Port Isabel Air Force Station
Port Isabel Air Force Station (1959-1961) - A Cold War U.S. Air Force Radar Station. Located on the former Port Isabel Navy Auxiliary Air Station near Port Isabel, Cameron County, Texas. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of TM-190. Closed in 1961.
Established in January 1958 and became operational in 1959 as Port Isabel Air Force Station manned by the 811th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron.
This station was one of eight stations established in the final phase of the Permanent AC&W Radar Program for the 33rd Air Division. The 33rd Air Division would remain a manual operation throughout the transition of the rest of the Air Defense System to the semi-automatic SAGE System. The Oklahoma City Manual Direction Center P-86 remained connected to these sites until they closed down one by one. Because the sites were never destined to become SAGE sites they received older less capable equipment and facilities and they were among the first to be closed when budgets constricted. The eight sites were:
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 FPS-3A search radar and a FPS-6 height-finder radar.
Manual System Operation
In January 1958, the 811th AC&W Squadron moved to Port Isabel Air Force Station assigned to the 33rd Air Division Headquartered at Oklahoma City Air Force Station. The 33rd Air Division provided command and control over subordinate radar stations from the Oklahoma City Manual Direction Center P-86 also located on Oklahoma City Air Force Station. The Direction Center was connected to Port Isabel via telephone lines and track data could be passed from Port Isabel AFS Operations via voice, teletype, and encrypted teletype.
The Pentagon publicly announced the closure of Port Isabel AFS on 18 Jul 1960, indicating it would close by 1 Jan 1961. A the time of the announcement the station was said to have some 90 officers and men. Port Isabel Air Force Station and the 811th AC&W Squadron were deactivated on 1 Jun 1961.
Note: From newspaper articles
Now the Port Isabel ICE Detention Center. Little or no trace of the Air Force Station.