Colville Air Force Station

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Colville Air Force Station (1951-1961) - A Cold War Air Force Radar Station first established in 1951 near Colville, Stevens County, Washington. Named Colville Air Force Station after the location. Initially assigned a site ID of LP-60 and using surplus Lashup System equipment. A Permanent ID of P-60 was assigned when permanent system equipment was installed in 1952. The site was integrated into the SAGE System in 1960 and then abandoned in 1961.

Colville Air Force Station Search Radar Tower Foundation.
Colville Air Force Station Radio Building.
Colville Air Force Station Operations Building and SAGE Annex, 2017.

History

Colville AFS Operations Dark Room Three Tier Dias Exposed.
Colville AFS Operations Dark Room Entrance showing where the Plotting Board was located (the blue graffiti wall).

Operation began at the Colville radar site in March 1951 under a site ID of LP-60 using Lashup System surplussed equipment. The site initially used a TPS-1B radar and in November 1951 a TPS-1C was installed .

The permanent site, with a site ID of P-60, became operational in February 1952 manned by the 760th AC&W Squadron. The station initially had both a Ground-Control Intercept (GCI) and Early Warning (EW) misssion. The early warnng mission involved tracking and identifing 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 P-60 equipment included the FPS-3 search radar and the FPS-5 height finder radar.

SAGE System Transition

Colville AFS SAGE Annex, the FST-2 was Installed along the rear trenches, the FST-2 Workcenter was in the Room on the Right.

The transition of the manual GCI system to the automated SAGE system began with 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 airconditioning, 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. According to newspaper accounts, the FST-2 installation at Colville AFS began in September of 1959. On 1 Sep 1960 the 760th AC&W Squadron was redesigned the 760th Radar Squadron (SAGE) to reflect integration into the SAGE System.

The site began operation as a SAGE site in 1960 initially feeding the Larson SAGE Direction Center DC-15. In preparation for SAGE implementation the search radar was upgraded from the FPS-3 search radar to an FPS-20 search radar. In 1956 the FPS-5 height finder radar was replaced with one FPS-6 height finder and a second FPS-6A was added later.

The 760th Radar Squadron and Colville Air Force Station were discontinued 1 Jun 1961.

Gap Filler Radars

Colville AFS was responsible for the maintenance of three 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 Colville AFS gap filler radars were located at Iona, WA; Curlew, WA and Okanogon, WA. Two other gap filler sites were planned, one at Northport, WA and one at Mazama, WA. These two sites were at least partially constructed but they did not become operational.

Colville AFS Gap Filler Radar Sites (edit list)
ADC NORAD Location State Type From To GPS Notes
P-60A Iona WA FPS-14, FST-1 1958 1960 48.54542,
-117.15571
Building foundation only
Tower gone
North Baldy Mtn.
P-60C Curlew WA FPS-18, FST-1 1960 1960 48.87709,
-118.78549
Building gone
Tower pads only
Former Curlew AFS
P-60D Okanogan WA FPS-18, FST-1 1960 1967 48.52809,
-119.94256
Building foundation only
Tower pads only
Starvation Mtn
Transferred to Othello AFS at closure

Physical Plant

The physical plant of the site was divided into an upper main site, a lower cantonment area, a separate lower housing area and two radio sites. The upper main site housed the operations buildings, the radar towers, and the backup generators. The cantonment area housed the enlisted barracks, the bachelor officer's quarters, the orderly room, the dining hall, the motor pool and other support buildings. Apart from the cantonment site was a small nine unit housing area for critical married personnel.

A separate radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts. Like most early radar stations, Colville originally had separate radio transmitter and receiver sites 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.


Colville AFS Major Equipment List
Search Radar HF Radar Data Systems
Unit Designations
  • 760th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron (1951-1960)
  • 760th Radar Squadron (SAGE) (1960-1961)
760th Assignments
  • 1 Jan 1951 - Assigned at Colville AFS, WA, assigned to 505th Gp.
  • 25 May 1951 - Transferred to 162nd Gp.
  • 6 Feb 1952 - Transferred to 25th AD.
  • Jan 1953 - Transferred to 4702nd Def Wg.
  • 8 Oct 1954 - Transferred to 9th AD.
  • 15 Aug 1958 - Transferred to 25th AD.
  • 1 Sep 1958 - Transferred to 4700th AD Wg.
  • 15 Mar 1960 - Transferred to Spokane ADS.
  • 1 Sep 1960 - Redesignated from AC&W Sq to 760th Radar Sq (SAGE).
  • 1 Jun 1961 - Discontinued.


Colville Air Force Station Partial Commanders List (edit list)
Assumed Relieved Rank Name Cullum Notes
1951~ Major Singer, John A. N/A First Commander
1951-06 1952-06 Major Jones, Donald E. N/A
1952-07 Major Steele, Wendell A. N/A
Major Crozier, Leslie T. N/A 15 May 1959
1954~ Major Eggington, Jack H. N/A
1954~ Major McCune, John A. N/A
1959~ Major Stagg, Herbert W. N/A
Dates are formatted in yyyy-mm-dd to sort correctly.
The Cullum Number is the graduation order from the United States Military Academy by year and class rank and links to a page for the officer on the website version of the Cullum Register. Listings without a Cullum Number indicate that the person was not a graduate of the United States Military Academy.

Current Status

Abandoned in Colville, Stevens County, Washington. Very little remains of the housing area and the cantonment area. Only slight bits of foundations can be seen but both sites have exposed sewer manhole covers to verify their locations.

The upper main site is remarkably intact although damaged and covered with graffiti. The damage to the operations building, mainly holes in the walls, actually allows enough light inside to allow photography and inspection. The structure of the operations room dias remains, is exposed and can be examined. The SAGE Annex is empty but the structure and the cable throughs are expose so the layout is easy to confirm. The upper site gate shack is collapsed with only the flat roof visible. The supply building is gone with only the foundation remaining. The radar towers are gone with only some foundational elements remaining. The power building and the radio building remain standing but are empty.

The road to the site is passable in a normal passenger car. Site visited on 5 Jun 2017.


Location: Near Colville in Stevens County, Washington.

Maps & Images

Lat: 48.590887 Long: -117.58862

See Also:

Sources:

  • 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 165.
  • 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 166.
  • USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) Database Entry: 2087473


Links:

Visited: 5 Jun 2017


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