Las Cruces Air Force Station

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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.

Las Cruces AFS MPS-14 Tower Closeup.
Las Cruces AFS Former Recreation/Theater Building.
Las Cruces AFS MPS-14 Tower (left) and Former LRR Radar Operations Building (right).

History of Las Cruces Air Force Station

Las Cruces AFS Former Supply Building.
Las Cruces AFS Former Operations Building Entrance.
Las Cruces AFS Cantonment Street, Barracks at Far End.

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 misssion. The early warnng mission involved tracking and identifing 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.

Gap Fillers

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.

Las Cruces AFS Gap Filler Radar Sites (edit list)
ADC NORAD Location State Type From To GPS Notes
M-95A El Paso TX FPS-14, FST-1 1957 1963 31.82583,
-105.98889
M-95B Columbus NM FPS-14, FST-1 1957 1960 31.79889,
-107.73417
M-95E Sierra Blanca NM FPS-1?, FST-1  ?  ? 31.69806,
-105.3825
M-95G Gage NM FPS-1?, FST-1  ?  ? 32.20722,
-108.12639
Not Operational?

Closure

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.

Physical Plant

The physical plant of the site was divided into a 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.


Las Cruces AFS Major Equipment List
Search Radar HF Radar Data Systems
Unit Designations
  • 685th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron (1953-1963)
685th Assignments
  • 1 Jan 1951 - Assigned at Norton AFB, CA, as the 544th AC&W "Group".
  • 6 Feb 1952 - Inactivated.
  • 1 Dec 1953 - Reactivated and assigned to 4702nd Defense Wing at Geiger Field, WA as 685th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron.
  • Jan 1954 - Moved to Kirtland AFB, NM and transferred to 34th Air Division.
  • Dec 1954 - Moved to Las Cruces, NM.
  • 1 Jan 1960 - Transferred to Albuquerque ADS.
  • 15 Sep 1960 - Transferred to Oklahoma City ADS.
  • 1 Sep 1961 - Transferred to 4752nd Air Defense Wing.
  • 25 Jun 1963 - Transferred to Oklahoma City ADS.
  • 1 Aug 1963 - Discontinued.


Current Status

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.


Location: Dona Ana County Fairgrounds on I-10 west of Las Cruces in Dona Ana County, New Mexico.

Maps & Images

Lat: 32.25944 Long: -106.97667

See Also:

Sources:

  • 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 99.
  • 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 140.
  • USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) Database Entry: 2087776


Links:

Visited: 2 Apr 2015


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