Cape Newenham Air Force Station
Cape Newenham Air Force Station (1954-Present) - A Cold War U.S. Air Force Station, part of the Alaska AC&W Radar Network. Initially functioned as a surveillance radar site, with a Permanent System ID of F-05. The site sent manual track data to Murphey Dome Direction Center. Later designated a NORAD Surveillance site (NSS). The site became a minimally attended radar site in 1984 and was redesignated as Cape Newenham Long-Range Radar Site with a JSS ID of A-09. Now feeds radar track data to the FAA Anchorage ARTCC (ZAN) and to the Elmendorf NORAD Regional Air Operations Center (RAOC). Active Long-Range Radar Site (LRRS) with an FAA ID of ZEHM.
Construction began in 1950 and the lower site was completed in 1952 but the upper site did not go operational until April 1954. The two sites were built by Haddock Engineers, Ltd. for $4,303,962. The site consisted of a lower camp of offices and dormitories and an upper camp containing radar facilities connected by a tramway. The Radar was on a mountaintop at an elevation of 2,011 feet with the lower camp in a valley at an elevation of 650 feet.
The site was initially manned by Det. F-5, 531st ACWG. The 794th AC&W Squadron was formed in 1952 to operate and maintain the site and continued to operate Cape Newenham AFS until it was deactivated in l983.
Aircraft track data from these radars was manually plotted on plotting boards and passed to the Murphy Dome Manual Direction Center on voice circuits. In 1965 the FYQ-9 Semiautomatic Data Processing and Display System was implemented on Alaska AC&W radar sites automating the passing of track data to the direction centers. The result was reduced manpower requirements and increased efficiency.
Further reductions came on 1 Oct 1977 when the Alaska Air Command (ACC) contracted with RCA Services for site support services. This was a part of an Air Force effort to reduce remote tours. Eighty military positions were deleted. The remaining 14 were primarily in operations.
JSS common digitizers were installed on the AC&W radars sites, including Cape Newenham, by 1982. This upgrade enabled transmission of radar track data via satellite to the new Elmendorf JSS Regional Operations Control Center (ROCC) near Anchorage. The Elmendorf ROCC was activated on 14 Jun 1983 and that event triggered a series of events that included the closure of the AC&W sites, the disbandment of the AC&W Squadrons, and the creation of Long-Range Radar Sites (LRRS) with full contractor operation and maintenance and new FPS-117 3D radars. The Air Force Station was deactivated on 1 Nov l983 even before the FPS-117 radars were installed.
A new FPS-117 Minimally Attended Radar (MAR) was installed at Cape Newenham between August and October 1984 and the site was operational on 16 Oct 1984. The site was re-designated as Cape Newenham Long-Range Radar Site (LRRS) operated and maintained by contractors. The LRRS was connected to the Elmendorf ROCC and the FPS-117 radar fed data to the FYQ-93 computers at the ROCC via satellite terminal.
The Elmendorf ROCC evolved into a Regional Air Operations Center (RAOC) which now operates with the Battle Control System-Fixed (BCS-F) FYQ-156 computer system. The RAOC is currently a component of the Alaska NORAD Region (ANR) and is operated by active Alaska Air National Guard members, Canadian servicemembers, and active duty augmentees. Elmendorf AFB is now a part of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
By 2011 the MAR FPS-117 radars were outdated and increasingly unsupportable because parts and components were no longer available. In 2011 the U.S. Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin $46.8 million in contract options to begin modernization of 29 long-range radars. Under the EPRP contract, Lockheed Martin was to modernize 15 radars in Alaska including Cape Newenham. The last FPS-117 site was upgraded in June 2015.
The EPRP program replaced four major subassemblies on the FPS-117: the Maintenance and Control System, the Beacon system, the Uninterruptable Power Supply/Communications Rack, and Local Control Terminals, which allow remote monitoring, troubleshooting, and control of the radars. The modifications reduced the line-replaceable unit count by approximately 80 percent, easing maintenance and the number of parts on the shelf. The program is expected to extend the supportably of the radar thru 2025.
The physical plant of the site was originally divided into an upper main site and a lower cantonment area. The upper main site housed the radar towers and the backup generators. The lower cantonment area housed the operations area, the enlisted quarters (BAQ), the bachelor officer's quarters (BOQ), the orderly room, the dining hall and other support areas in a series individual buildings interconnected by weathertight corridors. No family housing was provided as this was considered a remote unaccompanied tour (1 year).
Initially, the upper and the lower sites were connected only by an overhead tramway and over the years the tramway has been rebuilt, repaired and replaced and is still in service. One tram car did fall to the ground but no one was killed in the accident. Today there is also a serviceable road to the top.
A new concrete Composite building was built on the lower site started in late 1975. The $11.7 million facility was accepted in October 1980 but occupancy was delayed until July 1981. This building was reconfigured to support the LRRS contract operation.
Cape Newenham was resupplied by sealift as part of the operation Mona Lisa, later named Cool Barge. In 1952, a 4000-foot military gravel runway was constructed to deliver cargo, mail, personnel, and emergency supplies to the site.
Separate radio transmitter and receiver buildings housed the radio equipment for communicating with aircraft.
After HF systems proved inadequate for command and control communications, the Air Force implemented the White Alice Communications System (WACS). This was a system of tropospheric scatter and microwave radio relay sites constructed during the mid-1950s to provide reliable communications to Alaska Air Command (AAC) AC&W system. The Cape Newenham WACS facility was a tropo station, transmitting DEW Line data to Bethel and finally NORAD.
The Cape Newenham White Alice tropo site was started in 1957 and the station became operational on 18 Jan 1958. Two 60' billboard tropo antennas linked this site to the Bethel White Alice Communications Site some 147 miles away. The Cape Newenham WACS site included a 5,280 square-foot operations building, a 12-person dormitory, and a tramway. This WACS site was considered to be colocated with the Cape Newenham Air Force Station and shared support facilities with the radar site but the upper radar site was over two miles from the tropo site.
The specific links from Cape Newenham (EHM) as/of July 1977 were:
The Cape Newenham WACS site was inactivated on 30 Mar 1979 and replaced with an Alascom-owned satellite earth terminal.
Active long-range radar site but most of the old AC&W site buildings were demolished when the composite building was constructed. The site has also had an environmental remediation project that has further erased signs of the old AC&W site and the White Alice tropo site. What remains is the FPS-117 Building and the steel Composite building.
The 3,945-foot gravel Cape Newenham LRRS Military Airstrip services the radar site but the nearest community with a post office is Goodnews Bay some 27 air miles north of the lower site.