Cold Bay Air Force Station
Cold Bay Air Force Station (1959-1969, 1969-1983, 1985-Present) - A Cold War U.S. Air Force Station, part of the Aleutian Islands Extension of the DEW Line Radar Network & White Alice Communications System (WACS), later the Alaska AC&W Radar Network, and even later the JSS System and the North Warning System. Initially functioned as the COB-Main DEW Line Radar Site and then was repurposed as the Alaska AC&W radar site F-26 when the Aleutian Islands DEW line extension shut down in 1969. In 1985 it was relocated several miles away and was established as a minimally attended radar (MAR) Long-Range Radar Site (LRRS) and became Cold Bay Long-Range Radar Site with a JSS ID of A-08. 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 ZCDB..
Construction began in early 1957 and the COB-Main DEW Line Radar Site became operational in April 1959 on Cold Bay Air Force Station manned by the 714th AC&W Squadron which had been activated in 1956 to operate and maintain the site. Cold Bay AFS was the master station for the Aleutian Islands Extension of the DEW Line & White Alice Communications System (WACS) providing management and support for the five other sites in the Aleutian Islands Extension. Although sometimes referred to as manned gap-fillers the five other sites were, in fact, operational FPS-19 long-range radar sites spaced about 130 miles apart but with absolute minimum manning. The 714th area of responsibility covered all of the Aleutian Peninsula and the major Aleutian Islands. Each of the five sites was manned by a detachment of the 714th AC&W Squadron that had carefully selected manpower positions that included one Officer, twenty-four enlisted personnel and sometimes a tech-rep.
Cold Bay AC&W Radar Site
Initial radar equipment for DEW Line operations was the FPS-19 search radar. With the conversion to an AC&W radar site in 1969 an FPS-3 search radar replaced the FPS-19 and one FPS-6 height-finder radar was added at North Bay. The radars were later upgraded to one FPS-20A search radar and an FPS-90 height-finder radar. Later the FPS-20 was upgraded to a FPS-93A configuration.
In 1965 the FYQ-9 Semiautomatic Data Processing and Display System had been implemented on Alaska AC&W radar sites automating the passing of track data to the direction centers. The FYQ-9 was installed at Cold Bay after the conversion to an AC&W radar site and the site began operation as a NORAD Surveillance Station (NSS). The primary input device for new tracks was the Semiautomatic Track Data Inserter (SATDI). The SATDI replaced the front shelf of a UPA-35 PPI adding a keyboard and a trackball. The trackball was used to position a circular cursor over the track on the PPI and when entry button is pressed the track location is formatted and assigned an identity with the keyboard. The formatted track information is passed into the system via regular teletype circuits and into the UYK-1 computer where the measurements of range and azimuth are converted to geo locations for display at the direction centers
Manpower 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 for military personnel.
JSS common digitizers were installed on the AC&W radars sites, including Cold Bay, by 1982. This upgrade enabled transmission of radar track data via satellite directly 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. Cold Bay AFS was deactivated on 1 Nov l983 even before the FPS-117 radars were installed. The search radome was removed from the old AC&W site on Granite Point and relocated to a newly constructed site located five miles nearer to the airstrip at Cold Bay. The original Granite Point site was abandoned and the concrete two-story composite building and steel garage were demolished by the Air Force in 1987.
A new FPS-117 Minimally Attended Radar (MAR) was installed on the new site between May and Jun 1985. The new site was operational on 6 Jul 1985 and re-designated as Cold Bay Long-Range Radar Site (LRRS), operated and maintained by contractors. This Long-Range radar site was connected to the Elmendorf JSS Regional Operations Control Center (ROCC) which was activated on 14 Jun 1983 and to the FAA ARTCC at Anchorage. The FPS-117 radar fed data to the ROCC FYQ-93 computers and the FAA facilities via satellite.
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 Cold Bay. 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 original construction of the COB-Main DEW line site followed a standard design for Aleutian Islands Extension sites that included a concrete composite building with a five-story radar tower, four large White Alice billboard tropo antennas, a steel garage, two ammunition bunkers, weather/terminal building, and water pumphouse. Housed in the composite building were the offices, housing, communications section, radar operations, radar maintenance, and two 350-KW generators.
No family housing was provided as this was considered a remote unaccompanied tour (1 year).
The airstrip at Cold Bay was originally built during World War II as Fort Randall Army Airfield. It closed after the War but was active in the early Cold War era as Thornbrough Air Force Base. It was closed again and abandoned in January 1950. The airstrip was reactivated for DEW Line operation. Airlift of supplies, mail and personnel was available year-round, weather permitting.
On 8 Sep 1973, a Douglas DC-8 on a cargo delivery mission for the Military Airlift Command crashed into nearby Mount Dutton on approach to North Bay. All six people on board the World Airways Flight 802 were killed.
Annual bulk resupply shipments to Cold Bay AFS were sealifted during the summer months under the Mona Lisa and later the Cool Barge programs.
Air-Ground (A-G) Radio Communications
Separate radio facilities housed the radio transmitter and receiver equipment for communicating with aircraft.
After HF radio 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 Aleutian Islands Extension of the DEW Line & White Alice Communications System (WACS) was established in 1959 and Cold Bay was the hub of that extension.
The Cold Bay White Alice tropo site was constructed in 1958 and became operational in April 1959. Facilities included 2-60’ tropo billboard antennas linked to Port Moller (105 miles) and 2-60’ tropo billboard antennas linked to Cape Sarichef (92 miles). The original site consisted of a composite building which housed a dormitory and the communications equipment as well. This site was considered to be colocated with the Cold Bay AC&W radar site and they shared some facilities.
The specific links from Cold Bay (CDB) as/of July 1977 were:
Cold Bay (CDB)
The Cold Bay WACS was inactivated in November 1978 and replaced by an Alascom-owned satellite earth terminal.
Active FPS-117 Long-Range Radar at the 2nd site. All of the original Grant Point AC&W site buildings were demolished and buried in 1986. The original 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. The current Cold Bay Long-Range Radar Site is a MAR facility located 5.7 miles from the old Dew Line and AC&W site and 4.2 miles from the Cold Bay Airport. This site is operational and providing radar track data to both the North Warning System and the FAA ARTCC at Anchorage. The former Thornbrough Air Force Base airstrip is now an active public use airport (CDB) owned by the State of Alaska.