McChord Air Force Base Radar Site

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McChord Air Force Base Radar Site (1950-1960) - A Cold War Air Force Radar Station first established in 1950 on McChord Air Force Base, Pierce County, Washington. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of P-1. Moved to Fort Lawton Air Force Station in 1960.

McChord Air Museum in former Radar Station Cantonment Building 517.


Established in 1950 and became operational in 1951 as McChord Air Force Base Radar Site manned by the 635th 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 two CPS-6B search radar sets and later in the mid-1950s one FPS-6 height-finder radar was added.

Site P-1 was relocated to Fort Lawton Air Force Station about June 1960 with a relocated ID of RP-1. The new site was collocated with a U.S. Army Nike Missile Direction Center S-90DC and became SAGE System site Z-1.

Physical Plant

McChord Radar Site Plan

The physical plant of the site was divided into the main operations site, a cantonment 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, and other support buildings. A separate Ground to Air Transmitter/Receiver (GATR) radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts. Adjacent to the radar operations area was the 25th Air Division manual control center.

McChord Air Force Base Radar Site AFS Major Equipment List
Search Radar HF Radar Data Systems
Unit Designations while at McChord
  • 635th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron (1950-1960)
635th Assignments
Date Action Direction Center Operation Notes
1 Jan 1951 Assigned at McChord AFB, WA, assigned to the 505th AC&W Gp Unknown Manual
6 Feb 1952 Transferred to the 25th AD. McChord P-4 Manual
Jan 1955 Transferred to the 4704th Def Wg McChord P-4 Manual
8 Oct 1954 Transferred to the 25th AD McChord P-4 Manual
8 Jan 1958 SAGE DC Activated McChord DC-12 Manual
1 Mar 1960 Transferred to Seattle ADS McChord DC-12 Manual
11 Jun 1960 Moved to Fort Lawton Air Force Station (RP-1)
redesignated 635th Radar Sq (SAGE)

Current Status

Former McChord AFB Radar Site Operations Building Repurposed as Servicemember and Family Readiness Center, Building 552.

The main operational site is repurposed and in use as components of the base Readiness Center. Several original buildings remain but have been refurbished/rebuilt. Across from the old radar site operations building is the old 25th AD Manual Direction Center, building 555, the predecessor of the nearby McChord SAGE Direction Center DC-12. The manual direction center is now in use by the base civil engineer. In the cantonment area, only one building remains and it is in use as the McChord Air Museum.

McChord Air Force Base Radar Site Structures (edit list)
Number Building Area Currently
509 AC&W Sqdn Bks Cantonment Gone
510 AC&W Sqdn Bks Cantonment Gone
511 AC&W Sqdn Bks Cantonment Gone
512 AC&W Sqdn Bks Cantonment Gone
513 AC&W Sqdn Bldg Cantonment Gone
514 AC&W Sqdn Bldg Cantonment Gone
515 AC&W Sqdn Bldg Cantonment Gone
516 AC&W Sqdn Bldg Cantonment Gone
517 AC&W Sqdn Bldg Cantonment McChord Air Museum
518 AC&W Sqdn Mess Hall Cantonment Gone
519 Receivers Radio Gone
520 HQ
521 HQ
522 HQ Credit Union
526 HQ
530 25th AD Admin HQ Bank
551 Power Plant Ops Readiness Ctr Annex
552 Radar Ops Ops Readiness Ctr
553 Ops Resiliency Ctr
554 25th AD HQ HQ Gone
555 Manual DC HQ Civil Engineers
CPS-6B Ops Gone
FPS-6 Ops Gone

Location: On McChord Air Force Base in Pierce County, Washington.

Maps & Images

Lat: 47.12417 Long: -122.49222

  • Multi Maps from ACME
  • Maps from Bing
  • Maps from Google
  • Elevation: 322'

GPS Locations:

See Also:


  • 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 155.
  • 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 164.


Fortification ID:

  • WA0204 - McChord Air Force Base Radar Site

Visited: 23 Sep 2015, 30 Apr 2014

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