Bucks Harbor Air Force Station
Bucks Harbor Air Force Station (1955-1979) - A Cold War Air Force Radar Station first established in 1955 near Bucks Harbor, Washington County, Maine. Named Bucks Harbor Air Force Station after the location. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of M-110, later a Sage ID of Z-110 and a JSS ID of J-54. Abandoned as an Air Force Station in 1979. Former operations area now contains the Bucks Harbor FAA Radar Site.
Established in 1955 and became operational in 1956 as Bucks Harbor Air Force Station manned by the 907th 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.
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 1960 initially feeding the Topsham SAGE Direction Center DC-05. Also in 1960 two FPS-6A height-finder radars were installed. By 1963 an FPS-24 search radar, a FPS-90 height-finder radar and a FPS-6B height-finder radar had been installed. Bucks Harbor became a joint-use USAF/FAA acility circa 1965. With the closure of Topsham SAGE Direction Center DC-05 in 1969, control was shifted to Hancock SAGE Direction Center DC-03.
Bucks Harbor AFS and the 907th were deactivated in June 1979. Over the next two years preparations were made to turn over part of the site to the FAA. The Air Force continued operating the FPS-90 height-finder radar until 1988. In 1995 the FAA search radar was an FPS-66A. The FAA now operates an ARSR-4 radar as JSS site J-54, Bucks Harbor FAA Radar Site.
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 27 unit housing area for married personnel. A separate Ground to Air Transmitter/Receiver (GATR) radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts.
Active FAA radar site on top of Howard Mountain where the operations area of the former Air Force site was located. The cantonment area site is now the Downeast Corrections Facility. The housing area homes are in private hands.