Havre Air Force Station
Havre Air Force Station (1951-1979) - A Cold War Air Force Radar Station first established as Simpson Air Force Station in 1951 near Havre, Hill County, Montana. Named Havre Air Force Station after the nearby town on 1 Dec 1953. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of P-25 and later a SAGE System ID of Z-25. Selected as a BUIC System Site for BUIC I, II, and III. Abandoned in 1979. Reestablished in 1986 as a SAC Electronic Bomb Scoring (EBS) Air Station that closed in the 1990s.
Established in 1951 with the relocation of the 778th AC&W Squadron to the newly constructed radar station at Simpson, Montana. Redesignated Havre Air Force Station after the nearby town on 1 Dec 1953. Initial equipment included the FPS-3 search radar and an FPS-4 height-finder radar. The radar equipment evolved into an FPS-27 search radar with two FPS-6 height-finder radars while the site was still a manual Ground Control Intercept (GCI) site.
The last FPS-3 search radar in the ADC inventory was phased out in Jul 1964 at Havre Air Force Station. That FPS-3 was originally placed in service in 1952.
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 on 20 Jul 1960 initially feeding data to the Malmstrom SAGE Direction Center DC-20 at Malmstrom AFB, it continued to feed DC-20 until the radar site closed in 1979.
Havre AFS became a BUIC I GCI site in 1962 and went operational as a BUIC II site on 1 Apr 1966. It was selected as a BUIC III site and in 1970 the 778th Radar Squadron (SAGE) became the 778th Air Defense Group (BUIC). The BUIC III 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 and replaced the FST-2 with a more up-to-date coordinate data transmitter, the FYQ-47. As the threat from a soviet bomber fleet lessened, the decision came to mothball the BUIC system in 1974.
The public announcement of the closure of Havre AFS came in April 1978 as a part of the closure of some 40 radar sites around the nation. At the time of the announcement, Havre AFS had 95 assigned military personnel and 25 civilian employees. Havre AFS was deactivated on 30 Jun 1979 and the 778th was deactivated on 29 Sep 1979. The site was reopened in 1986 as a SAC Electronic Bomb Scoring (EBS) Air Station. That station was closed in the 1990s.
Gap Filler Radars
Havre AFS was responsible for the maintenance of two 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 Havre AFS gap-fillers were located at Galata, Montana, and Hogeland, Montana.
The physical plant of the site was divided into an operations area, a cantonment area, two housing areas, and a separate radio site. The operations area housed the operations building, 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 were two housing areas for married personnel. The first housing area was a 27 unit area built just east of the operations area in 1959. The second housing area was 18 units of "relocatable housing" built in 1974. An additional five housing units were contracted for during SAC occupancy of the site.
A separate radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts. Like most early radar stations, Havre 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 Havre GATR Site was located south of the main compound. It was built under contract in 1959 at a cost of $193,600 for building and access road construction.
Abandoned near Havre, Hill County, Montana.
Visited: 7 Aug 2014