Santa Rosa Island Air Force Station

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Santa Rosa Island Air Force Station (1952-1963) - A Cold War U.S. Air Force Radar Station established during the Korean War. Located on Santa Rosa Island in Santa Barbara County, California. Assigned a Permanent ID of P-15. Closed in 1963 and relocated to Lompoc Air Force Station, RP-15.

Santa Rosa Island AFS Upper Operations Site in the 1980s.
Santa Rosa Island AFS Cantonment Area from the Pier.
Santa Rosa Island Air Force Station Cantonment Area Sometime After Closure.

Construction

After negotiating a lease with the Vail Company, owners of the island, for 336.5 acres in four parcels, the Air Force hired civilian contractors Morrison Knudsen to construct the facilities. The facilities included a radar operation site, transmitting and receiving sites located at the top of Vail Peak and a cantonment area near the shore at Johnson’s Lee. Also included was a permanent pier to also be located at Johnson’s Lee. The Air Force paid an annual fee of $20,000 for the 15-year lease.

Radar Site Parcels
Parcel Acres Use Location Notes
A 155.0 Radar Operation Area Soledad Mountain and what would later be called Vail Peak
B 131.6 Radio Sites Two knolls on Navy Hill
C 30.0 Cantonment Area Johnsons Lee
D 60.0 Joint use For one mile east of the cantonment area

Construction work was essentially completed by the end of 1951 and a small detachment from the main squadron worked on the island readying it for occupancy by the full squadron.

Transportation support was supplied by the Navy, which provided water transport between Port Hueneme and the construction site. This support included a 78-foot PT boat that transported personnel to and from the island from Port Hueneme and Navy barges that supplied water and bulk cargo to the station.

Operation

The 669th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron officially move in on 13 Feb 1952 and the site achieved Air Defense Net acceptance at 1100 hours on 16 Feb 1952. On activation, the site assumed the coverage of the Camp Cooke Lashup Radar Site (L-41) and Port Hueneme Lashup Radar Site (L-42) and they were subsequently closed. In 1952 the site was operating two FPS-10 radars. In 1955 a FPS-3 search radar was added to the site and in 1956 a GPS-3 backup search radar was added. A MPS-14 height-finder radar was added in 1958.

Note: Some sources indicate that operation was begun with a CPS-6B but Searching the Skies indicates that FPS-10s (CPS-6Bs with fewer components) were operating in 1952. FPS-10 components including the tower had CPS-6B nomenclature tags.


Norton Manual Air-Defense Control Center (ADCC) (P-84) (1955-1960)

From activation until 1 Oct 1959 the 669th reported to the Manual Direction Center at Norton Air Force Base (ADCC) (P-84). In 1959 as the adjacent Norton SAGE Direction Center DC-17 came online, control of the 669th was changed to fall under the new Norton SAGE Direction Center DC-17 and the Los Angeles Air Defense Sector.

At the time of this assignment, Santa Rosa Island AFS had neither the SAGE qualified radar sets (except for one MPS-14) nor the SAGE annex to the operations center that housed the FST-2 required for automatic SAGE operation. The 669th could only provide manual inputs to the Norton SAGE Direction Center DC-17 and the decision was made not to upgrade Santa Rosa Island AFS to automatic operation but to build an entirely new station at Lompoc that would replace Santa Rosa Island AFS and be supported by nearby Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Abandoned Norton SAGE Direction Center DC-17 on the Former Norton AFB, California

Construction on Lompoc AFS began on 1 Nov 1961, the site was activated on 13 Jun 1962 and became operational on 1 Apr 1963 as a SAGE site that bypassed manual operations.

Closure

Santa Rosa Island AFS was deactivated on 31 Mar 1963 and the 669th AC&W Squadron move to Lompoc Air Force Station, RP-15 the next day. The Air Force then abandoned the Santa Rosa Island facility, leaving all buildings, utilities, and much equipment to Vail & Vickers (owners of the island). At the time of abandonment by the Air Force, the site consisted of at least forty buildings and structures.

In the late 1980s, the Army Corps of Engineers removed asbestos and underground storage tanks, and the park service then burned most of the buildings. In the early 1990s, the National Park Service buried the remaining foundations and revegetated the terrain. Only one building remains on the Air Force sites, the Motor Pool maintenance building #147.

