InfoAge Wall of Honor – 2007

It was a sad day for all Old Crows, and friends at Ft. Monmouth, when Max Adler passed away on January 22, 2004.  This article will give a small testimony to his many accomplishments and to let our younger “Crows” know about the man that started Aircraft Protection Systems and established the original Electronic Warfare Laboratory.  Max retired in May 1984 but his contributions remain to this day.  He began his career at Ft. Monmouth, NJ in the Radio Branch of the Signal Corps Laboratories shortly after he graduated from college.  For ten years he worked in various aspects of countermeasures, including the development of high frequency direction finding, and countermeasures against tactical navigation aids, and fuse countermeasures.  Electronic Warfare was not very much in vogue in the early days, with small budgets, and considerable amounts of internal development and testing. However, these early efforts by Max and others provided an ability to rapidly respond to significant threats as the needs increased.  He laid the foundation for many of the current programs being executed by I2WD today, with many of his original systems still in the field protecting our Aircraft.  The motto that he instilled in all who worked for him was—“Understand the details of the threat systems, the underlying technical principles, and how they are used operationally and then, and only then, can you begin to develop the countermeasures to defeat these systems.”

I first met Max, when as young lieutenant, returning from Korea, in 1962 I was stationed at Ft. Monmouth for several months before trying to figure our what I wanted to do in the civilian sector.  I recall the interview clearly to this day because I was stuck by the energy and knowledge of this Branch Chief, his expertise in “enemy” air defenses, his commitment to developing countermeasures to protect our troops, his very apparent integrity, his sense of family, and his willingness to teach this “youngster” what he knew.  I didn’t understand too much technically during that interview, but knew this was a group I wanted to work for because of his leadership and approach to management.  That began a career, where he continually mentored and taught others, and me about professional ethics, engineering, importance of job, dedication to country, and how to be successful and still be a nice guy.  In this time period Max was a one-man leader trying to establish the important of Electronic Warfare protection of Army Aircraft—he obtained funds, started numerous programs, and assembled an engineering staff second to none within DoD.  It wasn’t easy to convince Army leadership to procure less aircraft and put that investment in countermeasures.  We had detailed simulations that showed at the end of a 10-day conflict the Army would have more aircraft when protected with countermeasures, than those without.  However, with the escalation of the Vietnam conflict and the introduction of more sophisticated weapons against our aircraft, the need to protect our aircraft became paramount. Our Mohawk aircraft flying surveillance missions along the coast of North Vietnam were threatened by enemy Surface to Air Missile Systems and our helicopters were threatened by the “Soviet Strella” heat seeking missiles.  While Max and his team were the leading experts in the countermeasures area, the decision was made to put the lead for this expedited effort with the Aviation Command because of the need to include IR suppression systems and the complexities of the aircraft integration.   This began our long relationship with the now PEO-Aviation and the introduction of the sophisticated countermeasures still in use today.  For our Mohawk aircraft, we terminated the Army radar & missile warning receiver program (my first program) in favor of the Air Force APR-25/26 systems because of their immediate availability. Equipped with this Warning System our surveillance aircraft were able to avoid SAMS by flying outside the their missile envelope.  The protection of helicopters was a mixture of suppression systems, flat plate canopies, flare dispensers, and IR deception countermeasures. The Vietnam War and several Mid East conflicts changed the role of EW, with pilots being the biggest advocates for this important equipment.  These urgent requirements driven by real-world conflicts allowed us to develop and deliver major equipments in record time—largely due to Max Adler’s technical and management skills.  In this time period we developed and produced: APR-39 Radar Warning Receiver; ALQ-144 IR Jammer; ALQ-147 IR Jammer; ALQ-136 Radar Jammer; ALQ-162 Radar Jammer; ALE-47 Chaff & Flare Dispenser; ALQ-156 Missile Detector; and AAR-46 Missile Detector.  This dynamic time-period was one of significant and unprecedented growth and recognition of the need for Countermeasures, which will sadly probably never occur again. For these and other efforts Max Adler received the Army Meritorious Civilian Service Medal and the Association of Old Crows Gold Medal.  However, the greatest testament of his success was the young pilot that commented that two IR missiles missed his aircraft because of the EW protection equipment—that kind of message makes all the effort to deliver these products worthwhile.

In 1978, Max was promoted to the Deputy Director of the Electronic Warfare Laboratory and the Director in 1979.  As some of you may remember the Electronic Warfare Laboratory dealt with non-communications intercept (and selected communications intercept) and EW, while the Signal Warfare Laboratory under Herb Hovey, at Vint Hill Stations, dealt with communications intercept and EW.  While there was considerable friendly rivalry between the two organizations Max & Herb were recognized giants in the evolution of Army Intelligence and Electronic Warfare.  In addition to the Non-communications mission the EWL was also responsible for the counter-counter measures for our systems with a group at White Sands and Ft. Monmouth that focused on the vulnerability of US systems.  This group had the “Big Crow and Little Crow” Electronic Warfare aircraft that helped determine the susceptibility and vulnerability of all US weapons systems and actually developed, under their vulnerability mission, some of the sophisticated countermeasures in use today. Max formed an alliance with the various weapons developers—we helped harden their weapons system and they gave us access to those systems to help improve our countermeasures. You knew you were successful when you were criticized for not being able to defeat a US weapons system that had been hardened by these mutual efforts. Max’s efforts as director resulted in the early Guardrail systems; Guardrail Remote Relay; Teampack; Stand-Off Jammers; Navigation Jammers; and Air Defense Electronic Warfare System to name a few, as well as a significant extension of the technology programs that feed the system developments.  It was a great time to be part of this organization since we were at the leading edge of technology, against enemy systems that constantly changed, making our flexibility and ability to rapidly react key to success. Max Adler provided the leadership and gave his people the latitude to expand their professional accomplishments, while still providing the foundation for the next generation of new equipment. 

Max Adler retired in May 1984, but left a legacy of EW equipment that changed the way the Army Aircraft fly missions and significantly improved the Army’s Intelligence collection capabilities. In an interview he gave in 1984 prior to his retirement he said:  “ As I look back, I marvel at the tremendous changes that have taken place in the electronics field. For example, I saw a room full of relays and vacuum tubes reduced to a chip that fits on the tip of a finger. I consider myself fortunate to have witnessed and been involved in these exciting advances.  If I had a second chance, I’d make the same decisions all over again.”  He was a giant in this business, but always grounded by his background and upbringing.  His road to Ft. Monmouth was difficult, having escaped from the Nazi horrors of World War II through Holland and then being reunited with his family in New York. He graduated from the City College in New York City and Rutgers University, and was always grateful to the Army for giving him an opportunity.  He was a dedicated patriot, a scholar in many areas, and a family man that has no peer.  He is missed greatly by this author because I benefited so much from our relationship.”

Reflections On An Electronic Warfare Pioneer by Bob Giordano

Posted April 2, 2017