What was the Arizona Test Range?

Peeling back the layers of this Casa Grande Concrete Crosses mystery, I keep running across other tangential topics that are related but have about as much mass as a vapor cloud. This post details the Arizona Test Range, which you’d think from the name would PERFECTLY fit the idea of the crosses. Add to this wholly convincing name the range’s location south of Phoenix, and it would look like I hit a bulleye in disproving my hypothesis.

Well, not quite.

During the early 1960s, the CIA and NRO realized that they need a quantitative process to measure the resolution outcomes of each mission. In developing the Controlled Range Network (CORN), the Mead Corporation – yes, the same folks who made Trapper Keeper binders – collected a list of optical ranges across the U.S. and include the in a manual published in July 1965.

Some of the optical ranges included in the 1965 CORN Manual were directly supported by Mead’s CORN operations, while others were included as adjuncts, locations that were not directly funded with CORN dollars but could be used in some manner by the aerial/satellite photography requirement.

You may think: “Joe, you just found evidence that says the Concrete Crosses supported Corona.”

I could believe that if the Arizona Test Range wasn’t buried on page 209 of a 301-page manual that was printed in July 1965.

See, the timing of the cross markers and this manual don’t jive. While other references detail the Phoenix area had a photogrammetry range before the crosses were built, this CORN manual inclusion covers the same area (and a lot more, see the images above and below) where the Concrete Crosses are found

A 1967 magazine article in Military Engineer mentions CGTR being built, but in context with the *other* Phoenix range that already existed (Arizona Test Range).

“In 1966 the Army Map Service began developing another range over a 16-by-16-mile area in the vicinity of Casa Grande, to supplement an earlier 1,200-square-mile range near Phoenix.”

Military Engineer, May-July 1967

Even if the manual writers had presupposed the Cross array would be built, it makes no sense to include something that was incomplete at best. What happens if funding was cut, and the array was left incomplete? Mead would be stuck with (printed) manuals that would take time (and money) to update.

Posit: The Arizona Test Range was not wholly referring to the Concrete Crosses, but the array was added later to the existing network.

Some facts about the Arizona Test Range from the 1965 CORN Manual:

Designed for the test and evaluation of aerial cameras and mapping techniques, [the Arizona Test Range] range is based on existing road networks and utilizes precision ground surveys to achieve a high degree of accuracy in the knowledge of point position.

The original area consisted of four quadrangles lying between latitudes 33° 00’ to 33° 30’ N and longitudes 111° 45’ to 112° 15’ W with stations at approximately 1-mile intervals.

In 1960, the area was expanded to form a “T” pattern, by extending the northern 11 miles of the original quadrangle in an east-west direction, thus providing an area 65 miles in an east-west direction by 11 miles in width. Within the extended areas the stations are at approximately 1-mile intervals from north to south and 4-mile intervals from east to west.

Each station consists of a monument and a companion photo point. At some stations where the contrast is low a marker has been erected.

Complete data on each station within the surveyed area is available in card form from the Army Map Service to Department of Defense agencies on a “no charge,” loan basis.

Since all but 8% of the photo points are natural or man-made features, it can be assumed that the range is in good condition (back in June 1965, mind you).

Location:  Large area extending East, West and South of Phoenix, Arizona.
Target Coordinates:“T” shaped area bounded by 33° N to 33° 30’ N -111° 37’ W to 112 45′ W
Target Types:Monument markers and road network
Construction: Utilizes pre-existing ground pattern monuments as control points
Maintenance Responsibility:U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Jurisdiction:U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

A few FOIAs to the USACE offices in Phoenix and Los Angeles are called for. If I receive anything, I will post here.

If anyone has information on this pre-1966 Phoenix-area aerial photogrammetry range, I’m all ears.

Personal note: As you’ve noted my snarky tone in previous posts about these FOIAs, I don’t hold out much hope from USACE. Their FOIA officers have been rude at best, and downright useless during at least six previous interactions (USACE helped with the Minuteman ICBM program). I don’t understand why USACE even bothers to pay lip-service with their cadre of FOIA flunkies.


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