Guthrie Air Force Station

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Guthrie Air Force Station (1951-1968) - A Cold War U.S. Air Force Radar Station established during the Korean War. Located near Guthrie, Kanawha County, West Virginia. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of P-43 and later a Sage ID of Z-43. Closed in 1968.

History

Established in 1951 and became operational in June 1952 as Guthrie Air Force Station manned by the 783rd Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron. The missions included radar search and manual Ground Control and Incercept (GCI) of unknown aircraft entering the covered area.

Initial equipment included a FPS-3 search radar and a FPS-4 height-finder radar. In 1958 these radar sets were replaced by an FPS-20 search radar and an FPS-6 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

Guthrie SAGE Direction Centers & Sectors
Assigned Direction Center Sector
1 Jul 1961 - 1 Apr 1966 Custer SAGE Direction Center DC-06 Detroit Air Defense Sector
1 Apr 1966 - 18 June 1968 Custer SAGE Direction Center DC-06 34 Air Division

The site began operation as a SAGE site in 1962 initially feeding the Custer SAGE Direction Center DC-06. On 1 Jul 1962, the squadron designation was changed from the 783rd AC&W Squadron to 783rd Radar Squadron (SAGE) indicating the new SAGE System role.

In 1962 the FPS-20 search radar was upgraded to an FPS-67. A second FPS-6 height-finder radar was added in 1963. One FPS-6 was removed in 1966.

Closure

The public announcement of the closure of Guthrie AFS came on 20 Nov 1964 with the Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara 's announcement of massive military cutbacks and closures of some 95 installations. The site was originally scheduled to close in mid-1966 but that was later delayed to 1968. Guthrie AFS and the 783rd were finally deactivated on 18 June 1968 but the phase-out of the Air Force Station continued through November 1968.

Gap Fillers

Guthrie 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 Guthrie AFS gap-filler radars were located at Hellier KY, Bainbridge OH and Lewisville OH.

Guthrie AFS Gap Filler Radar Sites (edit list)
ADC NORAD Location State Type From To GPS Notes
P-43A Z-43A Bainbridge OH FPS-18, FST-1 1963-04 1967-12 39.25992,
-83.23776
Building exists
Tower gone
P-43B Z-43B Hellier KY FPS-18/FPS-14, FST-1 37.28559,
-82.52676
Building may exist
P-43E Z-62B Lewisville OH FPS-14 1957-08 1963-06 39.75647,
-81.22766
Building exists
Tower replaced
Two additional gap-fillers were planned but not built.

Physical Plant

The physical plant of the site was divided into the main operations 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 27 unit housing area for married personnel.

A separate radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts. Like most early radar stations, Guthrie 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.




Guthrie AFS Major Equipment List
Search Radar HF Radar Data Systems Comm
Unit Designations
  • 783rd Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron (1951-1962)
  • 783rd Radar Squadron (SAGE) (1962-1968)
783rd Assignments
  • 16 Apr 1951 - Activated at Guthrie AFS, WV, assigned to 541st AC&W Gp.
  • 6 Feb 1952 - Transferred to 541st AC&W Gp to 30th AD.
  • 16 Feb 1953 - Transferred to 4708th Def Wg.
  • 1 Mar 1956 - Transferred to 58th AD.
  • 1 Sep 1958 - Transferred to 35th AD.
  • 15 Nov 1958 - Transferred to 32nd AD.
  • 1 Jul 1961 - Transferred to Detroit ADS.
  • 1 Jul 1962 - Redesignated from AC&W Sq to 783rd Radar Sq (SAGE).
  • 1 Apr 1966 - Transferred to 34th AD.
  • 18 Jun 1968 - Discontinued.


Guthrie Air Force Station Partial Commanders List (edit list)
Assumed Relieved Rank Name Cullum Notes
1951-05 1952-01 Major Klapper, D. D. N/A First Commander
1952-01 Captain Tennant, Homer J. N/A
1957~ Major Gooding, Alan V. N/A
1961-08-15 1965-11-15 Lt Colonel Ratliff, Charles M. N/A
1961~ Major Roquermore, John S. N/A
1968~ 1968- 2nd Lieutenant Langabeer, James N/A Possibly the last Commander

Current Status

After closure, the site was transferred to the State of West Virginia and became the Guthrie Agricultural Center owned by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. Since 2012 known as the Gus R. Douglass Agricultural Center at Guthrie. Part also utilized by the West Virginia Conservation Agency.

Some buildings remain including the operations building and several cantonment buildings. The GATR site building appears to be overbuilt with newer buildings. Many of the housing area buildings remain.


Location: On Gus R Douglass Ln, in Kanawha County, West Virginia.

Maps & Images

Lat: 38.44306 Long: -81.68056

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 168.
  • 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 167.
  • USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) Database Entry: 2087681

Links:

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