Physical Plant

The physical plant of the site was divided into the main operations site, a cantonment area, and two radio sites. The main operations site housed the operations buildings, the radar towers, and the backup generators. The cantonment area housed the enlisted barracks, the bachelor officer's quarters, the orderly room, the dining hall, the motor pool and other support buildings. The site had no family housing area.

Two separate radio sites housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts.



Santa Rosa Island AFS Major Equipment List
Search Radar HF Radar
Unit Designations
  • 669th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron (1952-1963)
669th Assignments
  • 1 Jan 1951 - Assigned at Ft. MacArthur, CA, assigned to 544th AC&W Gp.
  • 6 Feb 1952 - Transferred to 27th AD.
  • 11 Feb 1952 - Moved to Santa Rosa Island, CA.
  • 1 Oct 1959 - Transferred to Los Angeles ADS. (Norton DC-17)
  • 1 Apr 1963 - Moved to Lompoc AFS, CA.
  • 1 Apr 1963 - Redesignated 669th Radar Sq (SAGE) (from AC&W Sq).
  • 1 Apr 1966 - Transferred to 27th AD. (Luke DC-21)
  • 18 Jun 1968 - Discontinued.
Santa Rosa Island Air Force Station Partial Commanders List (edit list)
Assumed Relieved Rank Name Cullum Notes
1952-02-12 Major Hobart, Charles F. N/A First Commander
Major Van Bibber, Charles E. N/A
1963 Colonel Blacker, Jack N/A Last Commander

Current Status

All sites except for building #147 are completely leveled.

Santa Rosa Island AFS Structures (edit list)
Number Building Area Currently
Exists
Notes
 ??? Civil Engineering Maintenance Shop (457 square feet) Cantonment No
101 Squadron Headquarters (3,029 square feet) Cantonment No
102 Officer's Quarters (6,442 square feet) Cantonment No
106 Heating Plant (860 square feet) Cantonment No
106A Water Supply Treatment (101,000 square feet) Cantonment No
107 Building (1,319 square feet) Cantonment No
110 Dispensary (3,200 square feet) Cantonment No
113 Pier, Cargo (279,000 square feet) Cantonment No
114 Building (400 square feet) Cantonment No
125 Airmen Dormitory (5,710 square feet; 2 floors) Cantonment No
126 Airmen Dormitory (5,710 square feet; 2 floors) Cantonment No
127 Airmen Dormitory (5,710 square feet; 2 floors) Cantonment No
128 Airmen Dormitory (5,710 square feet; 2 floors) Cantonment No
129 Airmen Dormitory (5,710 square feet; 2 floors) Cantonment No
131 Dining Hall (4,198 square feet) Cantonment No
133 Technical Training (1,267 square feet) Cantonment No
134 Service Club (1,834 square feet) Cantonment No
135 Recreation (3,360 square feet) Cantonment No
147 Auto Maintenance Shop (2,193 square feet) Cantonment Yes
148 Civil Engineer Maintenance Shop (1,930 square feet) Cantonment No
149 Auto Storage Shed (3,456 square feet) Cantonment No
150 NCO Open Mess (1,137 square feet) Cantonment No
151 Radio Relay (248 square feet) Cantonment No
154 Warehouse (2,138 square feet) Cantonment No
200 Communication Receiver (2,138 square feet) Radio No
210 Communication Transmitter (1,220 square feet) Radio No
300 AC&W Operations (5,995 square feet) Operations No
302 Navaid Tower Operations No
303 Administration Office (1,655 square feet) Operations No
304 Dining Hall (1,621 square feet) Operations No
306 Navaid Tower Operations No
308 Navaid Tower Operations No
1018 Water Storage Tank  ??? No
1019 Water Storage Tank  ??? No

Location: Santa Rosa Island in Santa Barbara County, California.

Maps & Images

Lat: 33.94554 Long: -120.11725

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 159.
  • 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 102.
  • Livingston, D.S. (Dewey), Draft Historic Resource Study, Channel Islands National Park (Excerpt), National Park Service, 2006, archived from islapedia.com, 12 Jan 2018, Pdf

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