Charleston Air Force Station

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Charleston Air Force Station (1952-1980) - A Cold War Air Force Radar Station first established in 1952 near Charleston, Penobscot County, Maine. Named Charleston Air Force Station after the location. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of P-65 and later a Sage ID of Z-65. Abandoned in 1980.

Charleston Air Force Station


Established on 1 Jan 1951 and became operational on 1 Jun 1952 at Charleston Air Force Station manned by the 765th AC&W Squadron. The station initially had both a Ground-Control Intercept (GCI) and an 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 an FPS-5 height-finder radar. The FPS-5 was replaced in 1957 with an FPS-6 and a second one was added in 1958. The FPS-3 was also upgraded to an FPS-20 in 1958. This was the starting configuration for entry into the SAGE system, the FPS-20, and two FPS-6s.

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

Former Hancock SAGE DC-03 Direction Center (Left) and CC-01 (Right).
Charleston Direction Centers & Sectors
Assigned Direction Center Sector
1 Jan 1951 - 6 Feb 1952 Syracuse Manual Direction Center P-05 540th AC&W Group, 32nd Air Division
6 Feb 1952 - 16 Feb 1953 Syracuse Manual Direction Center P-05 32nd Air Division
16 Feb 1953 - 1 Mar 1956 Syracuse Manual Direction Center P-05 4711th Defense Wing, 32nd Air Division
1 Mar 1956 - 15 Aug 1958 Syracuse Manual Direction Center P-05 32nd Air Division
15 Aug 1958 - 1 Apr 1966 Topsham SAGE Direction Center DC-05 Bangor Air Defense Sector
1 Apr 1966 - 15 Sep 1969 Topsham SAGE Direction Center DC-05 36th Air Division
15 Sep 1969 - 19 Nov 1969 Topsham SAGE Direction Center DC-05 35th Air Division
19 Nov 1969 - 30 Sep 1980 Hancock SAGE Direction Center DC-03 21st Air Division

The site began operation as a SAGE site in May 1959 initially feeding the Topsham SAGE Direction Center DC-05. The search radar was upgraded to an FPS-27 in 1963 and an FPS-26A height-finder radar was installed. In 1966 the FPS-26A was converted to an FSS-7 SLBM detection & warning radar operated by Det 6, 14th Missile Warning Squadron.

In 1969 the Topsham SAGE Direction Center DC-05 closed and control of Charleston AFS switched to the Hancock SAGE Direction Center DC-03 and the 21st Air Divison where it remained until the site closed.

Gap Filler Radars

Charleston 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 Charleston AFS gap-filler radars were located at Topsfield, ME, and Sedgwick, ME.

Charleston AFS Gap Filler Radar Sites (edit list)
ADC NORAD Location State Type From To GPS Notes
P-65A Z-65A Topsfield Maine FPS-18A, FST-1 1958 1967 45.38889,
Building and Tower Remain
P-65B Z-65B Sedgwick Maine FPS-14, FST-1 1957 1967 44.31405,
Building Remains

BUIC System

Charleston AFS became a BUIC I GCI site 1 Mar 1963 and went operational as a BUIC II site on 1 Mar 1966. It was selected as a BUIC III site and in December 1969 the 765th Radar Squadron (SAGE) became the 765th Air Defense Group (BUIC). The BUIC III system provided a backup for a SAGE direction center and provided the ability to display sector-wide radar data on consoles for local weapons controllers. The system duplicated the functionality of the vacuum tube direction center computers with more up-to-date computers and replaced the FST-2 with a more up-to-date coordinate data transmitter, the FYQ-47. The FST-2 at Charleston AFS was loaded on a flatbed truck, taken to Brunswick NAS, and scrapped. As the threat from a Soviet bomber fleet lessened the decision came to mothball the BUIC system in 1974.

Charleston AFS and the 765th were deactivated 30 Sep 1980.

