Winnemucca Air Force Station
Winnemucca Air Force Station (1955-1968) - A Cold War Air Force Radar Station first established in 1955 near Winnemucca, Humboldt County, Nevada. Named Winnemucca Air Force Station after the location. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of M-127 and later a Sage ID of Z-127. Abandoned in 1968.
Established in 1955 and became operational in 1956 as Winnemucca Air Force Station manned by the 658th 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 by 1 Mar 1961 initially feeding the Stead SAGE Direction Center DC-16. The search radar was upgraded to an FPS-66 in 1961 and the height-finders were both upgraded to FPS-90s in 1963. With the impending closure of the Stead SAGE Direction Center DC-16 in 1966, Winnemucca was switched to the Adair SAGE Direction Center DC-13 on 1 Apr 1966. One of the FPS-90s was removed in 1967.
Winnemucca AFS and the 658th were deactivated on 18 Jun 1968.
Winnemucca 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 Winnemucca AFS gap-filler radars were located at Quinn River Crossing and Unionville, Nevada.
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. A separate Ground to Air Transmitter/Receiver (GATR) radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts. 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 majority of the cantonment buildings were of the quonset hut variety used in many of the mobile radar sites. Later buildings like the SAGE Annex were of concrete block.
Apart from the cantonment area was a small 18 unit housing area for married personnel. Both the cantonment area and the housing area were located at the base of Winnemucca Mountain on the outskirts of the town of Winnemucca.
The main site and the GATR site were located at the top of the mountain. Like most early radar stations, Winnemucca originally had a radio transmitter site and a separate radio receiver site used by local controllers for voice direction of fighter interceptors to their targets. With the SAGE System, the SAGE Direction centers had the primary task of directing intercepts and the local radio sites were reconfigured, usually into a single site that was known as the Ground to Air Transmitter Receiver (GATR) site. The GATR site communicated with the interceptors from either the local site or the SAGE direction center via voice commands and/or a digital data link.
The cantonment area and housing area are in private hands and have been repurposed. The main site and the GATR site are now commercial radio sites.
Visited: 9 Oct 2016