Bellefontaine Air Force Station
Bellefontaine Air Force Station (1952-1969) - A Cold War U.S. Air Force Radar Station established during the Korean War. Located near Bellefontaine, Logan County, Ohio. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of P-73 and a Sage ID of Z-73. Closed in 1969.
Established in 1951 and became operational in 1952 as Bellefontaine Air Force Station manned by the 664th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron.
Initial equipment included the FPS-3 search radar and one CPS-4 height-finder radars. By 1958 the site was operating a FPS-20 search radar and two height-finders, one FPS-6 and one FPS-6A. This configuration (a SAGE qualified long range search radar and two SAGE qualified height-finders) met the requirements for transition to SAGE System operation.
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
The site began operation as a SAGE site in August 1959 initially feeding the Custer SAGE Direction Center DC-06. On 1 Sep 1959 the squadron designation was changed from the 664th AC&W Squadron to 664th Radar Squadron (SAGE) indicating the new SAGE System role.
Bellefontaine AFS and the 664th were deactivated on 30 Sep 1969.
Bellefontaine AFS was responsible for the maintenance of one remote unattended gap-filler radar site. The unattended gap filler sites were placed in locations where the main search radar lacked coverage. These sites were equipped with short range FPS-14 or FPS-18 search radars and FST-1 Coordinate Data transmitters that sent digitized radar target data to a SAGE direction center and to the main radar site. Both the radar set and the FST-1 were dual channel to increase site up time. Maintenance teams were dispatched for regularly scheduled maintenance or when fault indicators on the FSW-1 remote monitoring equipment suggested the site had problems. The FSW-1 also allowed remote operation of specific functions such as channel changes for the radar and for the FST-1, it also allowed remote operation of the diesel generators at the gap filler site. The Bellefontaine AFS gap-filler radar was located at Richland Center IN.
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 9 unit housing area for married personnel.
A separate radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts. Like most early radar stations, Bellefontaine originally had a radio transmitter site and a separate radio receiver site used by local controllers for voice direction of fighter interceptors to their targets. With the SAGE System, the SAGE Direction centers had the primary task of directing intercepts and the local radio sites were reconfigured, usually into a single site that was known as the Ground to Air Transmitter Receiver (GATR) site. The GATR site communicated with the interceptors from either the local site or the SAGE direction center via voice commands and/or a digital data link.
The old radar site has been redeveloped as the Ohio Hi-Point Career Center. The Career Center is a career–technical school that provides technical training to high school students and adults in west-central Ohio. Many of the original USAF buildings are still in use but modified and modernized. The major buildings that no longer exist include the operations building, the FPS-27 tower and all of the barracks buildings. All nine of the base housing buildings are still in use. The FPS-26A tower and the FPS-6 tower are still standing.
The radar site was located at the highest point in Ohio, Campbell Hill. The radar sets were located at the top of Campbell Hill and two of the radar towers are still located there. Between the old FPS-6 radar tower and the old power generation building is a public access memorial to this high point in Ohio. At the base of the flag pole, is a flush to the ground memorial marker to the 664th AC&W Squadron that includes an engraved facsimile of the squadron patch.