Alaska Manual System Radar Sites

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The need for an air defense system in Alaska became clear in the late 1940s and early 1950s as the Soviet Union developed atomic weapons and long-range aircraft to deliver them to U.S. and Canadian targets. The proximity of Alaska to the Soviet Union made it very vulnerable to air and land attack. Construction of aircraft control and warning radar sites commenced about 1950 and the first sites were operational in 1951.

Tin City Air Force Station Upper Site, Lower Site in Background. Note the large composite building on the lower site and the tramway between the sites.

The build-out of radar sites continued throughout the 1950s under very adverse conditions. Just building the sites was a herculean task because of the remote locations and adverse weather conditions. Once built, the sites had to be manned and supplied. At many of the sites, the only means of supply was from the air on short dangerous dirt airstrips. Personnel were assigned to the sites on a one-year remote tour which meant there was a constant turnover of personnel and little continuity. Fire was a constant danger and several sites experienced multiple fires that destroyed mess halls, quarters, and other facilities.

Initially, communication between the remote sites and with higher headquarters was via military radio equipment. This quickly proved inadequate and at some sites, the radio exchanges were so garbled that they could not be relied on. Construction of the Alaska White Alice troposcatter communications network in the late 1950s solved most of the communications problems. The White Alice system remained in operation until the late 1970s when it was replaced by direct satellite links.

A2C Larry Pronovost Operating a UPA-35 Scope with FYQ-9 Track Input Shelf (SATDI) at Kotzebue AS, 1972-1973.

While the manual radar sites in the lower 48 states were being automated into the SAGE System in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Alaska was not to be a part of the SAGE System. The Alaska radar sites remained in manual mode until 1965 when a kludged together system known as the FYQ-9, semi-automated the radar track following functions. The FYQ-9 still required an operator to initiate radar tracks at the radar site.

The further automation of the manual system required several technology events and resulted in the deactivation of all the AC&W Squadrons, the replacement of all the radar sets at all the remaining radar sites, and contractor maintenance of all the remaining radar sites. The technology events that precipitated these major changes included Common Digitizers and satellite terminals at the radar sites and the activation of the FYQ-93 at the new Elmendorf JSS ROCC in 1983.

Alaska Manual System AC&W Radar Sites (edit list)
Site Man ID JSS ID ID 3 Func Unit Command From To GPS Notes
Fire Island F-01 JDC 626th 10th AD 1951 1969 61.14111,
Murphy Dome F-02 A-02 JDC 744th 11th AD 1951 1983 64.951944,
King Salmon F-03 A-07 C-01 ADCC 705th 10th AD 1951 1983 58.692500,
Tin City F-04 A-11 ?? 710th 11th AD 1953 1983 65.57579,
Cape Newenham F-05 A-09 EW 794th 10th AD 1954 1983 58.62659,
Cape Romanzof F-06 A-10 EW 795th 10th AD 1953 1983 61.789722,
Cape Lisburne F-07 A-13 EW 711th 11th AD 1953 1983 68.8705,
Campion F-08 A-04 ADCC 743nd 11th AD 1952 1983 64.70583,
Northeast Cape F-09 ?? 712th 10th AD 1953 1969 63.29116,
Tatalina F-10 A-05 C-02 GCI 717th 10th AD 1952 1983 62.92917,
Fort Yukon F-14 A-01 GCI 709th 11th AD 1958 1983 66.56083,
Sparrevohn F-15 A-06 GCI 719th 10th AD 1954 1983 61.11915,
Indian Mountain F-16 A-03 GCI 708th 11th AD 1953 1983 66.06873,
Unalakleet F-20 GCI 718th 10th AD 1958 1969 63.91755,
Bethel F-21 C-03 GCI 713th 10th AD 1958 1963 60.785500,
Middleton Island F-22 ?? 720th 10th AD 1958 1963 59.43611,
Kotzebue F-24 A-12 GCI 748th 11th AD 1958 1983 66.84333,
Ohlson Mountain F-25 GCI 937th 10th AD 1958 1963 59.71389,
Cold Bay F-26 A-08 ?? 714th 10th AD 1959 1983 55.24513,
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