Makah Air Force Station
Makah Air Force Station (1950-1988) - A Cold War Air Force Radar Station first established in 1951 near Neah Bay, Clallam County, Washington. First named Neah Bay Air Force Station on 1 Dec 1953 and renamed Makah Air Force Station on 28 Mar 1958 after the local Makah Indian Tribe. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of P-44, later a Sage ID of Z-44 and a JSS ID of J-80. Abandoned as an Air Force Station in 1988, the upper site continues to operate as Makah FAA Radar Site with an FAA ID of QKW.
The main site was established on 15 Dec 1950 and became operational in January 1952 manned by the 758th AC&W Squadron. The new site assumed coverage from Lashup System site L-34 at Neah Bay. 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.
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. The FST-2 Coordinate Data Transmitter was installed at Makah AFS in 1959.
SAGE System Operation
The site began operation as a SAGE site in February 1960 initially feeding the McChord SAGE Direction Center DC-12. The search radar was upgraded to an FPS-7A. The height-finder radar was upgraded to an FPS-90 and an FPS-26A height-finder radar was installed. The FPS-7A was later upgraded to an FPS-107V1. A TPS-43E was temporarily installed at Makah AFS for three weeks when the FPS-107V1 search radar was replaced by the FPS-91A.
In February 1973 the Air Force and the FAA completed an 18-month replacement program, swapping the aging vacuum tube FST-2s with integrated circuit FYQ-47s and FYQ-49s. Makah Air Force Station was a part of that program and would have received an FYQ-47 Common Digitizer.
JSS System Operation
In 1983 the SAGE System deactivated and Makah AFS joined the new JSS System with a JSS ID of J-80 as one of the original members and as one of seven USAF military-operated sites. The USAF maintenance crew consisted of 14 radar, 4 radio, and 4 common digitizer maintenance personnel.
Air Force Station Closure
Makah AFS and the 758th were deactivated 15 Jun 1988 with the upper radar site continuing as a joint-use FAA/USAF JSS Site J-80. The lower site areas were returned to the Makah Tribe.
On the closure of Makah Air Force Station in 1988, a small portion of the upper radar site was configured as an FAA compound for continuing use as a JSS site J-80. Initial equipment for the reconfigured FAA radar site included the FPS-91A search radar which had been put in place circa 1980. The FPS-91/91A was an FPS-20 with a new antenna from Raytheon, a Diplex Gating Unit (DGU), a bandpass filter and other modifications. The FAA had standardized on the FPS-20 and its variants for sites they were to maintain and, at some point before the site closed, they would have assumed maintenance responsibility for it. The USAF FPS-116 height finder was removed concurrently with the closure of the Air Force Station in 1988.
The FAA/USAF joint site now operates an ARSR-4 3D radar on the upper FAA compound as a minimally attended radar and an ATCBI-6M secondary radar (beacon). The ARSR-4 was installed in the 1996-1999 time frame and sometime later the ATCBI-6M Beacon system replaced an earlier version (probably an ATCBI-5).
During the period of joint use, the site fed radar data to both the FAAs Seattle ARTCC and the USAF McChord SAGE Direction Center DC-12 (up to 1983 when it shut down) and after that to the McChord JSS ROCC (1983-2006) and then to the McChord Battle Control System-Fixed (BCS-F) (2006-Current).
The physical plant of the site was divided into an upper area on Bahokus Peak where the main site and the GATR Radio site were located and a lower site with the cantonment and housing areas. The main site housed the operations buildings, the radar towers, and the backup generators. A separate Ground to Air Transmitter/Receiver (GATR) radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts.
The lower area housed the cantonment area with the enlisted barracks, the bachelor officer's quarters, the orderly room, the dining hall, the motor pool, and other support buildings. Apart from the main site was a housing area for married personnel with 7 units for officer housing and 38 units for enlisted personnel. An adjacent area contained a 22 space trailer park.
The cantonment area and housing area were turned back to the Makah Tribe and are now administered by the Makah Tribal Council. Many of the AFS structures remain, repurposed for tribal uses. The main site on Bahokus Peak remains as a joint use USAF/FAA site with an ARSR-4 3D radar. The GATR Radio site now contains commercial radio gear.
Visited: 4 Sep 2015 Lower Site Only