Blaine Air Force Station

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Blaine Air Force Station (1951-1979) - A Cold War Air Force Radar Station first established in 1951 as Birch Bay Radar Site near Blaine, Whatcom County, Washington. Named Blaine Air Force Station on 1 Dec 1953 after the location. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of P-46 and later a Sage ID of Z-46. Abandoned by the Air Force in 1979.

Former Blaine AFS Orderly Room
Former Blaine AFS BAQ buildings (first four buildings) and Recreation building (last building).
Former Blaine AFS, BOQ Building on left, FPS-24 Radar Tower on right.


Former Blaine AFS Dining Hall.
Former Blaine AFS Bachelor Officer's Quarters (BOQ).
Former Blaine AFS FPS-24 Radar Tower.
Former Blaine AFS Recreation Building.

Established in 1951 and became operational on 14 Mar 1951 as the radar site at Birch Bay manned by the 757th AC&W Squadron. The name was changed to Blaine Air Force Station in 1953. 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 a pair of FPS-10 radars that were essentially stripped down CPS-6B radars with both search and height-finder capabilities.

SAGE System Transition

Former Blaine AFS Gym.
Former Blaine AFS Motor Pool Building.
Former Blaine AFS Base Housing (first set).

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

Former McChord SAGE Direction Center DC-12
Blaine SAGE Direction Centers & Sectors
Assigned Direction Center Sector
1 Mar 1960 - 1 Apr 1966 McChord SAGE Direction Center DC-12 Seattle Air Defense Sector
1 Apr 1966 - 30 Mar 1979 McChord SAGE Direction Center DC-12 25th Air Division

The site began operation as a SAGE site on 1 Apr 1960 initially feeding the McChord SAGE Direction Center DC-12. The search radar was upgraded to an FPS-20 and the height-finders to a FPS-6 and a FPS-6A height-finders. The search radar was upgraded again in 1963 to an FPS-24 and the FPS-6 height-finder was replaced by an FPS-26A.

Gap Filler Radars

Former Mt. Erie Gap Filler Site now a Commercial Radio Site.

Blaine AFS was responsible for the maintenance of one remote unattended gap-filler radar site. 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 Blaine AFS gap-filler site was located on Mount Erie at Anacortes, Washington. This gap-filler site was constructed but may not have become fully operational before being deactivated. Another site was planned for Concrete, Washington but it was never built.

Blaine AFS Gap Filler Radar Sites (edit list)
ADC NORAD Location State Type From To GPS Notes
P-46A Z-46A Anacortes WA FPS-14?, FST-1 48.45387,
May not have become fully operational

BUIC System

Blaine AFS became a BUIC I GCI site in 1962 and went operational as a BUIC II site on 1 Mar 1966. The BUIC II system provided a backup for a SAGE direction center and provided the ability to display sector-wide radar data on consoles for local weapons controllers. The BUIC II system duplicated the functionality of the vacuum tube direction center computers with a GSA-51 computer and replaced the FST-2 with a more up-to-date coordinate data transmitter, the FYQ-47. Blaine was not selected as a BUIC III site and in 1969 the BUIC mission terminated and the site returned to a surveillance mission. As the threat from a Soviet bomber fleet lessened, the decision came to mothball the entire BUIC system in 1974. Blaine AFS and the 757th were deactivated in January 1979.

Physical Plant

The physical plant of the site was divided into the main site, an adjacent cantonment area, two separate housing areas and a radio site. The main site area housed the operations buildings, the radar towers, and the backup generators. The cantonment area contained the four enlisted barracks, a recreation building, the bachelor officer's quarters, the orderly room, the dining hall, the base exchange (BX), the motor pool and other support buildings. Apart from the main site were two small housing areas for critical married personnel. The first built housing area had 9 small units and the second area had 18 larger units.

Former Blaine AFS GATR Site. View from the Road.

A separate radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts. Like most early radar stations, Blaine 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.

