Thomasville Air Force Station

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Thomasville Air Force Station (1959-1969) - A Cold War Air Force Radar Station first established in 1959 near Thomasville, Clarke County, Alabama. Named Thomasville Air Force Station after the location. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of TM-197, later a Sage ID of Z-197. Abandoned in 1969.

Thomasville AFS Former Operations Building.
Thomasville AFS Former FPS-35 Building.
Thomasville AFS Entance with the FPS-35 Tower in the Background.


FPS 35 Model at Peterson AFB Museum.

Established in 1959 and became operational in 1959 as Thomasville Air Force Station manned by the 698th 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 a prototype model of the FPS-35 search radar and two FPS-90 height-finder radar sets.

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

Former Gunter SAGE Direction Center DC-09
698th SAGE Direction Centers & Sectors
Assigned Direction Center Sector
15 Nov 1958 - 1 Nov 1959 Dobbins Air Force Base 32nd Air Division
1 Nov 1959 - 1 Apr 1966 Gunter SAGE Direction Center DC-09 Montgomery Air Defense Sector
1 Apr 1966 - 31 Dec 1969 Gunter SAGE Direction Center DC-09 32nd Air Division

The Montgomery Advertiser newspaper carried an 11 May 1959 article that indicated the FST-2 at Thomasville AFS had been installed the previous week. The site began operation as a SAGE site later in 1959, initially feeding the Gunter SAGE Direction Center DC-09. On 1 Oct 1959, the squadron designation was changed from the 698th AC&W Squadron to 698th Radar Squadron (SAGE) indicating the new SAGE System role.


On 29 Oct 1969, the Pentagon publicly announced the scheduled closure of Thomasville Air Force Station by January 1970. Thomasville AFS and the 698th Radar Squadron were deactivated on 31 Dec 1969.

Physical Plant

The physical plant of the site was divided into the main site, a cantonment area, a housing 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. Apart from the main site was a small 27 unit housing area for married personnel. A separate Ground to Air Transmitter/Receiver (GATR) radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts.

Thomasville AFS Major Equipment List
Search Radar HF Radar Data Systems
Unit Designations
  • 698th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron (1957-1959)
  • 698th Radar Squadron (SAGE) (1959-1969)
698th Assignments
  • Dec 1957 - Activated at Dobbins AFB, GA, assigned to 35th AD.
  • Sep 1958 - Moved to Thomasville AFS, AL.
  • 15 Nov 1958 - Transferred to 32nd AD. Dobbins Air Force Base
  • 1 Oct 1959 - Redesignated from AC&W Sq to 698th Radar Sq (SAGE).
  • 1 Nov 1959 - Transferred to Montgomery ADS. Gunter SAGE Direction Center DC-09
  • 1 Apr 1966 - Reassigned to 32nd AD Gunter SAGE Direction Center DC-09
  • 31 Dec 1969 - Inactivated.

Thomasville Air Force Station Partial Commanders List (edit list)
Assumed Relieved Rank Name Cullum Notes
1960~ Captain Craig, John N/A
1960~ Major Dunbar, Neal B. N/A
1964~ Lt Colonel Fogarty, George H. N/A

Current Status

Now LifeTech Transition Center, operated by the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles. Some of the former Air Force buildings including the FPS-35 radar tower and the operations building remain.

Location: LifeTech Transition Center, 2115 Bashi Road, Thomasville, Clarke County, Alabama.

Maps & Images

Lat: 31.93722 Long: -87.75083

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 161.
  • 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 94.
  • USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) Database Entry: 2090213


Visited: 19 Apr 2016

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