Brunswick Air Force Station
Brunswick Air Force Station (1951-1965) - A Cold War U.S. Air Force Radar Station established during the Korean War. Located on the former Brunswick Naval Air Station near Brunswick in Cumberland County, Maine. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of P-13 and later a Sage ID of Z-13.
Established in January 1951 and became operational in October 1951 as Brunswick Air Force Station manned by the 654th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron. This site assumed coverage previously provided by a Lashup site at Grenier AFB, New Hampshire (L-4).
Initial equipment included a pair of CPS-6B search radars. A FPS-8 was added in 1955. The FPS-8 was later converted to an GPS-3 that served at Brunswick until it closed in 1965. In 1958 the CPS-6Bs were retired and two FPS-6 height-finder radars were added. This configuration (a SAGE qualified long-range search radar and two SAGE qualified height-finders) met the requirements for transition to SAGE System operation.
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 in 1959, initially feeding the Topsham SAGE Direction Center DC-05. On 1 Oct 1959, the squadron designation was changed from the 654th AC&W Squadron to 654th Radar Squadron (SAGE) indicating the new SAGE System role.
On 1 Aug 1962 control was transferred to Boston Air Defense Sector, Stewart SAGE Direction Center DC-02, where it remained until the site closed.
Newspaper accounts indicate that Brunswick Air Force Station was slated to receive one of the Frequency Diversity (FD) FPS-35 radar sets which would have required the construction of a five-story tower. The tower was never built and the radar was not installed.
The Brunswick AFS radars were removed from service on 1 Mar 1965. The station and the 654th were deactivated on 25 Jun 1965. The R-25 GATR Site stayed in operation until about 1970.
Brunswick 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 Brunswick AFS gap-filler radar was located at Sedgwick, Maine. One additional gap-filler site was planned for Moultonboro, New Hampshire but the location was not confirmed and the site was never built.
With the closure of the Air Force Station, the U.S. Navy reacquired the property that included the operations area and the small cantonment area.
In 1984-1958 the U.S. Navy constructed a $10-million, 52,513 square foot one-story facility to house the headquarters for the Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing FIVE, on what had been the operations area of the Brunswick Air Force Station. This facility also housed a classified wing, which included the Anti-Submarine Warfare Operations Center (ASWOC) that kept tabs on the Soviet submarines deployed in the Atlantic and northern seas.
Naval Air Station Brunswick officially closed on 31 may 2011. The property is being redeveloped for civilian use as Brunswick Landing. This includes a Southern Maine Community College campus located what had been the old Air Force Station cantonment area.
The only visible remaining feature of the old operations area is the easternmost radar tower, the $10 million Navy facility built on the operations site is now the privately owned FirstLight Data Center.
The Brunswick Naval Museum & Memorial Gardens at 179 Admiral Fitch Ave on the old base has photographs and limited information about the Air Force Station.
Visited: 27 May 2018