Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 33, No. 6 6 May 1970
According to the USIS and the New Zealand Government, the camera's function is simply to track, for scientific purposes, the movement of orbital objects in space. Owen Wilkes, writing in Canta about Mount John, based his allegation that the Station has a military function upon a United States Air Force unclassified document entitled Aerospace Defence: Background Information. Salient's source of information was a USAF systems brochure which stated that the "Military Baker-Nunn stations" were an integral part of the USAF Spacetrack system which is, in turn, part of the Aerospace Defence Command. Canta's Background Information described the Baker-Nunn in the following terms:
"The Military Baker-Nunn is a tracking astronomical telescope camera. It is the most sensitive and precise satellite tracking instrument in the Space Defence System." The Space Detection and Tracking System (Spadats) of which Mount John is a unit is part of the Combat Operations Centre (COC). Background Information has this to say about COC: "The nerve centre of the air defense system is the COC . . . This centre is linked by communications systems to all subordinate commands and key governmental agencies. An attack warning would be flashed simultaneously to Aerospace defence units, the Strategic Air Command, civil defense agencies of the US and Canada, the Pentagon and the Canadian National Defence H.Q."
The USAF booklet then goes on to describe the location of COC 1400 feet under Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs. A description is also given of the way in which the computer-processed data [from Sensors such as that at Mount John] is deployed on giant display consoles before operators who control deployment of all America's nuclear weaponry. Amongst the weapon systems at their disposal is the Aerospace Defence Command's Anti-satellite Defence System—"a land based missile system which is capable of interception and destruction of armed satellites."
Owen Wilkes in the Canta article says Mount John "will help plot the course of any possible enemy-orbiting nuclear weapon so that anti-satellite missiles can shoot it down. Similar action would be taken against enemy surveillance, communication, navigation and weather satellites, all of which are militarily useful." Mr Holyoake's reply to Canta's allegations, (Evening Post 28 April), was an interesting one. At no point did the Prime Minister deny that the Mount John Station is a military installation. Mr Holyoake said that Canta seemed well versed in running scare stories: "Two years ago we had Canta starting scare stories about Omega . . . Now they seem to be starting on the Baker-Nunn Satellite Tracking Station."