Burns Air Force Station

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Burns Air Force Station (1955-1970) - A Cold War Air Force Radar Station first established in 1955 near Burns, Harney County, Oregon. Named Burns Air Force Station after the location. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of M-118 and later a Sage ID of Z-118. Abandoned in 1970.

Burns AFS FPS-90 Tower Foundation Bldg 200.
Burns AFS Radio Site Bldg 230, now a Bonneville Power Administration Communications Facility
Burns Air Force Station Entrance Gate with one of the two Radio Site Buildings in the Background (Bldg. 133)

History

Burns AFS Power Production Facility Bldgs 206-207 (connected) and Operations Bldg 204 in the Background just before being Demolished. (2004)
Burns AFS Operations Bldg 204 Foundation. (2016)

Established in 1955 and became operational on 8 Jun 1955 as Burns Air Force Station manned by the 634th AC&W Squadron. The station initially had both a Ground-Control Intercept (GCI) and early warning misssion. The early warnng mission involved tracking and identifing 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 the MPS-7 mobile search radar and by 1959 two FPS-6 height finders were added.

SAGE System Transition

The transition of the manual GCI system to the automated SAGE system began with 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 airconditioning, 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 Beale SAGE Direction Center DC-18.

The site began operation as a SAGE System site in January 1961, initially feeding the Stead SAGE Direction Center DC-16. With the closure of Stead AFB and DC-16 in 1966, Burns AFS was connected to the Adair SAGE Direction Center DC-13. The search radar was upgraded to an FPS-7B and both height finder radars became FPS-90s. In July 1964 a serious fire destroyed the FPS-7B search radar and it was replaced with an FPS-66A search radar from Condon Air Force Station. Condon had just installed a new FPS-27 and their FPS-66A was surplus. The removal of the FPS-7A and the replacement with the FPS-66A took about two months to complete.

With the closure of the Adair SAGE Direction Center DC-13 in 1969, Burns AFS was connected to the McChord SAGE Direction Center DC-12 until the site closed a year later.

Burns AFS SAGE Direction Centers & Sectors
Assigned Direction Center Sector
1 Jul 1960-1 Sep 1960 Beale SAGE Direction Center DC-18 San Francisco ADS
1 Sep 1960 - 1 Apr 1966 Stead SAGE Direction Center DC-16 Reno ADS
1 Apr 1966 - 15 Sep 1969 Adair SAGE Direction Center DC-13 26th AD
15 Sep 1969 - 30 Sep 1970 McChord SAGE Direction Center DC-12 25th AD

Closure

Burns AFS and the 634th Radar Squadron were deactivated on 30 Sep 1970.

Gap Filler Radar

Burns AFS was responsible for the maintenance of a single 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 Burns AFS gap filler site was located at Burns Junction and operated with an FPS-18 and FST-1 between 1958 and 1960.

Burns AFS Gap Filler Radar Sites (edit list)
ADC NORAD Location State Type From To GPS Notes
M-118A Z-118A Burns Junction Oregon FPS-18, FST-1 1958 1960 42.71667,
-117.87056

Physical Plant

The physical plant of the site was divided into an upper main site, a lower housing area and a radio site. The upper main site housed the operations building, the radar towers, the enlisted barracks, the bachelor officer's quarters, the orderly room, the chow hall, the motor pool and the backup generators. Apart from the main site just outside the town of Burns was a small housing area for critical married personnel. A separate radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts.


