Richmond Air Force Station
Richmond Air Force Station (1959-1992) - A Cold War U.S. Air Force Radar Station established in 1959. Located on the former Richmond Naval Air Station, Miami-Dade County, Florida. Initially assigned a Sage ID of Z-210 and later a JSS ID of J-06. Included the joint use Richmond FAA Radar Site (1959-1992) and Homestead Army Air Defense Command Post HM-01DC (1962-1979). Destroyed in 1992 by hurricane Andrew and abandoned. Coverage replaced by a new joint use Tamiami FAA Radar Site (J-06A) at Tamiami, Florida.
Established in 1959 and became operational in 1959 with an FAA ARSR-1 radar feeding radar data manually to FAA Air Route Traffic Control Centers and USAF Direction Centers. The 644th Radar Squadron (SAGE) was activated on 25 Apr 1960 at Richmond Air Force Station.
In 1960 a communications & electronics building was constructed. It was built to house Radar Maintenance, Anti-Jamming Operations, a Communications Center and an FST-2 coordinate data transmitter.
Early in 1961, FPS-6 height-finders and the FST-2 computer were installed. This configuration (a SAGE qualified long-range search radar and two SAGE qualified height-finders) met the requirements for transition to SAGE System 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.
SAGE System Operation
The site began operation as a SAGE site in 1961 initially feeding the Gunter SAGE Direction Center DC-09. With the closure of the Gunter SAGE Direction Center DC-09 in 1969, control of the site was switched to the Fort Lee SAGE Direction Center DC-04 on 14 Nov 1969.
The Cuban missile crisis in October 1962 reinforced the need for the coverage provided by Richmond AFS, and upgrades to the site followed. A new AC&W Operations building was constructed for manual ground control intercept (GCI) NORAD missions. A Ground to Air Transmit-Receive (GATR) site was completed by November 1962. A headquarters building was added in July 1962 with an orderly room containing offices for the commander and first sergeant. A diesel backup power system was installed in 1964. All of these things would have already existed in a normal Air Force radar site but Richmond AFS started with just an FAA radar and no infrastructure.
Homestead Army Air Defense Command Post HM-01DC (1962-1979)
To further complicate matters, in 1962 the U.S. Army Air Defense Command Post HM-01DC (AADCP) was co-located within the Air Force Station as a part of the NIKE System. A separate building was constructed for the AADCP. Radar data from the FAA ARSR-1 radar was shared with USAF/USA/FAA equipment and facilities. From the AADCP building, the Nike-Hercules and Hawk missile batteries located in various strategic parts of South Florida were integrated into the SAGE System. The AADCP was initially equipped with the Army GSG-5 BIRDIE system later upgraded to the FSG-l Missile-Master in 1965.
Unlike most of the NIKE System which was deactivated by 1969, the AADCP continued in operation at Richmond AFS until 1979.
A new NCO club was completed in 1971.
By February 1973 the vacuum tube FST-2 Coordinate Data Processor had been replaced by the much smaller solid-state FYQ-47 Common Digitizer as a part of a USAF/FAA wide replacement program.
On 1 Feb 1974, the squadron was redesignated the 644th Radar Squadron, dropping the (SAGE) descriptor.
On 1 Jul 1976, the manual NORAD GCI mission at Richmond AFS changed to just a radar surveillance mission and manpower authorizations at the site dropped to just 39 personnel. One FPS-6 height-finder radar was removed, and the remaining FPS-6 was modified to an FPS-116 configuration about 1977.
Richmond AFS was responsible for the maintenance of three 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 Richmond AFS gap-filler radars were located at Naples FL, Long Key FL, and Jupiter FL.
644th Radar Squadron Deactivation
The 644th Radar Squadron was deactivated on 1 Apr 1978 and the Air Force equipment remaining on Homestead AFS was then operated and maintained by detached elements of the 20th Air Defense Squadron. The site itself was transferred to the FAA. The remaining FPS-116 Air Force height-finder was removed about 1988.
Richmond FAA Radar Site
The FAA continued to operate the search radar which had been upgraded in 1965 to become an ARSR-1E.
In 1982 the FPS-116 height finder was supported by USAF operating location OLAK 20th ADS with 6 USAF operations personnel. It was removed about 1988.
A FYQ-47 Common Digitizer was probably placed in service by February 1973 when the USAF/FAA FST-2 to FYQ-47 replacement program was completed. By 1990 the site was equipped with an ARSR-1E search radar and a CD-2C Common Digitizer. The Richmond CD-2C was scheduled to receive an upgrade kit to implement three level weather data processing in December 1992.
On 24 Aug 1992, Hurricane Andrew struck the Florida coast and the Richmond FAA Radar Site was impacted directly. The FAA radar tower was blown down and the antenna severely damaged. The FAA chose to relocate the site and install a newer and more capable ARSR-4 3D radar located at Tamiami, Florida (the first ARSR-4 installed). The Tamiami FAA Radar Site now operates as JSS site J-06A. The Richmond AFS site was abandoned.
Remains of some site buildings. All three towers are gone. GATR Site is in private hands.