West Mesa Air Force Station

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West Mesa Air Force Station (1956-1968) - A Cold War Air Force Radar Station first established in 1956 near Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, New Mexico. Named West Mesa Air Force Station after the location. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of M-94, later a Sage ID of Z-94. Transferred to the FAA in 1968 and now known as West Mesa FAA Radar Site.

FAA Radar Tower at the Former West Mesa AFS.
Former West Mesa AFS Entrance.

History

Established in 1956 and became operational on 22 Jun 1956 as West Mesa Air Force Station manned by the 687th AC&W Squadron. The station initially had both a Ground-Control Intercept (GCI) and early warning mission. The early warning mission involved tracking and identifying all aircraft entering their airspace while the GCI mission involved guiding Air Force interceptors to any identified enemy aircraft. Controllers at the station vectored fighter aircraft at the correct course and speed to intercept enemy aircraft using voice commands via ground-to-air radio.

West Mesa Air Force Station served as a Master Direction Center as a part of the integrated air defense system. The 687th AC&W Squadron maintained operational control over the 767th, 768th and the 769th AC&W squadrons.

Initial equipment included the mobile MPS-7 search radar and mobile MPS-14 height-finder radar. The search radar was upgraded to fixed FPS-20A about 1961 and to an FPS-91A around 1966.

Gap Fillers

West Mesa AFS was responsible for the maintenance of one remote unattended gap-filler radar site. Gap filler sites were placed in locations where the main search radar lacked coverage. These sites sent digitized radar target data directly to a direction center. Maintenance teams were dispatched from West Mesa AFS for regularly scheduled maintenance or when fault indicators suggested the site had problems. The West Mesa AFS gap-filler radar was located at Zuni, NM.


West Mesa AFS Gap Filler Radar Sites (edit list)
ADC NORAD Location State Type From To GPS Notes
M-94B Z-94A Zuni NM FPS-14?, FST-1 34.97806,
-108.82972

Closure

West Mesa AFS became a BUIC I GCI site in 1962. West Mesa AFS and the 687th AC&W Radar Squadron were deactivated on 8 Sep 1968 and a portion of the site was transferred to the FAA.

West Mesa FAA Radar Site

Former West Mesa AFS, FAA Radar Tower & Former Ops Bldg. in Background, Former Base Housing in Foreground.

With the closure of West Mesa AFS in 1968 a small compound including the search radar tower was transferred to the FAA and became known as the West Mesa FAA Radar Site (ZQSA) connected to the Albuquerque ARTCC (ZAB). Also known as Albuquerque FAA Radar Site.

A FYQ-47 Common Digitizer was probably placed in service by February 1973 when the USAF/FAA FST-2 to FYQ-47 replacement program was completed. By 1990 the site was equipped with an FPS-66A search radar and a CD-2A Common Digitizer. The West Mesa CD-2 was scheduled to receive an upgrade kit to implement three level weather data processing in July 1992.

CARSR Radar

The nationwide replacement program converting FAA legacy radar systems to the CARSR radar configuration was completed by 17 Aug 2015 and West Mesa FAA Radar Site was a part of that program. Legacy FAA radars underwent a Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) that replaced key components in the vintage ARSR-1, ARSR-2, FPS-20, FPS-66 and FPS-67 radars. The CARSR program replaced legacy klystron radar transmitters with a solid-state transmitter as well as renovating the radar receiver and signal processor. The CARSR modification also included common digitizer functionality making a separate common digitizer unnecessary. The West Mesa FAA Radar Site is now operating with the CARSR radar. At the time of the CARSR changeout, the legacy radar in place was an FPS-66A and the CARSR conversion included a 1561 Antenna.

The radar site data is now available to the USAF/NORAD Battle Control System-Fixed (BCS-F) operations centers (EADS & WADS) as well as the FAA Albuquerque ARTCC (ZAB) and adjacent ARTCCs. Other federal agencies have access to the data under the Homeland Security umbrella.

Physical Plant

The physical plant of the site was divided into the main site, a cantonment area, a housing area, and a radio site. The main site housed the operations buildings, the radar towers, and the backup generators. The cantonment area housed the enlisted barracks, the bachelor officer's quarters, the orderly room, the dining hall, the motor pool, and other support buildings. Apart from the main site was a small 27 unit housing area for critical married personnel built in 1959. A separate Ground to Air Transmitter/Receiver (GATR) radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts.


West Mesa AFS Major Equipment List
Search Radar HF Radar Data Systems IFF/SIF/Beacon
Unit Designations
  • 687th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron (1956-1968)
687th Assignments
  • 1 Oct 1953 - Activated at Kirtland AFB, NM, as the 34th Air Division.
  • 1956 spring - Moved to West Mesa AFS, NM.
  • 1 Jan 1960 - Transferred to Albuquerque ADS.
  • 15 Sep 1960 - Transferred to Oklahoma City ADS. (Oklahoma City Air Force Station)
  • Sep 1961 - Transferred to 4752nd Air Defense Wing. (Oklahoma City Air Force Station)
  • 25 Jun 1963 - Transferred to Oklahoma City ADS. (Oklahoma City Air Force Station)
  • 1 Apr 1966 - Reassigned to 31st Air Division. (Oklahoma City Air Force Station)
  • 8 Sep 1968 - Discontinued.

Current Status

FAA maintains 4.37-acre compound that includes most of the former main site and cantonment area. Most of the cantonment buildings appear to have been removed. The housing area was sold off to private owners who still maintain the property.


Location: Lost Horizon Lane Northwest off I-40 access road near
Albuquerque in Bernalillo County, New Mexico. Exit 149 on I-40.

Maps & Images

Lat: 35.071695 Long: -106.869716




GPS Locations:

See Also:

Sources:

Links:

Visited: 17 Apr 2015


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