Cherry Point MCAS Radar Site
Cherry Point MCAS Radar Site (1957-1963) - A Cold War U.S. Air Force Radar Station established in 1957. Located on Cherry Point Marine Coprs Air Station (MCAS), Craven County, North Carolina. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of M-116 and later, a Sage ID of Z-116. Closed in 1963.
Established in 1957 and became operational in 1958 as Cherry Point MCAS Radar Site manned by the 614th Radar Squadron (SAGE). The Main site was located next to Base Operations.
Initial equipment included the [FPS-8]] search radar and one FPS-6 height-finder radar. A second FPS-8 was installed, belonging to the Marine Corps but maintained by the Air Force. On 11 Sep 1960, Hurricane Donna blew down the Air Force FPS-8 antenna onto a car below. The antenna was replaced.
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
The site began operation as a SAGE site on 1 Jul 1961 initially feeding the Fort Lee SAGE Direction Center DC-04. On 1 Mar 1963 the squadron designation was changed from the 614th AC&W Squadron to 614th Radar Squadron (SAGE) indicating the new SAGE System role.
The Cherry Point MCAS Radar Site and the 614th were deactivated on 1 Aug 1963.
Cherry Point MCAS 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 Cherry Point MCAS AFS gap-filler radars were located at Engelhard NC and Holly Ridge NC.
Radar site was located adjacent to Base Flight Operations.
A separate radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts. Like most early radar stations, Cherry Point MCAS 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. The GATR site is now used by the Carteret County fire department as a training site.
Note: Reported dates overlap and may be incorrect or reflect periods of intermittant temporary command.
Two unused towers still exist next to Base Operations other areas repurposed.