Blaine AFS Major Equipment List
Search Radar HF Radar Data Systems
Unit Designations
  • 757th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron (1951-1960)
  • 757th Radar Squadron (SAGE) (1960-1974)
  • 757th Radar Squadron (1974-1979)
757th Assignments
Blaine Air Force Station Partial Commanders List (edit list)
Assumed Relieved Rank Name Cullum Notes
1959-08-00 1963-03-00 Maj Blais, Philip J. N/A Some date conflicts
1962-10-00 1963-06-00 Ltc Naigle, Alfred J. N/A Some date conflicts
1969-01-31 1969-08-00 Ltc Lindberg, Carl A. N/A dates from son
1974-10-00 1976-06-00 Maj Erickson, Donald N/A
1976-08-00 1978-07-00 Maj Steere, George C. N/A
1979-00-00 Capt Dmochowski, Mike N/A Last Commander
Dates are formatted in yyyy-mm-dd to sort correctly.
The Cullum Number is the graduation order from the United States Military Academy by year and class rank and links to a page for the officer on the website version of the Cullum Register. Listings without a Cullum Number indicate that the person was not a graduate of the United States Military Academy.

Current Status

Most of the major cantonment buildings still exist, most repurposed for use as the Lions Camp Horizon within the Bay Horizon Whatcom County park. Both family housing areas still exist with the homes in private hands. The only part of the operational area remaining is the FPS-24 radar tower. The operations building and the FPS-26 radar tower are gone, demolished about 2009. The May 2009 Trail Mitigation plan for Bay Horizon Park shows the layout of the old Air Force Station with the buildings that were removed in 2009 shown in cross-hatch and the remaining buildings in solid black.

May 2009 Trail Mitigation plan for Bay Horizon Park showing the buildings removed in a cross-hatch (FPS-26 Tower & Operations Building) and the remaining cantonment buildings in solid black. The two housing areas are shown in grey outline on the left and at the top. Annotated with building numbers.

Blaine AFS Structures (edit list)
Number Building Exists Notes
120 Ceramic Shop No Destroyed 2009
200-218 Housing Units (9) Yes Private owners
300-321 Housing Units (18) Yes Private owners
350 NCO Club No All ranks
416 Recreation Hall Yes
425 Gym Yes
428 Auto Hobby Shop No
430 Gate Shack No
510 Bachelor Airman's Quarters (BAQ) A Yes
514 Bachelor Airman's Quarters (BAQ) B Yes
516 Bachelor Airman's Quarters (BAQ) C Yes
518 Bachelor Airman's Quarters (BAQ) D Yes
532 Orderly Room Yes
534 Dining Hall Yes
542 Motor Pool Yes
550 FPS-26 Height Finder Radar Tower No Destroyed 2009
612 Steam Plant No
616 Hobby Shop No
626 Water Plant No
628 Water Tower No
630 Bachelor Officer's Quarters (BOQ) Yes
634 Base Exchange (BX) Yes
635 Telco No
636 Commissary No
658 Operations (OPS)/FST-2 No Destroyed 2009
664  ??? Building No
700 FPS-24 Search Radar Tower Yes
732 Comm Warehouse No Destroyed 2009
740 Supply No Destroyed 2009
750 Supply No Destroyed 2009
800 Power Plant No Destroyed 2009
975 Civil Engineer No Destroyed 2009
976 Civil Engineer No Destroyed 2009

Location: Near Blaine in Whatcom County, Washington.

Maps & Images

Lat: 48.91333 Long: -122.7341667

GPS Locations:

See Also:


  • 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 164
  • 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 165
  • NORAD/CONAD Historical Summary Jan-Dec 1966, dated 1 May 1967, Command History Division, HQ NORAD/CONAD, Unclassified (originally classified Secret), pdf, pages 28-31, Backup Intercept Control Systems
  • USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) Database Entry: 2086911


Fortification ID:

  • WA0085 - Blaine Air Force Station
  • WA0083 - Birch Bay Radar Site

Visited: 3 Jun 2019, 21 Aug 2015

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