Murphy Dome Air Force Station

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Murphy Dome Air Force Station (sssss-Present) - A Cold War Air Force Station. Initially functioned as a Ground Control Intercept (GCI) radar site, with a Permanent System ID of F-02. Later redesignated a surveillance site and manual Direction Center. Became a minimally attended radar site in 1992 and was redesignated as Murphy Dome Long-Range Radar Site with a JSS ID of A-02. Active Long-Range radar site.

Murphy Dome Air Force Station in the 1960s.

Murphy Dome Air Force Station

Construction began in June 1950 and was completed in July 1951 by two companies, Peter Kiewit and Sons and Morrison-Knudsen Construction Company for a total of $4,581,777. The site was partially operational in September 1951 and fully operational in the spring of 1952 as Murphy Dome Air Force Station. Initially manned by a detachment of the 532nd Aircraft Control and Warning Group and later by the 744th AC&W Squadron.

Initial equipment included the CPS-6B search radar and one FPS-8 height finder radar. The radars were upgraded to one FPS-20 search radar and one FPS-90 height finder radar. Later the FPS-20 was upgraded to a FPS-93A search radar.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and the Alaska NORAD Region (ANR) were created in 1957. Murphy Dome AFS became one of four NORAD Control Centers in Alaska. Murphy Dome AFS shared its radar data with the U.S. Army Air-Defense Command Post (AADCP) FSQ-34 Nike missile-defense system in the Fairbanks Defense Area (1959-1971).

The CPS-6B radar was removed in July 1958, the FPS-8 was active until the Nike sites were inactivated in 1971. The GPA-37 Course Directing analog computer system was installed in the 1960-1961 time frame. The FYQ-9 Semiautomatic Data Processing and Display System became operational in 1965, eliminating the need to pass aircraft track data manually.

Murphy Dome Long-Range Radar Site

A FPS-117 Minimally Attended Radar (MAR) was delayed and not installed until the summer of 1992. The site was re-designated as Murphy Dome Long-Range Radar Site. The Long-Range radar site was connected to the Elmendorf JSS ROCC which had been activated on 14 Jun 1983. The FPS-117 radar fed data to the ROCC FYQ-93 computers via satellite.

The ROCC evolved into the Regional Air Operations Center (RAOC) which now operates with the Battle Control System-Fixed (BCS-F) FYQ-156 computer system. The RAOC is currently a component of the Alaska NORAD Region (ANR) and is operated by active Alaska Air National Guard members, Canadian service members, and active duty augmentees.

Physical Plant

Murphy Dome Plan

The physical plant of the site was originally divided into a main site, a cantonment area and two radio sites. The main site housed the radar towers and the operations building. The cantonment area housed two sets of Bachelor NCO Quarters, three sets of Bachelor Airmen Quarters (BAQ), two sets of Bachelor Officer's Quarters (BOQ), the orderly room, the dining hall, power plant and other support areas in a series of interconnected frame buildings. No family housing was provided as this was considered a remote unaccompanied tour (1 year). The picture above shows the site in the 1960s with four radomes in place.

A steel operations LRRS building was built to support the FPS-117 MAR radar. The former AC&W buildings were left standing and boarded-up for years. One of the two original radar domes was modernized to house the FPS-117 and the others were leveled.

White Alice (1955-1979)

After HF systems proved inadequate for command and control communications, the Air Force implemented the White Alice Communications System. This was a system of tropospheric scatter and microwave radio relay sites constructed during the mid-1950s to provide reliable communications to Alaska Air Command (AAC) AC&W system.

The Murphy Dome White Alice TD-2 Microwave Site was activated on May 1957. It was inactivated on May 1979 and replaced by an Alascom-owned satellite earth terminal.

A separate radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts. Initially, two radio sites were built, one for receivers and the other for transmitters. These were consolidated into a the original transmitter site by the time the photo above was taken in the 1960s. The radio site can be identified by the tall antenna poles on the left side of the photo.


Murphy Dome AFS Major Equipment List
Search Radar HF Radar Data Systems Radio
  • TD-2 Mircowave
Unit Designations
  • 744th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron (1953-1983)
744th Assignments
  • Spring 1952 - Detatchment, 532nd Aircraft Control and Warning Group.
  • 1 Feb 1953 - 532d Aircraft Control and Warning Group.
  • 1 Oct 1977 - 531st Aircraft Control and Warning Group.
  • 1 Jul 1981 - 11th Tactical Control Group.
  • 1 Nov 1983 - Inactivated.


Murphy Dome AFS Partial Commanders List (edit list)
Assumed Relieved Rank Name Cullum Notes
1955 1956 Major Newton, N/A
1956 1957 Lt. Colonel Fink, Ord J. N/A
1957 1958 Captain Delise, Dominic N/A
1960 1961 Lt. Colonel Shiver, Julius D. N/A
1961 1962 Lt. Colonel Chiles, N/A
1962 1963 Lt. Colonel Kidd, N/A
1963 Colonel Underwood, N/A
1963 1964 Lt.Colonel Weed, Willie N/A
1964 1965? Lt. Colonel Ruick, N/A
1966 1967 Colonel Tidwell, Samual N/A
1967 Colonel Clemons, Billy N/A
1968 1968 Lt. Colonel Schanberger, N/A
1968 1969 Colonel King, N/A
1970 1971 Colonel King, John P. N/A
1973 Colonel Kaphammer, N/A
1973 Lt. Colonel Mahaffee, N/A
1976-07 1977-07 Colonel Holland, William E. N/A
1977 1978 Colonel Stamps, Arthur E. N/A
1978 1979 Lt. Colonel Kelenhofer, N/A
1979 Lt. Colonel Green, N/A
1980 1981 Lt. Colonel Owens, N/A
1982 Lt. Colonel Pickford, N/A
1983 1983 Lt. Colonel Green III, Walter G. N/A

List compiled from various sources.

Current Status

Active long-range radar site but most of the old AC&W site buildings have been demolished. The site has also had an environmental remediation project that has further erased signs of the old AC&W site and the White Alice tropo site. What remains is the FPS-117 Building and the steel operations LRRS building.


Location: Near Fairbanks in Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska.

Maps & Images

Lat: 64.95194 Long: -148.35681

See Also:

Sources:

  • Denfeld, D. Colt Ph.D., The Cold War In Alaska: A Management Plan For Cultural Resources, 1994-1999, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, August 1994, 327 pages, Pdf, page 161-162.
  • History of the Aircraft Control and Warning System in Alaska: Air Defense of Arctic Skies, Argonne National Laboratory, Illinois, 2002 updated 2013, 140 pages, Pdf, page 32-34.

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