Amarillo Air Force Base Radar Site
Amarillo Air Force Base Radar Site (1954-1968) - A Cold War Air Force Radar Station first established in 1954 on Amarillo Air Force Base, Potter County, Texas. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of M-88, later a Sage ID of Z-88. Abandoned in 1968 and turned over to the FAA. Now known as Amarillo FAA Radar Site with an FAA ID of ZAMA.
Established and manned in the fall of 1954 as Amarillo Air Force Base Radar Site manned by the 688th 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.
This site was located some 9 miles from the Amarillo Pantex Plant, a key element of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex established in 1951. Pantex has been the nation’s primary assembly, disassembly, retrofit, and life-extension center for nuclear weapons.
Initial radar site equipment included the MPS-7 search radar and a TPS-10D height-finder radar. The search radar was upgraded to an FPS-20A and an FPS-6A height-finder radar was installed. The FPS-20A search radar was upgraded to an FPS-67B in 1966.
Amarillo AFB radar site fed the Oklahoma City Air Defense Sector Manual Control Center (ADCC) designated P-86 at Oklahoma City Air Force Station, later redesignated Manual Combat Center (MCC-11) and later NORAD Sector Combat Center (Manual).
The main site with the radar towers and operations buildings were located in the northeast corner of Amarillo Air Force Base. Most of the support facilities were located on the base proper. By 1968 Amarillo Air Force Base had closed and with the support base gone the decision was made to close the radar station. On 8 Sep 1968, the 688th Squadron was deactivated and a reduced facility was turned over to the FAA.
The site had originally become an FAA/USAF joint-use site about 1965 and after the base closure in 1968 the FAA continued to operate the FPS-67B search radar but the FPS-6A height-finder was removed.
A FYQ-47 Common Digitizer was probably placed in service by February 1973 when the USAF/FAA FST-2 to FYQ-47 replacement program was completed. By 1990 the site was equipped with an FPS-67B search radar and a CD-2A Common Digitizer. The Amarillo CD-2 was scheduled to receive an upgrade kit to implement three level weather data processing in July 1992.
Mode S Beacon System
The Amarillo FAA Radar Site was selected in the 1990s to become one of 21 long-range radar sites to have a Mode S radar beacon system installed. The Mode S system allowed operation in the existing beacon modes but added features to improve beacon operation by allowing aircraft identification with a single interrogation and two-way digital communication between controllers and pilots.
Besides the 21 long-range sites, there were other short-range radars to be upgraded for a total of 137 sites on the implementation list. Amarillo was #129 on the list, scheduled to receive the Mode S equipment on 30 Jun 1995. Installation required interfacing with the radar system, addition of a beacon antenna on top of the search radar antenna, a new larger radome, interfacing with the Common Digitizer (CD-2) if installed, additional communication lines and equipment.
The nationwide replacement program converting FAA legacy radar systems to the CARSR radar configuration was completed by 17 Aug 2015 and Amarillo FAA Radar Site was a part of that program. Legacy FAA radars underwent a Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) that replaced key components in the vintage ARSR-1, ARSR-2, FPS-20, FPS-66 and FPS-67 radars. The CARSR program replaced legacy klystron radar transmitters with a solid-state transmitter as well as renovating the radar receiver and signal processor. The CARSR modification also included common digitizer functionality making a separate common digitizer unnecessary. The Amarillo FAA Radar Site is now operating with the CARSR radar.
The radar site data is now available to the USAF/NORAD Battle Control System-Fixed (BCS-F) operations centers (EADS & WADS) as well as the FAA Albuquerque ARTCC (ZAB) and adjacent ARTCCs. Other federal agencies have access to the data under the Homeland Security umbrella.
Active FAA Radar Site in Amarillo, Potter County, Texas.