Selfridge Air Force Base Radar Site

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Selfridge Air Force Base Radar Site (1952-1974) - A Cold War Air Force Radar Station first established in 1952 on Selfridge Air Force Base, Macomb County, Michigan. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of P-20, later a Sage ID of Z-20. Abandoned in 1974.

Selfridge AFB Radar Site, FPS-26 after Closure, Building 1031
Selfridge AFB Radar Site, USAF FPS-6 Tower after Closure, Building 1041
Selfridge AFB Radar Site after Closure, FPS-26 Tower in Center, FPS-35 Tower in the Back, Heating Plant on the Right.

History

First established as a Lashup System Radar Site L-17 in 1949 with a CPS-5 search radar. Joined the permanent radar network in 1952 as site LP-20 and became operational using a pair of CPS-6 radar sets manned by the 661st 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.

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 on 1 Oct 1959 initially feeding the Custer SAGE Direction Center DC-06. The search radar was upgraded to an FPS-20 and then to FPS-35 in 1961. One FPS-6 height-finder was removed and the other was replaced with a FPS-26A height-finder radar. In 1969 the Custer SAGE Direction Center DC-06 closed and the Selfridge SAGE site was switched to the Duluth SAGE Direction Center DC-10 until the site closed in 1974.

NIKE System

In 1954 a U.S. Army NIKE System AADCP command post, D-15DC Selfridge Air Force Base, collocated with the radar site and shared the search radar data. A pre SAGE installation of Air Force GPA-37 equipment was slated to start in May 1959 to provide interim integration with the Army Missile Master system.

The collocated NIKE command post upgraded with a Missile Master Blockhouse and an FSG-1 (Missile Master) acquisition, launch and guidance systems, later upgraded to an FSQ-51 (Missile Mentor) system. The U.S. Army also continued to share search radar data and added two FPS-6 height-finders in addition to the two USAF height-finders.

Closure

The Army deactivated the NIKE command post in June 1974. The Radar Site and the 661st were deactivated on 1 Jul 1974.

Gap Filler Radar Sites

Selfridge AFB Radar Site was responsible for the maintenance of four remote unattended gap-filler radar sites. The gap-filler sites were placed in locations where the main search radar lacked coverage. These sites sent digitized radar target data directly to a direction center. Maintenance teams were dispatched from Selfridge Air Force Base Radar Site AFS for regularly scheduled maintenance or when fault indicators suggested the site had problems. The Selfridge AFB Radar Site gap-filler radars were located at Burnside, MI; Emery MI; Marblehead, OH and Midland, MI.

Selfridge Air Force Base Radar Site AFS Gap Filler Radar Sites (edit list)
ADC NORAD Location State Type From To GPS Notes
P-20A Z-20A Burnside MI FPS-14, FST-1 1957-06 1968-06 43.18162,
-83.05318
P-20B Z-20B Emery MI FPS-18, FST-1 1959-02 1968-06 42.36635,
-83.66254
P-20C Z-20C Marblehead OH FPS-18A, FST-1 1960-11 1968-06 41.53929,
-82.74063
P-20G Z-20G Midland MI FPS-14, FST-1 1957-11 1967-12 43.63429,
-84.42841

Physical Plant

The physical plant of the site was divided into the main site, a cantonment area and a radio site. The main 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. A separate Ground to Air Transmitter/Receiver (GATR) radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts. Before the GATR radio site was built there were separate radio transmitter and receiver sites to the north and south of the main site.

Selfridge Radar Site Plan
Selfridge Air Force Base Radar Site Structures (edit list)
Number Building Area Currently
Exists
Notes
1000 Operations/FST-2/GPA-37 Operations No
1003 North Radio Site Operations No
1004 South Radio Site Operations No
1005 Heating Plant Cantonment No
1007  ? Operations Yes
1008  ? Cantonment Yes
1010  ? Operations Yes
1011  ? Cantonment No
1012 Bachelor Quarters Cantonment No
1013 Bachelor Quarters Cantonment No
1014 Bachelor Quarters Cantonment No
1015 Bachelor Quarters Cantonment No
1016 Bachelor Quarters Cantonment No
1017  ? Cantonment No
1018  ? Cantonment No
1025 Telco Operations Yes
1030 FPS-35 Tower Operations Yes
1031 FPS-26 Tower Operations No
1040 East USAF FPS-6 Tower Operations No
1041 West USAF FPS-6 Tower Operations No
1045  ? Operations Yes
1050 US Army Missile Master Bunker Operations No Destroyed 2005
1051 Power Plant Operations Yes
1060  ? Cantonment Yes
FPS-20 Tower Operations No
US Army East FPS-6 Tower Operations No
US Army West FPS-6 Tower Operations No

Selfridge Air Force Base Radar Site Major Equipment List
Search Radar HF Radar Data Systems Comm

Unit Designations
  • 661st Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron (1951-1959)
  • 661st Radar Squadron (SAGE) (1959-1974)
  • 661st Radar Squadron (1974-1974)
661st Assignments
  • 1 Jan 1951 - Assigned at Selfridge AFB, MI, assigned to the 541st AC&W Gp.
  • 6 Feb 1952 - Transferred to 30th AD.
  • 16 Feb 1953 - Transferred to the 4708th Def Wg.
  • 8 Jul 1956 - Transferred to the 30th AD.
  • 1 Apr 1959 - Transferred to Detroit ADS. (Custer)
  • 1 Sep 1959 - Redesignated from AC&W Sq to 661st Radar Sq (SAGE).
  • 1 Apr 1966 - Transferred to 34th AD. (Custer)
  • 14 Nov 1969 - Reassigned to 29th AD. (Duluth)
  • 19 Nov 1969 - Reassigned to 23rd AD. (Duluth)
  • 1 Feb 1974 - Redesignated 661 Radar Sq.
  • 1 Jul 1974 - Inactivated.


Selfridge Air Force Base Radar Site Partial Commanders List (edit list)
Assumed Relieved Rank Name Cullum Notes
Maj Calhoun, John W. N/A
Lt. Col Sather, Harley N/A
Dates are formatted in yyyy-mm-dd to sort correctly.
The Cullum Number is the graduation order from the United States Military Academy by year and class rank and links to a page for the officer on the website version of the Cullum Register. Listings without a Cullum Number indicate that the person was not a graduate of the United States Military Academy.

Current Status

The Missile Master building was destroyed in 2005. The site is now the Selfridge Air Museum, some original buildings remain. The FPS-35 tower remains.


Location: Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Macomb County, Michigan.

Maps & Images

Lat: 42.62758 Long: -82.83008

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 158.
  • 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 121.

Links:

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