Charleston Air Force Station Partial Commanders List (edit list)
Assumed Relieved Rank Name Cullum Notes
1950 1952 Major Vannella, Anthony J. N/A
1953 1956 Major Swartz, William E. N/A
1957 Major Perry, ? N/A
1958 Major Burak, Carl N/A
1961 1963 Major Marvin, George C. N/A
1964 1964 Lt Colonel Marvin, George C. N/A
1964 1966 Major Masteller, Donald H. N/A
1966 1966 Major McClane, Allan R. N/A
1967 Major Kate, Elton N/A
1970-03-01 Lt Colonel Parmelee, Deane S. N/A Sources differ
1970 1971 Lt Colonel Evans, William A. Jr N/A
1972 1975 Lt Colonel Thomas, Leland C. N/A
1975 1975 Lt Colonel Stover, Jack W. N/A
1976 1979 Lt Colonel Meyer, William S. N/A
1979 1979 Major Stymeist, N/A

Note: Sources differ on some of these dates and no dates are available for others See: AngleFire - Charleston AFS Commanders and Charleston AFS documents on

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 five 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 37 unit housing area for married personnel. The first 9 housing units were built about 1957 and the additional 28 units were added in 1964.

A separate radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts. Like most early radar stations, Charleston originally had a radio transmitter site and a separate radio receiver site used by local controllers for voice direction of fighter interceptors to their targets. With the SAGE System, the SAGE Direction centers had the primary task of directing intercepts and the local radio sites were reconfigured, usually into a single site that was known as the Ground to Air Transmitter Receiver (GATR) site. The GATR site communicated with the interceptors from either the local site or the SAGE direction center via voice commands and/or a digital data link.

Charleston AFS Structures (edit list)
Number Building Area Currently
100? Main Gate Shack Cantonment No
103 BOQ, Officer's Lounge and Medic Cantonment Yes
104 Motor Pool Cantonment No
105 BAQ Cantonment Yes
106 Heating Plant Cantonment Yes
107 BAQ Cantonment Yes
108 HQ/Admin/PX/Mail Room Cantonment Yes
110 Dining Hall Cantonment Yes
111 Civil Engineering Cantonment No
112 BOQ Cantonment Yes
113  ??? Cantonment No
114 BOQ/ Barber Shop Cantonment Yes
115 Auto Hobby Shop Cantonment No
117 Gym/Bowling Alley/Library/Theater Cantonment Yes
148-195 Base Housing Housing No
200 OPS Gate Shack Operations Yes
202 GATR Site Operations Yes
203 Tech Supply Operations Yes
204 Operations Building Operations Yes
205 Power Building Operations Yes
206 FPS-6 Tower Operations Yes
207 Building Operations Yes
208 Det 6 Building Operations Yes
209  ??? Operations Yes
210 AT&T Telco Building Operations Yes
211 FPS-7 Tower Operations Yes
212 FPS-6A Tower Operations Yes
213 Power Plant Operations  ???
21? FPS-26 Tower Operations Yes
21? FPS-27 Tower Operations Yes
300 NCO Club Cantonment  ???

Charleston AFS Major Equipment List
Search Radar HF Radar Data Systems
Unit Designations
  • 765th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron (1952-1959)
  • 765th Radar Squadron (SAGE) (1959-1970)
  • 765th Air Defense Group (1970-1974)
  • 765th Radar Squadron (1974-1979)
  • 765th Radar Squadron (TAC) (1979-1980)
  • Det 6, 14 MWS
765th Assignments

Current Status

Now Mountain View Youth Development Center near Charleston, Penobscot County, Maine. The housing area has been completely removed. Most of the cantonment buildings remain, repurposed for the detention facility. Most of the main operations site buildings and towers remain, in a deteriorated condition and unoccupied. The site was visited on 26 May 2018 but a request for access to the upper site was denied. Not much can be seen from public roads.

Location: Near Charleston in Penobscot County, Maine.

Maps & Images

Lat: 45.08944 Long: -69.0950

  • Multi Maps from ACME
  • Maps from Bing
  • Maps from Google
  • Elevation: 965'

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 86, 166.
  • 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 119-120.
  • NORAD/CONAD Historical Summary Jan-Dec 1966, dated 1 May 1967, Command History Division, HQ NORAD/CONAD, Unclassified (originally classified Secret), pdf, pages 28-31, Backup Intercept Control Systems
  • USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) Database Entry: 2086958


Visited: 26 May 2018

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