FPS-35

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FPS-35 long-range fixed search radar set - A long-range Frequency-diversity search radar designed for select SAGE System radar sites. Twelve units built for the United States Air Force by Sperry Gyroscope.

Former Montauk Air Force Station FPS-35 Tower and Antenna.
FPS-35 search radar at Fortuna, North Dakota.
FPS-35 Search Radar Tower at former Finley AFS, one of the two Steel Tower Versions.
Baker AFS FPS-35 Radome Repurposed as a Gym in Payette High School, Payette, ID.

These radar sets were installed in and on five-story towers that were each capped with a 70 to 80-ton rotating antenna. Two types of towers were used, the most common was a five-story concrete tower that rose 84' 6" high with a 60' 3" square footprint. This configuration was used in ten of the installations with the other two installations using steel framed towers. The rotating antennas were very large and only one, Baker Air Force Station, Oregon was covered with a radome. The Baker Air Force Station FPS-35 radome was mounted on a separate Radome Support Structure (RSS) that surrounded the tower.

FPS-35 Radar Set Locations (edit list)
Site State Unit SAGE From To GPS Type Twr Status Rev Notes
Benton PA 648th Z-30 1962 1975 41.3574,
-76.2930
Concrete Exists
Antigo WI 676th Z-19 1962 1977 45.04838,
-89.23488
Concrete Exists
Baker OR 821st Z-149 1962 1968 44.58639,
-117.78722
Steel Gone *
Boron CA 750th Z-59 1962~ 1975 35.0823,
-117.5823
Concrete Exists
Fallon NV 858th Z-29 1963 1971~ 39.4054,
-118.7224
Concrete Exists *
Finley ND 785th Z-29 1962 1979 47.5161,
-97.8687
Steel Exists *
Fortuna ND 780th Z-27 1963 1979 48.9042,
-103.8665
Concrete Exists Antenna destroyed 1964 replaced 1965
Manassas VA 647th Z-55 1962 1965 38.6288,
-77.4385
Concrete Exists *
Montauk NY 773rd Z-45 1962 1981 41.0622,
-71.8740
Concrete Exists Antenna still in place
Sault Ste Marie MI 753rd Z-66 1963 1979 46.4565,
-84.3878
Concrete Exists *
Selfridge MI 661st Z-20 1961 1974 42.6275,
-82.8300
Concrete Exists
Thomasville AL 698th Z-197 1959 1969 31.9382,
-87.7502
Concrete Exists * Prototype
FPS-35 Bearing Lives Table.

The initial installations of the FPS-35 revealed problems that caused some of the sites to delay operational status until 1962. The Montauk AFS installation caused radio interference problems in the vicinity and that radar was taken out of service in 1961. The problems were resolved and the radar was operational in 1962. The antenna system provided another set of problems, one of the worst being the catastrophic failure of the antenna system at Fortuna Air Force Station in 1966 where the antenna folded down over the building. That failure was attributed to a shear pin failure.


From the RADC-TR-71-81 Technical Report December 1971, Bearing Improvement Program For Large Rolling Element Bearings:

AN/FPS-24 and ÄN/FPS-35 Air Defense Radars were designed for continuous, highly reliable operation in the SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment) system. It was intended that these radars should operate 365 days a year, 23 hours a day, for ten years, one hour a day being allowed for preventive maintenance. However, it soon became apparent that this degree of reliability was not to be realized. Azimuth bearings began to fail at an average rate of once a year on each AN/FPS-24, and once every two years on each AN/FPS-35. Because this high failure rate was not anticipated, ease of replacement had not been given major consideration in the design. Consequently, bearing changes required radars to be shut down for as long as three months, with costs as high as $ 175,000 for a single bearing change. This situation was intolerable to the user, Aerospace Defense Command (ADC), and to the Air Force Logistics Command (AFLC), which was responsible for supplying replacement bearings. As a result, direction was received to take immediate action to alleviate the urgent problems of supply and replacement time and to undertake concurrently a long-range program of general improvement in the large antenna bearing area. RADC-TR-71-81 Technical Report December 1971, Bearing Improvement Program For Large Rolling Element Bearings, Pdf

The cure for the FPS-35 bearing problem was a combination of a change of bearing types and changes in lubricant. Those changes made an improvement in bearing life but did not result in bearings that met the 10 year life span.

Current Status

All of the radar sets have now been dismantled and removed from the buildings except for the one at the former Montauk Air Force Station (Now Camp Hero State Park) on the eastern tip of Long Island, New York. That structure was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002 and has the antenna still mounted, now rusted and non-rotating. The building may also contain some of the radar set equipment and cabinets but is currently not open to the public.

FPS-35 Search Radar

FPS-35 search radar
Element Value Notes
Nomenclature FPS-35
Manufacturer Sperry Gyroscope Company
Type Search Radar
Number Made 12
IEEE Band UHF
Frequency 420 to 450 MHz
PRF 333
Pulse Width
Power
Range 250 nmi ~ long range
Altitude
Rotation Speed 5 rpm
Reflector Width 126'
Reflector Height 38'
Rotating Weight 140,000 lbs
170,000 lbs with ice
Bearing Type 4 point Contact Ball & Crossed Roller
Bearing Pitch Diameter 12.5'
Number of Balls 125
Number of Rollers 158
Ball Diameter 3"
Roller Diameter 2.5"
Introduced Dec 1960
FPS-35 Model at Peterson AFB Museum in Colorado.


See Also:

Sources:

  • 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 39, 80.
  • RADC-TR-71-81 Technical Report December 1971, Bearing Improvement Program For Large Rolling Element Bearings, Pdf

Links:


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