Cape Cod Air Force Station

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Cape Cod Air Force Station (1980-Active) - A Cold War Air Force Pave Paws Missile Warning Radar Site. first established as Cape Cod Missile Early Warning Station in 1980 on Cape Cod near Bourne, Barnstable County, Massachusetts. Renamed Cape Cod Air Force Station on 5 Jan 1982. Active U.S. Air Force Station.

Cape Cod Air Force Station


Pave Paws Display at Cape Cod AFS
6th Space Warning Squadron Patch
Pave Paws & BMEWS Site Coverage

Construction began on 26 Oct 1976 by the contractor, Raytheon Corporation. The site became operational on 4 Apr 1980 manned by the 6th Missile Warning Squadron and the 2165th Communications Squadron, both were activated on 1 Oct 1979. The 2165th was responsible for all communications and electronics maintenance and the 6th was responsible for operations. The two squadrons merged into one in 1986.

Initial equipment included two FPS-115 Phased Array radar sets. Software and equipment upgrades have changed the equipment designation to the FPS-123 and finally to FPS-132 under the auspices of the Missile Defense Agency and its Upgraded Early Warning Radar (UEWR) program.

The 6th Space Warning Squadron operates and maintains the facility with contractor support. They are primarily responsible for detecting sea-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) fired from submarines in the Pacific Ocean and ICBMs launched toward North America. The operations component of the unit then determines how many missiles were launched and their probable targets, and reports that to:

This unit helps form a two-layered, worldwide network of missile warning systems. This is a warning mission only without any interception or destruction component.

The 6th Space Warning Squadron also supports the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GBMD) element of the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS). This program's objective is the defense of the United States against a threat of a limited strategic ballistic missile attack. The FPS-132 UEWR detects, acquires, and tracks inbound missiles to provide the necessary data to classify and engage the targets. This target data allows the GMD Fire Control and Communications element to generate a weapons task plan, allowing for the engagement, interception, and negation of threat of a ballistic missile reentry vehicle in the exoatmospheric region of space. This is the interception/destruction mission conducted under the auspice of the Missile Defense Agency since its establishment in 2002.

The 6th Space Warning Squadron helps track earth-orbiting satellites, and reports the information to the Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. This information is then combined with information from other sensors to form a satellite catalog that tracks the more than 16,000 objects in orbit.

Cape Cod AFS Site Plan dated 25 Jun 1993

Physical Plant

The two original Pave Paws FPS-115 radars were housed in a 105-foot high building with three sides, two of which were active. Each of the two active sides contained 1,800 individual radar transmitters and receivers. The active sides were tilted back 20 degrees to allow for an elevation deflection from 3 to 85 degrees above the horizon. A computer controlled the activation of individual radar elements providing a moving radar beam. This building is known as the technical equipment building and houses the operations and maintenance components as well as the equipment. Adjacent to the technical equipment building is the power building housing diesel generators that can supply power to the radars should commercial power become unavailable. A separate building houses communications and satellite equipment linking the site to the agencies using the radar data. A security tower and a security building at the entrance to the compound provide access control. Surrounding the compound are two concentric fences, the inner fence is a security fence to provide access control for the compound and the outer fence creates an exclusion zone to keep people and animals out of the radiation pattern. Some housing and support facilities are provided by nearby Joint Base Cape Cod.

Cape Cod AFS Technical Building, 3rd & 4th Floor Plan dated 25 June 1993.

Cape Cod AFS Major Equipment List
Missile Detection Radar Data Systems
  • Dual Cyber 170-174 computers
  • Dual Cyber 865 computers
  • Dual HP Servers
Unit Designations
  • 6th Missile Warning Squadron (1979-1991)
  • 6th Space Warning Squadron (1991-Present)
6th Space Warning Squadron Assignments
  • 1 Oct 1978 - 6th Missile Warning Squadron activated at Otis AFB.
  • 1 Oct 1979 - Reassigned to HQ ADCom due to reorganization.
  • 1 Dec 1979 - Reassigned to SAC.
  • 5 Jan 1982 - Renamed Cape Cod Air Force Station.
  • 1 May 1983 - Transferred to the 1st Space Wing of Air Force Space Command.
  • 1991 - Squadron renamed 6th Space Warning Squadron.

Current Status

Active USAF radar site in Bourne, Barnstable County, Massachusetts. BAE Systems Integrated Technology Solutions was awarded the prime contract to provide operations, maintenance, and logistics support for the Solid State Phased Array Radar System (SSPARS), commencing October 1, 2006. This contract extends to 12 years if all options are exercised.

Location: Near Bourne on Flatrock Hill in Barnstable County, Massachusetts.

Maps & Images

Lat: 41.75222 Long: -70.53806

  • Multi Maps from ACME
  • Maps from Bing
  • Maps from Google
  • Elevation: 255'

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 45, 47, 48.
  • 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 122.


Visited: 3 May 2018

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