Las Vegas Air Force Station

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Las Vegas Air Force Station (1956-1969) - A Cold War Air Force Radar Station first established in 1956 near Las Vegas, Clark County, Nevada. Named Las Vegas Air Force Station after the location. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of SM-163, later a Sage ID of Z-163. Abandoned by the Air Force in 1969 now Angel Peak FAA Radar Site with an FAA ID of QAS.

Las Vegas Air Force Station Upper Site in 2015, CARSR in Radome, FPS-26A Tower Empty.
Las Vegas AFS, Lower Site now the Spring Mountain Youth Camp.
Las Vegas Air Force Station on Angel Peak, FAA Upper Site on the Right, Lower Site on the Left.

History

Established in 1956 and became operational on 1 April 1956 as Las Vegas Air Force Station manned by the 865th 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.

Initial equipment included the FPS-3 search radar and an MPS-14 height-finder radar.

SAGE System Transition

The transition of the manual GCI system to the automated SAGE system began with the installation of the FST-2 coordinate data transmitter and search radar upgrades. The FST-2 equipment digitized the radar returns and transmitted the digital returns to the SAGE direction center. Under the SAGE System, interceptor aircraft were directed to their targets by the direction center computers and controllers, greatly reducing the need for local controllers and equipment at every radar station.

The FST-2 was a very large digital system using vacuum tube technology. Over 6900 vacuum tubes were used in each FST-2 requiring 21 air-conditioned cabinets, 40 tons of air conditioning, 43.5 kva of prime power and usually a large new addition to the operations building. The FST-2B modification added two more cabinets but with newer solid state (transistor) technology to process coded responses from aircraft transponders.

SAGE System Operation

Abandoned Norton SAGE Direction Center DC-17 on the Former Norton AFB, California
Las Vegas AFS SAGE Direction Centers & Sectors
Assigned Direction Center Sector
1 Oct 1959 - 1 May 1961 Norton SAGE Direction Center DC-17 Los Angeles Air Deense Sector
1 May 1961 - 1 Apr 1966 Luke SAGE Direction Center DC-21 Phoenix Air Defense Sector
1 Apr 1966 - 31 Dec 1969 Luke SAGE Direction Center DC-21 27th Air Division

The site began operation as a SAGE site on 1 Nov 1959 initially feeding the Norton SAGE Direction Center DC-17 in San Bernardino, California. The search radar was upgraded to an FPS-20 in 1958 and an FPS-26A height-finder radar was installed in 1963. In 1961 Las Vegas AFS was an ADC/FAA joint-use facility and provided data for the FAA and the SAGE system. The FAA and USAF controllers both worked at the site operations building. The FPS-20 search radar was replaced with an FPS-27 search radar in the mid-1960s. The FAA retained the FPS-20A for their use. Control was transferred on 1 May 1961 to the Luke SAGE Direction Center DC-21 in Phoenix, Arizona

Gap Fillers

Las Vegas AFS Gap Filler Radar Sites (edit list)
ADC NORAD Location State Type From To GPS Notes
SM-163A Z-163A Boulder City Nevada FPS-18, FST-1 Oct 59 Dec 60 35.99556,
-114.86333
Site of Boulder City VORTAC
SM-163B Z-163B Lathrop Wells Nevada FPS-18, FST-1 Aug 59 Dec 60 36.64528,
-116.33861
Bldg foundation and tower pads

Las Vegas AFS was responsible for the maintenance of two remote unattended gap-filler radar sites. The 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 Las Vegas AFS for regularly scheduled maintenance or when fault indicators suggested the site had problems. The two gap-fillers that were built were at Boulder City, Nevada, and Lathrop Wells, Nevada. Two others were planned but not built.

Air Force Station Closure

Abandoned by the Air Force in 1969 now Angel Peak FAA Radar Site.

Angel Peak FAA Radar Site

With the closure of the Air Force Station, the FAA assumed operation of the upper site with the FPS-20A search radar and provided data for the FAA ARTCCs and the SAGE system.

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-20A search radar and a CD-2A Common Digitizer. The Angel Peak CD-2A was scheduled to receive an upgrade kit to implement three level weather data processing in June 1992.

Mode S Beacon System

Mode S Equipment Typical Installation

The Angel Peak FAA Radar Site was selected in the 1990s to become one of 21 long-range radar sites to have a Mode S radar beacon system installed. The Mode S system allowed operation in the existing beacon modes but added features to improve beacon operation by allowing aircraft identification with a single interrogation and two-way digital communication between controllers and pilots.

Besides the 21 long-range sites, there were other short-range radars to be upgraded for a total of 137 sites on the implementation list. Angel Peak was #99 on the list, scheduled to receive the Mode S equipment on 30 Oct 1994. Installation required interfacing with the radar system, addition of a beacon antenna on top of the search radar antenna, a new larger radome, interfacing with the Common Digitizer (CD-2) if installed, additional communication lines and equipment.

CARSR Radar

The nationwide replacement program converting FAA legacy radar systems to the CARSR radar configuration was completed by 17 Aug 2015 and Angel Peak 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 Angel Peak FAA Radar Site is now operating with the CARSR radar. At the time of the CARSR changeout, the legacy radar in place was still the FPS-20A and the CARSR conversion included a 1561 Antenna. The secondary radar for the site is the Mode S Beacon set.

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 Los Angeles ARTCC (ZLA) 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, 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. Family housing was at Nellis Air Force Base. A separate Ground to Air Transmitter/Receiver (GATR) radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts.



Las Vegas AFS Major Equipment List
Search Radar HF Radar Data Systems IFF/SIF/Beacon
Unit Designations
  • 865th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron (1955-1961)
  • 865th Radar Squadron (SAGE) (1961-1969)
865th Assignments
  • 8 Nov 1955 - Activated as 865th AC&W Sq at Norton AFB, CA, assigned to 27th AD
  • Spring of 1956 - Moved to Las Vegas AFS, NV.
  • 1 Oct 1959 - Transferred to LA ADS (Norton SAGE Direction Center DC-17)
  • 1 May 1961 - Transferred to Phoenix ADS (Luke SAGE Direction Center DC-21)
  • 15 Oct 1961 - Redesignated from AC&W Sq to 865th Radar Sq (SAGE)
  • 1 Apr 1966 - Transferred to 27th AD.
  • 31 Dec 1969 - Inactivated

Current Status

Angel Peak FAA Radar Site on Angel Peak near Las Vegas, Clark County, Nevada. Lower Site now the Spring Mountain Youth Camp. The upper site housed an FAA FPS-20A radar until the radar was upgraded to a Common Air Route Surveillance Radar (CARSR) in November 2014.


Location: On Angel Peak near Las Vegas in Clark County, Nevada.

Maps & Images

Lat: 36.318611 Long: -115.57528

See Also:

Sources:

  • Cornett, Lloyd H. & Johnson, Mildred W., A Handbook of Aerospace Defense Organization (1946-1980), Office of History ADC, Peterson AFB, Colorado, 31 Dec 1980, 179 pages, Pdf, page 172.
  • Winkler, David F., Searching the Skies: the Legacy of the United States Cold War Defense Radar Program, USAF Hq Air Combat Command, 1997, 192 pages, Pdf, page 134.
  • USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) Database Entry: 2087777


Links:

Visited: 11 Feb 2015


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