Cambria Air Force Station

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Cambria Air Force Station (1951-1980) - A Cold War Air Force Radar Station first established in 1951 near Cambria, San Luis Obispo County, California. Named Cambria Air Force Station after the location. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of P-2, later a Sage ID of Z-2. Abandoned in 1980.

History of Cambria Air Force Station

Established in 1951 and became operational in January 1952 as Cambria Air Force Station manned by the 775th 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.

Initial equipment included the FPS-3 search radar and a CPS-4 height-finder radar. The search radar was upgraded to an FPS-7 in 1961 and two FPS-6 height-finders were added in preparation for SAGE operation.

SAGE 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.

The site began operation as a SAGE site in April 1961 initially feeding the Norton SAGE Direction Center DC-17. In 1963 the FPS-6B height-finder radar was replaced by an FPS-26A.

When the Norton SAGE Direction Center DC-17 closed in 1966 control was shifted to Luke SAGE Direction Center DC-21 where it remained until Cambria AFS closed in 1980.

The FST-2 was replaced with a more up-to-date coordinate data transmitter, the FYQ-47 by 1977.

Gap Fillers

Cambria AFS was responsible for the maintenance of two remote unattended gap-filler radar sites. 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 Cambria AFS gap-filler radar was located at Lockwood, California.

Cambria AFS Gap Filler Radar Sites (edit list)
ADC NORAD Location State Type From To GPS Notes
P-2A Z-2A Lockwood CA FPS-18, FST-1 1960-02 1963-12 35.95132,
Building still exists


Cambria AFS and the 775th Radar Squadron were deactivated 30 Sep 1980.

Physical Plant

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. A small housing area for married personnel was located in the town of Cambria. A separate Ground to Air Transmitter/Receiver (GATR) radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts.

Cambria AFS Major Equipment List
Search Radar HF Radar Data Systems
Unit Designations
  • 775th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron (1951-1961)
  • 775th Radar Squadron (SAGE) (1961-1974)
  • 775th Radar Squadron (1974-1980)
775th Assignments
  • 7 Mar 1951 - Activated at Cambria, CA, assigned to 542nd AC&W Gp.
  • 6 Feb 1952 - Transferred to 28th AD.
  • 1 Dec 1953 - Site redesignated Cambria AFS, CA.
  • Fall of 1954 - Transferred to 27th AD.
  • 1 Oct 1959 - Transferred to LA ADS.
  • 1 May 1961 - Redesignated from AC&W Sq to 775th Radar Sq (SAGE).
  • 1 Apr 1966 - Transferred to 27th AD.
  • 19 Nov 1969 - Reassigned to 26th AD.
  • 1 Feb 1974 - Redesignated 775th Radar Sq.
  • Oct 1979 - Transferred to TAC.
  • 30 Sep 1980 - Deactivated.

Cambria Air Force Station Partial Commanders List (edit list)
Assumed Relieved Rank Name Cullum Notes
1968~ Lt Colonel Powell, Adrian E. N/A
1978-08 1980-08 Major Andrews, Franklin N/A

Current Status

Abandoned by the Air Force. The base was sold on 13 Jan 2005 for two million dollars. The owner is Big Cats LLC, Bernd Schaefers.

Location: Monte Cristo Place off Cabrillo Highway south of Cambria in San Luis Obispo County, California.

Maps & Images

Lat: 35.52222 Long: -121.06361

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 167.
  • 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 101-102.
  • USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) Database Entry: 2086560


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