Iconic ‘Elephant Cage’ laid to rest

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Demolition of Misawa Air Base’s AN/FLR-9 antenna, also known as the “Elephant Cage,” began Oct. 15 after nearly 50 years of service.

Construction on the iconic antenna began in 1963 and was completed in 1965 at a cost of $3.3 million.

While operational, the antenna could intercept and directionally locate high-frequency radio transmissions up to 4,000 nautical miles away. Its capabilities helped ensure U.S. and allied forces had the needed secure command, control and communication to support senior military and defense officials. The antenna array was composed of three concentric rings of antenna elements.

A total of eight Elephant Cages were constructed in various locations around the world.

“While it performed its mission well for 48 years, outlived technology and fiscal constraints have driven Misawa Security Operations Center to seek new ways of doing business,” said Col. Joseph Winters, a 373rd Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance commander. 

However, the assembly will not soon be forgotten.

“This massive structure has architecturally graced the northern skyline overlooking Lake Ogawara and is said to be considered a symbol of luck by the local Japanese,” Winters said. “The Elephant Cage was undoubtedly part of Misawa’s past and present, and it will be missed.”

The demolition project will bring an additional $4.97 million into the Japanese economy and employ more than 250 Japanese nationals. 

The project is expected to last until September 2015.

The last standing Elephant Cage is located at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska.

“During its long life the antenna played a major part in the Cold War and beyond,” said Col. Andrew Hansen, the 35th Fighter Wing vice commander. “However, the technology has outlived its usefulness and requires new ways of operating. The demolition of the Elephant Cage marks the end of an era.”

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