Condon Air Force Station
Condon Air Force Station (1951-1970) - A Cold War Air Force Radar Station first established in 1951 near Condon, Gilliam County, Oregon. Named Condon Air Force Station after the location. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of P-32 and later a Sage ID of Z-32. Abandoned in 1970.
Established in 1951 and became operational as Condon Air Force Station manned by the 636th 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 a FPS-4 height-finder radar. In May 1957 a single FPS-6 height-finder was installed and in July 1958 the FPS-3 was modified to become a FPS-20A search radar with the application of a GPA-27 modification kit. In 1959 an additional FPS-6A height-finder radar was installed. With these radar set upgrades, Condon AFS was prepared to transition into the SAGE System with one long-range search radar and two long-range height-finder radars.
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. The FST-2 installation was completed by December 1960 and Condon AFS became an operational SAGE System site.
SAGE System Operation
The site began operation as a SAGE site in December 1960 initially feeding the Larson SAGE Direction Center DC-15 at Larson AFB, Washington. On 8 Sep 1960, the 636th was redesignated from an AC&W Squadron to the 636th Radar Squadron (SAGE). With the closure of DC-15 in 1963, Condon was connected to the McChord SAGE Direction Center DC-12 at McChord AFB. As other SAGE direction centers were consolidated and closed, control of Condon AFS changed several times, see the table below.
The FPS-20 search radar was upgraded to an FPS-66A in November 1961 and replaced with an FPS-27 in 1964. The new tower for the FPS-27 was accepted on 1 May 1963 and the FPS-27 itself was accepted on 7 Mar 1964. The FPS-66A search radar was sent to Burns Air Force Station as a replacement for their FPS-7 that was destroyed by a fire in July 1964.
The KW-7 on-line cryptographic machine installation was completed in October 1965 and the manual Mode IV SIF decoder was installed in December 1965.
On 20 Dec 1965 the ground-to-air radio transmitter building (Bldg. 294) and the air-to-ground radio receiver building (Bldg.240) were consolidated into the radio transmitter building and that became known as the GATR building.
Condon AFS and the 636th were deactivated on 30 Sep 1970.
The physical plant of the site was divided into the main site, a housing area, and two radio sites. The main site housed the operations building, the radar towers, the enlisted barracks, the bachelor officer's quarters, the orderly room, the chow hall, the motor pool and the backup generators. Apart from the main site was a small 27 unit housing area for married personnel. At Condon, the north quadrant of the main site contained the operations area while the other three quadrants were devoted to the cantonment area.
Two separate radio sites housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts. Like most early radar stations, Condon 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.
Abandoned near Condon, Gilliam County, Oregon. The housing units are in use by private owners.
Visited: 1 Oct 2016