Montauk Air Force Station

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Montauk Air Force Station (1951-1981) - A Cold War Air Force Radar Station first established in 1951 at Montauk Point, Suffolk County, New York. Moved to Camp Hero by 1 Feb 1952. Named Montauk Air Force Station after the location on 1 Dec 1953. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of LP-45 and later a Sage ID of Z-45. Abandoned by the Air Force in 1981.

Montauk Air Force Station FPS-35 Tower and Antenna

History

Established in 1951 at the site of an existing radar site and became operational in 1951 and later named Montauk Air Force Station manned by the 773rd 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 CPS-5 search radar and a TPS-10A height-finder radar. In 1952 they had been replaced by an FPS-3 and an FPS-5. Between 1955-1956 an FPS-8/GPS-3 was installed. One of the first FPS-20 search radars was installed in 1957 along with two FPS-6 height-finders. This was the baseline configuration for SAGE 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.

The site began operation as a SAGE site in 1958 initially feeding the McGuire SAGE Direction Center DC-01. The search radar was upgraded to an FPS-35 in December 1960 but problems with interference delayed its operational date until 1962. In 1963 one of the FPS-6 height-finder radars was replace with an FPS-26. With the closure of DC-01 on 30 Sep 1968 control changed to the Hancock SAGE Direction Center DC-03.

Gap Filler Radars

Montauk AFS was responsible for the maintenance of two remote unattended gap-filler radar sites. 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 Montauk AFS gap-filler radars were located at Manorville, NY and Chilmark, MA.

Montauk AFS Gap Filler Radar Sites (edit list)
ADC NORAD Location State Type From To GPS Notes
LP-45A Z-45A Manorville NY FPS-14, FST-1 1957 1968 40.851667,
-72.767361
Long Island
LP-45B Z-45B Chilmark MA FPS-14, FST-1 1957 1968 41.355278,
-70.735278
Martha's Vineyard

BUIC System

Montauk AFS became a BUIC I GCI site in 1962 and went operational as a BUIC II site on 1 Apr 1966. The BUIC II system provided a backup for a SAGE direction center and provided the ability to display sector wide radar data on consoles for local weapons controllers. The system duplicated the functionality of the vacuum tube direction center computers with more up-to-date computers and replaced the FST-2 with a more up-to-date coordinate data transmitter, the FYQ-47. As the threat from a soviet bomber fleet lessened the decision came to mothball the BUIC system in 1974. Montauk AFS and the 773rd were deactivated in 1981.

Closure

Montauk AFS and the 773rd were deactivated in 1981.


Montauk AFS Major Equipment List
Search Radar HF Radar Data Systems
Unit Designations
  • 773rd Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron (1951-1958)
  • 773rd Radar Squadron (SAGE) (1958-1974)
  • 773rd Radar Squadron (1974-1979)
  • 773rd Radar Squadron (TAC) (1979-1981)
773rd Assignments
  • 1 Jan 1951 Assigned as 773rd Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron at Montauk Point, NY
  • 1 Jan 1951 - 6 Feb 1952 Assigned to 503rd AC&W Group
  • 1 Feb 1952 - Moved to Camp Hero
  • 6 Feb 1952 - 16 Feb 1953 Assigned to 26th AD
  • 16 Feb 1953 - 1 Mar 1956 Assigned to 4709th Defense Wing
  • 1 Dec 1953 - Site renamed to Montauk Air Force Station
  • 1 Mar 1956 - 8 Jul 1956 Assigned to 4707th AD Wing
  • 8 Jul 1956 - 18 Oct 1956 Assigned to 4709th Defense Wing
  • 18 Oct 1956 - 8 Jan 1957 Assigned to 4621st AD Wing
  • 8 Jan 1957 - 1 Apr 1966 Assigned to NY ADS
  • 1 Oct 1958 - Redesignated 773rd Radar Squadron (SAGE)
  • 1 Apr 1966 - 1 Dec 1967 Assigned to 21st AD
  • 1 Dec 1967 - 19 Nov 1969 Assigned to 35th AD
  • 19 Nov 1969 - 31 Jan 1981 Assigned to 21st AD
  • 1 Feb 1974 - Redesignated 773rd Radar Squadron
  • 1979 - Redesignated 773rd Radar Squadron (TAC)
  • 31 Jan 1981 - Deactivated


Montauk Air Force Station Partial Commanders List (edit list)
Assumed Relieved Rank Name Cullum Notes
1956-09-24 Lt Colonel Wolf, Daniel N/A
1960~ Major Weinig, John W. N/A
1977~ Major Hoskins, N/A
1978 1981 Major Martin, Miles N/A Last Cmdr

Current Status

Part of Camp hero State Park, abandoned at Montauk Point, Suffolk County, New York. The FPS-35 tower and antenna remain in place with the antenna freewheeling to prevent wind damage, motors and drive removed.


Location: Montauk Point in Suffolk County, New York.

Maps & Images

Lat: 41.0638889 Long: -71.8752778

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 167.
  • 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 141.
  • NORAD/CONAD Historical Summary Jan-Dec 1966, dated 1 May 1967, Command History Division, HQ NORAD/CONAD, Unclassified (originally classified Secret), pdf, pages 28-31, Backup Intercept Control Systems
  • USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) Database Entry: 2091467


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