Montauk Air Force Station
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.
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 In 1952 they had been replaced by an FPS-3 and an FPS-5.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 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.
Montauk AFS and the 773rd were deactivated in 1981.
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.