Kirksville Air Force Station

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Kirksville Air Force Station (1952-1968) - A Cold War Air Force Radar Station first established in 1952 near Sublette, Adair County, Missouri. Initially named Sublette Air Force Station, renamed Kirksville Air Force Station after the location on 1 Dec 1953. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of P-64, later a Sage ID of Z-64. Abandoned by the Air Force in 1968 with a small area reserved by the FAA for Kirksville FAA Radar Site.

Kirksville FAA Radar Site 2008, former USAF LRR Radar Operations building in the foreground.


Established in 1952 and became operational in April 1952 as Sublette Air Force Station manned by the 790th AC&W Squadron. The station initially had both a Ground-Control Intercept (GCI) and an 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 two FPS-10 search radars. Two FPS-6A height-finder radars were installed in 1958 replacing one of the FPS-10s.

This configuration established the requirements for the transition to the SAGE System operation.

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

Kirksville SAGE Direction Centers & Sectors
Assigned Direction Center Sector
1 Jun 1959 - 1 Apr 1966 Truax SAGE Direction Center DC-07 Chicago Air Defense Sector
1 Apr 1966 - 1 Dec 1967 Truax SAGE Direction Center DC-07 20th Air Division
1 Dec 1967 - 8 Sep 1968 Sioux City SAGE Direction Center DC-22 30th Air Division.

The site began operation as a SAGE site in 1959 initially feeding the Truax SAGE Direction Center DC-07. The remaining FPS-10 was replaced with a FPS-7 search radar in 1963.

With the impending closure of the Truax SAGE Direction Center DC-07 in December 1967, control was shifted to the Sioux City SAGE Direction Center DC-22. That direction center was slated to close in September 1968 and the Kirksville AFS closed at the same time.

Gap Fillers

Kirksville AFS was responsible for the maintenance of one remote unattended gap-filler radar site. 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 Kirksville AFS gap-filler radar was located at Washington, Iowa.

Kirksville AFS Gap Filler Radar Sites (edit list)
ADC NORAD Location State Type From To GPS Notes
P-64A Z-64A Washington IA FPS-18, FST-1 1959-Jul 1967-12 41.27124,
Bldg & tower exist

Kirksville AFS Closure

Kirksville AFS and the 790th were deactivated on 8 Sep 1968. Kirksville AFS was declared surplus on 13 May 1968 even before the site closed. One acre was transferred to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on 2 Oct 1969. On 21 Oct 1970, the remaining property was transferred to Northeast Missouri State University of Kirksville, now Truman State University.

Kirksville FAA Radar Site

On 21 Oct 1970 the Kirksville Air Force Station was turned over to the Northeast Missouri State University except for a small site retained for use by the FAA. The reserved site included five buildings one being the search radar tower and portions of the USAF LLR radar operations building. Recent radars installed at the FAA site include a ARSR-3 that was replaced by a newer minimally attended CARSR radar circa 2015.


Kirksville FAA CARSR Radar Site Radome and Tower in 2020.

The nationwide replacement program converting FAA legacy radar systems to the CARSR radar configuration was completed by 17 Aug 2015 and Kirksville FAA Radar Site was a part of that program. Legacy FAA radars underwent a Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) that replaced key components in the vintage ARSR-1, ARSR-2, FPS-20, FPS-66 and FPS-67 radars. The CARSR program replaced legacy klystron radar transmitters with a solid-state transmitter as well as renovating the radar receiver and signal processor. The CARSR modification also included common digitizer functionality making a separate common digitizer unnecessary. The Kirksville FAA Radar Site is now operating with the CARSR radar. The secondary radar at this site is an ATCBI-6 beacon set.

The radar site data is now available to the USAF/NORAD Battle Control System-Fixed (BCS-F) operations centers (EADS & WADS) as well as the FAA Kansas City ARTCC (ZKC) and adjacent ARTCCs. Other federal agencies have access to the data under the Homeland Security umbrella.

Physical Plant

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. The main site and the cantonment area were located on a 78-acre site about 6 miles north of Kirksville, Missouri. Apart from the main site was a small nine-unit housing area for married personnel.

Just northeast of the main site, a radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts. Like most early radar stations, Kirksville 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 Kirksville AFS receivers were moved into the original transmitter building in a "GATR" configuration in 1964.

Kirksville AFS Major Equipment List
Search Radar HF Radar Data Systems Com Scopes IFF/SIF/Beacon
Unit Designations
  • 790th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron (1952-1959)
  • 790th Radar Squadron (SAGE) (1959-1968)
790th Assignments
  • 1 May 1951 - Activated at Sublette, MO, assigned to 543rd AC&W Gp.
  • 6 Feb 1952 - Transferred to 33rd AD.
  • 1 Dec 1953 - Site redesignated to Kirksville AFS.
  • 1 Mar 1956 - Transferred to 20th AD.
  • 15 Oct 1958 - Transferred to 37th AD.
  • 1 Apr 1959 - Transferred to 30th AD.
  • 1 Jun 1959 - Transferred to Chicago ADS.
  • 1 Nov 1959 - Redesignated from AC&W Sq to 790th Radar Sq (SAGE).
  • 1 Apr 1966 - Transferred to 20th AD.
  • 1 Dec 1967 - Reassigned to 30th AD.
  • 8 Sep 1968 - Discontinued.

Kirksville Air Force Station Partial Commanders List (edit list)
Assumed Relieved Rank Name Cullum Notes
1952~ Major Abercrombie, R. B. N/A
1963~ 1968 Major DeFeis, N/A

Current Status

Abandoned Air Force Station site near Sublette, Adair County, Missouri. Now private property.

Location: Sublette in Adair County, Missouri.

Maps & Images

Lat: 40.29778 Long: -92.57556

  • Multi Maps from ACME
  • Maps from Bing
  • Maps from Google
  • Elevation: 981'

GPS Locations:

See Also:



Visited: 20 Aug 2020

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