Yuma Air Force Station

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Yuma Air Force Station (1956-1963) - A Cold War Air Force Radar Station first established in 1956 near Yuma, Yuma County, Arizona. Named Yuma Air Force Station after the location. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of SM-162, later a Sage ID of Z-162. Abandoned in 1963. Also known as Vincent Air Force Base Radar Site

History of Yuma Air Force Station

Established in 1956 and became operational in 1956 on Vincent Air Force Base as Vincent Air Force Base Radar Site. Renamed Yuma Air Force Station after Vincent AFB was transferred to the U.S. Marine Corps on 1 Jan 1959. Manned by the 864th 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-7 search radar and an MPS-14 height-finder radar.

SAGE 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.

The site began operation as a SAGE site on 1 May 1961 initially feeding the Luke SAGE Direction Center DC-21.

Gap Fillers

Yuma AFS was responsible for the maintenance of six 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 Yuma AFS gap-filler radars were located at Topock, Poston, Tacna, Stone Cabin, all in Arizona and Corn Springs and Palo Verde in California.


Yuma AFS Gap Filler Radar Sites (edit list)
ADC NORAD Location State Type From To GPS Notes
SM-162A Tacna AZ FPS-14, FST-1 1958-05 1960-12 32.68368,
-114.05219
SM-162B Corn Springs CA 33.64691,
-115.26009
SM-162C Stone Cabin AZ FPS-18, FST-1 1959-02 1960-12 33.23981,
-114.2573
SM-162D Palo Verde CA 33.29761,
-114.74103
SM-162H Topock AZ 34.72239,
-114.25257
SM-162I Poston AZ 33.99338,
-114.40704

Second Site

Vincent Air Force Base was transferred to the Navy on 1 Jan 1959 and the Radar Site on Vincent AFB was renamed Yuma Air Force Station. On 20 July 1962, the base became Marine Corps Air Station Yuma. In June 1962 the Air Force began construction of a second Yuma Air Force Station (RSM-162) on a 20 acre site about 13 miles south of Yuma. Facilities built on the new site included a water tank, water conditioning equipment building, pump house, an FPS-27 radar tower, maintenance shed, guardhouse, and two 4,000 gallon diesel fuel tanks and fuel pumps. Construction stopped in May 1965 with the facility being declared obsolete before completion and installation of the radar equipment. The GSA sold the site and buildings to Automatic Products Company in April 1966.

Closure

Yuma AFS and the 864th were deactivated 1 Aug 1963.

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 housing area for critical married personnel. A separate Ground to Air Transmitter/Receiver (GATR) radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts.


Yuma AFS Major Equipment List
Search Radar HF Radar Data Systems
Unit Designations
  • 864th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron (1956-1962)
  • 864th Radar Squadron (SAGE) (1962-1963)
  • 864th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron (1963-1963)
864th Assignments
  • 8 Aug 1955 - Activated at Yuma City Airport, AZ, as the 27th Air Division.
  • Sep 1956 - Redesignated Vincent AFB, AZ.
  • 1 Oct 1959 - Transferred to Los Angeles ADS.
  • mid-1960 - Site redesignated as Yuma AFS, AZ.
  • 1 May 1961 - Transferred to Phoenix ADS.
  • 1 Jun 1962 - Redesignated to 864th Radar Squadron (SAGE).
  • 15 Oct 1962 - Redesignation as Radar Squadron (SAGE) revoked by SO G-4.
  • 30 Apr 1963 - Operations ceased.
  • 1 Aug 1963 - Discontinued.


Current Status

The original site is now a part of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma (MCAS Yuma). The second site is in use by Automatic Products Company and has some of the radar site buildings remaining including the FPS-27 tower.


Location: Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Yuma County, Arizona.

Maps & Images

Lat: 32.6538 Long: -114.5909

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 103.
  • 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 99.

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