Keno Air Force Station

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Keno Air Force Station (1958-1979) - A Cold War Air Force Radar Station first established in 1958 near Keno, Klamath County, Oregon. Named Keno Air Force Station after the location. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of TM-180, later a Sage ID of Z-180 and a JSS ID of J-82. Deactivated by the U.S. Air Force in 1979 now operated by the FAA as Klamath Falls FAA Radar Site.

Keno Air Force Station 1976, FPS-6 Height Finder (foreground) and FPS-67 Search Radar.

History

Established in 1958 and became operational in September 1958 as Keno Air Force Station manned by the 827th AC&W Squadron. The 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.

Initial equipment included the FPS-20A search radar and two FPS-6A height-finder radars.

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

Former Adair AFS SAGE Direction Center DC-13

The site began operation as a SAGE site in June 1960 initially feeding the Adair SAGE Direction Center DC-13. The search radar was upgraded to an FPS-67B and a FPS-90 height-finder radar replaced one of the FPS-6A radars. With the closure of the Adair SAGE Direction Center DC-13, Keno AFS was reassigned on 15 Sep 1969 to the McChord SAGE Direction Center DC-12.

Gap Filler Radars

Keno 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 gap-fillers that Keno was responsible for were located in Yreka, California and La Pine, Oregon. The La Pine site never activate because the radar tower blew down in the winter of 1959.

Keno AFS Gap Filler Radar Sites (edit list)
ADC NORAD Location State Type From To GPS Notes
TM-180A Z-180A Yreka CA FPS-18, FST-1 1959 1960 41.738333,
-122.776667

BUIC System

Keno AFS BUIC Operations Building, FPS-90 tower (L), FPS-67 tower (C), FPS-6 tower (R).


Keno AFS became a BUIC I GCI site in 1962 and was operational as a BUIC II site on 1 Mar 1966. Keno was selected as a BUIC III site and in 1970 the 827th Radar Squadron (SAGE) became the 827th Air Defense Group (BUIC). The BUIC III system provided a backup for a SAGE direction center with the GSA-51A 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-51A 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. Some sources say that the Keno BUIC System continued to operate until 1977 and was the last BUIC site to close on the west coast.

Post BUIC Operation

The site was operated as a joint-use site by the USAF/FAA starting in the early 1960s and at some point, the FAA took over operation and maintenance of the search radar FPS-67B. The FST-2 was replaced in the early 1970s by the FYQ-47. The FYQ-47 was installed in the FPS-67B tower and maintained by the FAA. The FPS-90 was removed in 1976 and sent to the JSS site at Salem (Laurel Mtn./Dallas), Oregon. In 1979 the site came under TAC jurisdiction, the one remaining height-finder radar was upgraded to a FPS-116 and later retired circa 1988, leaving only the FPS-67B search radar. The Air Force equipment that remained at the site had been maintained over the years by operating locations (OL) of the 25th Air Division at McChord AFB.

With the deactivation of the site, the abandoned Air Force buildings were removed in the early 1990s and a much smaller compound was established for the FAA search radar and other facilities. The site became Klamath Falls FAA Radar Site still using the FPS-67B search radar. That radar set was upgraded to the Common Air Route Surveillance Radar (CARSR) circa 2015.



Keno AFS Major Equipment List
Search Radar HF Radar Data Systems Comm
Unit Designations
  • 827th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron (1957-1960)
  • 827th Radar Squadron (SAGE) (1960-1970)
  • 827th Air Defense Group (1960-1979)
  • Transfered to TAC 1 Oct 1979
827th Assignments


Keno Air Force Station Partial Commanders List (edit list)
Assumed Relieved Rank Name Cullum Notes
1963~ Major Nelson, G.I. N/A
1966~ Lt. Colonel Mize, John P. N/A
1970~ Lt. Colonel Wood, Richard A. N/A
Dates are formatted in yyyy-mm-dd to sort correctly.
The Cullum Number is the graduation order from the United States Military Academy by year and class rank and links to a page for the officer on the website version of the Cullum Register. Listings without a Cullum Number indicate that the person was not a graduate of the United States Military Academy.

Current Status

Now operated by the FAA as Klamath Falls FAA Radar Site. Most of the main Air Force buildings have been leveled including the operations complex, the power generation buildings, the two height-finder towers and the dining hall. Among those USAF buildings still remaining is the motor pool building, the search radar tower and the GATR radio site-building. Several smaller buildings associated with the infrastructure can still be seen. The smaller FAA compound is surrounded by a fence.

  • 2012 - On 12 Jul 2012 a Joint Tech Inspection was conducted at the site by Western Air Defenses Sector (WADS), Oregon Air National Guard (OANG) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) personnel. Photos from that inspection show the FPS-67B still in place on the old Air Force tower with a solid radome. Interior photos show the old FPS-67B (ARSR) and ATCBI-6 (ATCRB) equipment and indicate that this is a pre CARSR configuration. The photos also show legacy Rivet Switch radios being removed after being replaced with CM-300/350 and URC-200 equipment.
  • 2015 - Now listed as having been updated to a CARSR connfiguration.

Location: Keno, Klamath County, Oregon.

Maps & Images

Lat: 42.06889 Long: -121.97222

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 150
  • 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 86, 171

Links:

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