Burns AFS Major Equipment List
Search Radar HF Radar Data Systems Radio Systems
Unit Designations
  • 634th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron (1955-1961)
  • 634th Radar Squadron (SAGE) (1961-1970)
634th Assignments
  • 1 Jan 1951 - Assigned at Silver Lake, WA, assigned to 505th AC&W Gp.
  • 6 Feb 1952 - Inactivated.
  • 20 Jun 1955 - Reactivated at McChord AFB, WA, assigned to the 25th AD.
  • Moved to Geiger Field, WA.
  • Oct 1954 - Transferred to the 9th AD.
  • 8 Jun 1955 - Moved to site at Burns, OR.
  • 15 Aug 1958 - Transferred to the 25th AD.
  • 1 Sep 1958 - Transferred to the 4700th AD Wg.
  • 15 May 1960 - Transferred to the 25th AD.
  • 1 Jul 1960 - Transferred to San Francisco ADS.
  • 15 Sep 1960 - Transferred to Reno ADS.
  • 1 Mar 1961 - Redesignated from AC&W Sq to 634th Radar Sq (SAGE).
  • 1 Apr 1966 - Transferred to the 26th AD.
  • 15 Sep 1969 - Reassigned to the 25th AD.
  • 30 Sep 1970 - Inactivated.
  • 1 Jan 1973 - Reactivated at Lake Charles AFS, LA, assigned to the 20th AD
  • 1 Jul 1974 - Inactivated.


Burns Air Force Station Partial Commanders List (edit list)
Assumed Relieved Rank Name Cullum Notes
1958~ 1959~ Major Michaud, Leonard P. N/A
Burns Air Force Station Composite Plan.
Burns AFS Structures (edit list)
Number Building Exists Notes
 ??? Telco Yes Concrete Block
100 Gate Shack Foundation Wood Frame
105 CE Maintenance Shop Foundation Wood Frame
107 CE Storage Foundation
109 Paint & Dope Storage Foundation Metal
111 Rec Hall Foundation Wood Frame
128 Motor Pool Garage Foundation  ?
130 Motor Pool Maintenance Foundation Metal
133 Radio Site Partial 1/2 Quonset Hut
1/2 Concrete Block
143 Airman's Dorm Foundation Quonset Hut
146 Squadron Headquarters Foundation Quonset Hut
147 Airman's Dorm Foundation Quonset Hut
148 Supply Foundation Quonset Hut
149 Dayroom Lounge Foundation Metal
151 Airman's Dorm Foundation Quonset Hut
152 Officer's Quarters Foundation Quonset Hut
155 Dining Hall Foundation Metal
158 PX & Commissary Foundation Quonset Hut
159 NCO Club Foundation Quonset Hut
160 MARS Radio Foundation Wood Frame
164 Hobby Shop Foundation Quonset Hut
165 Water Supply Bldg Foundation Quonset Hut
166 Special Services Foundation Wood Frame
167 Switching Bldg No
181 Waste Treatment Plant Foundation Metal
200 Radar Tower FPS-90 Foundation Metal
204 Radar Operations/FST-2 Foundation Concrete Block
206 Power Production Foundation Concrete Block
207 Power Production Foundation Quonset Hut
208 Paint & Dope Storage Foundation Metal
210 Covered Walkway Foundation
211 Radar Tower FPS-90 Foundation Metal
220 Radar Tower FPS-7 Foundation Metal
230 Radio Site Yes Concrete Block
800 Tank Foundation Steel
804 Tank Foundation Steel
830 Water Well Foundation

Current Status

Abandoned in Burns, Harney County, Oregon. The main site buildings were abandoned in place by the Air Force when the site closed and were left to deteriorate. By 2004 the remaining 25 buildings on the site had been severely vandalized to the point where they were physical hazards. The EPA directed a removal action and between 10 Jun 2004 and 15 Oct 2004 the remaining buildings and radar towers were removed down to the foundations and the sites were remediated. Only three of the original buildings remain, the two radio buildings and the Telco building.

The housing area homes are in private hands and are well kept. Most have been upgraded with metal roofs and new siding and it would be hard to know that it was a military housing area.


Location: On Burns Butte about 5 miles south of Burns, Harney County, Oregon. Zoom out to see the housing area map point.

Maps & Images

Lat: 43.5625 Long: -119.15139

See Also:

Sources:

  • 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 150.
  • 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 154-155

Links:

Visited: 8 Oct 2016

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