Sweetwater Air Force Station

From FortWiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Sweetwater Air Force Station (1956-1969) - A Cold War Air Force Radar Station first established in 1956 near Sweetwater, Nolan County, Texas. Named Sweetwater Air Force Station after the location. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of M-89, later a Sage ID of Z-89. Abandoned as an Air Force Station in 1969.

Former Sweetwater AFS Recreation Building, Rear Addition. May have been the Army NIKE AADCP.
Former Sweetwater AFS Recreation Building, Repurposed.
Former Sweetwater Air Force Station Radar Operations Building, Repurposed.

History of Sweetwater Air Force Station

Established in 1956 and became operational in 1956 as Sweetwater Air Force Station manned by the 683rd 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.

Initial equipment included the MPS-11 search radar and a TPS-10D height-finder radar. The TPS-10D was replaced by an FPS-6A Height Finder in 1961 and it was later upgraded to an FPS-90. The MPS-11 was replaced by an FPS-67B in the mid 1960s. Sweetwater AFS and the 683rd were deactivated in 1969.

From 1960 to 1966 the Army Air Defense Command Post (AADCP) controlling the Dyess Nike-Hercules anti-aircraft missile sites (DY-10 and DY-50) was co-located with the Sweetwater AFS radar operations. The AADCP used the CSG-5 Battery Integration and Radar Display Equipment (BIRDIE) with inputs from the USAF radars.

Deactivated as an Air Force Station on 30 Sep 1969.

Gap Filler Radars

Sweetwater AFS was responsible for the maintenance of two 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 Sweetwater AFS gap-filler radars were located at Big Spring and Sidney, Texas.

Physical Plant

Former Sweetwater AFS Base Housing, Locked Up

The radar site was housed in a relatively small compound on the west side of Avenger Field, the Sweetwater municipal airport. The physical plant of the site was divided into the main site on the east side of the compound, a cantonment area on the north end, a housing area on the other side of the airport and a radio site in the south end. The main site housed the operations building, the radar towers, the C & E Building 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 cantonment area also housed a large recreation building that contained the BX, photo lab and library. Apart from the main compound was a separate compound on the east side of the airport with a small 24 unit housing area for critical married personnel. A Ground to Air Transmitter/Receiver (GATR) radio site on the south end of the compound housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts.

Sweetwater AFS Major Equipment List
Search Radar HF Radar Data Systems
Unit Designations
  • 683rd Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron (1956-1969)
683rd Assignments
  • 1 Dec 1953 - Activated at Geiger Field, WA, as the 4702nd Defense Wing.
  • by Jan 1954 - Moved to Tinker AFB, OK and transferred to 33rd Air Division.
  • early 1956 - Moved to Sweetwater AFS, TX.
  • 1 Jan 1960 - Transferred to Albuquerque ADS.
  • 15 Sep 1960 - Transferred to Oklahoma City ADS.
  • 1 Sep 1961 - Transferred to 4752nd Air Defense Wing.
  • 25 Jun 1963 - Transferred to Oklahoma City ADS.
  • 1 Apr 1966 - Reassigned to 31st Air Division.
  • 30 Sep 1969 - Inactivated.

Sweetwater AFS Gap Filler Radar Sites (edit list)
ADC NORAD Location State Type From To GPS Notes
M-89B Big Spring TX FPS-18, FST-1 1960 1960 32.23056,
M-89E Sidney TX FPS-18, FST-1 1960 1960 31.911667,

Current Status

Now the Rolling Plains campus of Texas State Technical Institute in Sweetwater, Nolan County, Texas. While some of the original building remain on the main site and cantonment area, most are gone. The recreation building and the operations building have been repurposed. No sign of the two radar towers. The housing area still exists but is gated and appears to be deteriorating.

The map below outlines the main areas of the former radar station with the main site and the radio site outlined in red.

Location: Main site at 300 Homer K Taylor Dr, at Avenger Field, in Sweetwater, Nolan County , Texas. Zoom out to see location of former base housing.

Maps & Images

Lat: 32.46333 Long: -100.47333

See Also:


  • 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 99.
  • 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 157.
  • USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) Database Entry: 2090211


Visited: 29 Apr 2015

Personal tools

Google AdSense