Kalispell Air Force Station
Kalispell Air Force Station (1961-1978) - A Cold War U.S. Air Force Radar Station first established in 1961 near present day Lakeside, Flathead County , Montana. Named Kalispell Air Force Station after the town of Kalispell. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of TM-179 and later a Sage ID of Z-179. The site became an FAA operated JSS site in 1978 with a JSS ID of J-78 and became known as Lakeside FAA Radar Site.
Established in 1959 as Kalispell Air Force Station manned by the 716th AC&W Squadron.
Initial equipment included the FPS-7 search radar and two FPS-90 height-finder radar sets.
SAGE System Transition
Kalispell AFS was built for operation in the SAGE System and had no manual operation capability. The FST-2 coordinate data transmitter installation began in May 1960. The FST-2 equipment digitized the radar returns and transmitted the digital returns to the SAGE direction center. 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. The FST-2B modification added two more cabinets but with newer solid state (transistor) technology to process coded responses from aircraft transponders. With the completion and testing of the FST-2 with the radar equipment and the direction center, the radar site was ready to begin SAGE System operation.
SAGE System Operation
The site began operation as a SAGE site in 1960, initially feeding data to the Malmstrom SAGE Direction Center DC-20 at Malmstrom AFB. With the closure of DC-20 in 1969, Kalispell was connected to the McChord SAGE Direction Center DC-12 at McChord AFB in Washington State where it remained until it was closed.
Kalispell AFS and the 716th Radar Squadron were deactivated on 1 Apr 1978 and the facilities turned over to the FAA.
The radar site continued operation as a joint use JSS Site J-78, feeding radar data to FAA facilities and USAF direction centers. Operation and maintenance became an FAA responsibility. A small team of USAF technicians remained as an operating location to maintain certain pieces of USAF equipment.
The FPS-7B search radar was replaced by an ARSR-3 in the early 1980s and that was replaced by the current ARSR-4 in the late 1990s. The one FPS-90 height-finder was modified to become a FPS-116 height-finder and that was removed circa 1988.
Now known as Lakeside FAA Radar Site.
Initially, Kalispell AFS was not slated to support any remote gap-filler radar sites. Gap filler sites were usually placed in locations where the main search radar lacked coverage. With the closure of Yaak Air Force Station in 1960 responsibility for the maintenance of their gap-filler radar site at Eureka, Montana shifted to Kalispell AFS. The Yaak AFS site itself became an unattended gap-filler site also the responsibility of Kalispell AFS.
These sites could send digitized radar target data directly to a direction center and/or to Kalispell AFS. Maintenance teams were dispatched from Kalispell AFS for regularly scheduled maintenance or when fault indicators suggested the site had problems.
The physical plant of Kalispell AFS was divided into an upper operations site on Blacktail Mountain and a lower cantonment area in the present day community of Lakeside. The cantonment area included the housing, administrative and support facilities for the troops and a 27 unit housing area. The upper site housed the operations buildings, radar equipment, and towers. A 15-mile access road connected the two areas.
JSS Site J-78, Lakeside, Flathead County , Montana. An ARSR-4 FAA radar is currently in place on the upper site. The lower cantonment site and the family housing site are currently in use by Youth With a Mission, a Christian service organization.
Visited: Lower site 15 Aug 2014