn't have an AN/MSQ-77.)[3]
  25. Plunkett, W. Howard (Summer, 2006). "Radar Bombing during Rolling Thunder". Air Power History. Retrieved 2012-06-16. 

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