Tierra Amarilla Air Force Station
Tierra Amarilla Air Force Station (1950-1958) - A Cold War Air Force Radar Station first established in 1950 near El Vado, NM as Lashup Site L-44 to provide coverage for Los Alamos nuclear facilities. Moved northeast to Tierra Amarilla, Rio Arriba County, New Mexico as site LP-8. Renamed Tierra Amarilla Air Force Station on 1 Dec 1953 and assigned a Permanent ID of P-8. Deactivated in 1958. Original L-44 site known as Los Alamos Lashup Radar Site and El Vado Lashup Radar Site
History of Tierra Amarilla Air Force Station
Initially established by the 767th AC&W Squadron as Lashup Radar Site L-44 on 27 Nov 1950 on a site near the El Vado dam. Known variously as Los Alamos Lashup Radar Site and El Vado Lashup Radar Site it was established to provide radar coverage for the nearby Los Alamos nuclear facilities. Sources differ on exactly when this temporary site was abandoned and the new permanent site, designated LP-8 became operational. It appears that the new site was operational by September 1952 and on 1 Dec 1953 the new site was named Tierra Amarilla Air Force Station with a Permanent ID of L-8.
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 at the first lashup site included the CPS-5 search radar. After the move to the new site an FPS-3 and FPS-5 were in operation in 1953. The FPS-5 was said to have been replaced about 1957 by an FPS-6 height-finder radar. Available information on the FPS-5 indicates that it was a search radar so this seems unlikely.
Deactivated in 1958.
The physical plant of the site was divided into the main site, a cantonment area, a housing area, a trailer park and two radio sites. 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 and distant from the main site was a small housing area for critical married personnel. The housing area seems to have been located at or near the original site location by El Vado Dam. Two separate Ground to Air Transmitter/Receiver (GATR) radio sites housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts.
Abandoned sites near El Vado Dam and Tierra Amarilla, Rio Arriba County, New Mexico. The site at El Vado Dam appears to have been overbuilt with private housing.