Finland Air Force Station
Finland Air Force Station (1950-1980) - A Cold War Air Force Radar Station first established in 1950 near Finland, Lake County, Minnesota. Named Finland Air Force Station after the location. Initially assigned an ID of LP-69 and later a Permanent ID of P-69, and a Sage ID of Z-69. Abandoned in 1980.
Established in 1950 and became operational on 30 Nov 1951 as Finland Air Force Station manned by the 756th AC&W Squadron. The initial equipment was a CPS-5 and the site ID was LP-69 indicating that the site was permanent but the equipment was Lashup equipment. In July 1952 the site began operation as permanent radar site P-69 with a FPS-3 search radar and a FPS-5 height-finder.
The permanent 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.
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 site began operation as a SAGE site in November 1959 feeding the Duluth SAGE Direction Center DC-10. The search radar was upgraded to an FPS-27 in 1963 and the two height-finder radars were changed out for an FPS-26A and an FPS-90 that same year.
Finland AFS was responsible for the maintenance of three remote unattended gap-filler radar sites. 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 Finland AFS gap-filler radars were located at Upson, WI; Askov, MN; and Aurora, MN. Three other gap-fillers were planned but not built.
Finland AFS became a BUIC I GCI site on 8 Apr 1963 and went operational as a BUIC II site in December 1966. The BUIC II system provided a backup for a SAGE direction center with the GSA-51 computer system and provided the ability to display sector wide radar data on consoles for local weapons controllers. The system duplicated the functionality of the vacuum tube direction center computers with the more up-to-date GSA-51 computer system. The site was not selected as a BUIC III site and reverted to a surveillance role in 1969.
Finland AFS ceased operation and the 756th Radar Squadron was deactivated on 15 Aug 1980. The base was declared excess on 23 Jan 1981 and disposed of on 2 Dec 1982 by quitclaim deed when its mission was transferred to JSS and FAA. The Air Force maintained GATR operation on the 5.33 acre GATR site until 30 Sep 1984 as GATR Site R-69. All leased areas were disposed prior to declaration of excess in 1981.
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 44 unit housing area for married personnel, a relocatable housing area and a 18 site trailer park. A separate Ground to Air Transmitter/Receiver (GATR) radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts. Like most AC&W sites, there were originally separate radio transmitter and radio receiver sites and buildings. With the coming of the SAGE System these separate sites were combined into one, commonly known as the GATR site.
The main site and the cantonment area have been mostly reduced to foundations and building outlines. The two housing areas are in civilian private ownership. The trailer sites are empty. Some remains of the GATR site.
Visited: 16 Jul 2016