Las Cruces Air Force Station
Las Cruces Air Force Station (1954-1963) - A Cold War Air Force Radar Station first established in 1954 near Las Cruces, Dona Ana County, New Mexico. Named Las Cruces Air Force Station after the location. Initially part of a mobile deployment but assigned a Permanent ID of M-95. Abandoned in 1963.
History of Las Cruces Air Force Station
Established 1 Dec 1954 and operational in 1955 as Las Cruces Air Force Station manned by the 685th 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 MPS-7 search radar. In the next two years equipment additions and deletions included MPS-8 height-finder, TPS- 1D, and a MPS-14 height-finder but by 1958 the site was operating an FPS-20 search radar and a MPS-14 height-finder.
Las Cruces AFS was responsible for the maintenance of four remote unattended gap-filler radar sites. The gap-filler sites were placed in locations where the main search radar lacked coverage. These sites sent digitized radar target data directly to a direction center. Maintenance teams were dispatched from Las Cruces AFS for regularly scheduled maintenance or when fault indicators suggested the site had problems. The Las Cruces AFS gap-filler radars were located at El Paso, Texas; Columbus, New Mexico; Sierra Blanca, Texas and Gage, New Mexico. Two additional sites were planned but not built.
The Air Force ordered the site shut down in March 1963 and operations ceased in April 1963. Las Cruces AFS and the 685th were deactivated 1 Aug 1963.
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 two radar towers, and the backup generators. The nearby cantonment area housed the enlisted barracks, the bachelor officer's quarters, the orderly room, the dining hall, the motor pool and other support buildings. Most of the buildings in the cantonment area were postwar Quonset hut type buildings. Apart from the main site was a small 27 unit family housing area for critical married personnel. A separate Ground to Air Transmitter/Receiver (GATR) radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts.
Part of Dona Ana County Fairgrounds on I-10 west of Las Cruces in Dona Ana County, New Mexico. The MPS-14 height-finder radar tower remains as does the operations building both repurposed. The FPS-20 tower is gone. Many of the cantonment buildings (and Quonset huts) remain and are repurposed as fairgrounds buildings. All of the 27 unit family housing area is gone, reportedly moved by the Air Force before the site closed. The MPS-14 tower is still recognizable from nearby I-10.
Visited: 2 Apr 2015