Fort Lee SAGE Direction Center DC-04

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Fort Lee SAGE Direction Center DC-04 (1957-1983) - A Cold War SAGE System Direction Center first established in 1957 on Fort Lee Air Force Station near Prince George, Prince George County, Virginia. Named Fort Lee SAGE Direction Center after the Air Force Station where it was located. Assigned a Sage ID of DC-04. Deactivated as a SAGE Direction Center in 1983.

Former Fort Lee SAGE Direction Center now Von Steuben Hall


Established in 1957 and became operational on 1 Feb 1958 as Fort Lee SAGE Direction Center DC-04.

SAGE System Data Flow

Direction center equipment included the duplex FSQ-7 computer system and associated communication equipment. The FSQ-7 computer system assembled digitized inputs from USAF Radar Sites to provide tracking and identification of all aircraft within their sector of responsibility. The digitized radar inputs came from USAF Radar Sites, airborne radar pickets, Texas Towers, Gap Filler Radar Sites and other radar sources. The total picture of aircraft in the sector was assembled and any unknown aircraft were checked out and hostile aircraft were engaged by USAF fighter aircraft, Bomarc missiles or NIKE missiles. The primary defense was against the Soviet threat of a mass nuclear bomber attack on the US. The system evolved before the advent of ICBMs and provided no missile defense against them.

The computer technology was first generation vacuum tube equipment and required significant power and air conditioning. The physical plant of the direction center was enclosed in a large multi-story concrete blockhouse that housed the duplex FSQ-7 computer, communications equipment, a powerhouse, air conditioning systems and operational areas. The operational areas included radar mapping, air surveillance, identification, communications and weapons direction.

The enormous cost of the radar sites, direction centers, personnel, and training caused an immediate reevaluation and almost as quickly as they were built some facilities were closed. The first mass closures began in the 1960s when many radar sites and virtually all the gap filler sites were closed. The first round of direction center closures came in 1963 when six were closed, a second round in 1966 and a third in 1969 that closed a total of 17 out of 23. The remaining six direction centers became SAGE Regional Control Centers (RCCs) still using the massive FSQ-7 vacuum tube computers. As the direction centers and radar sites closed the remaining sites were realigned into ever-increasing sectors.

A new Joint Surveillance System (JSS) evolved as a partnership between the Air Force and the FAA to provide nationwide radar coverage. When completed in 1983 it consisted of only forty-six radar sites feeding into four new Region Operation Control Centers (ROCCs) with FYQ-93 computer systems. With the activation of the four U.S. ROCCs and the two Canadian ROCCs, the last seven of the SAGE direction centers were deactivated and this signaled the end of the SAGE system. Of the remaining forty-six radar sites, thirty-one had FAA-operated search radars and USAF operated height finders. Five sites just had FAA search radars and only ten sites were operated by the Military. With the deployment of forty FAA ARSR-4 3D radar sets in the 1990s, the earlier military and FAA radars were replaced.

The Canadians closed their underground SAGE Direction Center and created two ROCCs (CAN-East and CAN-West) using the FYQ-93 computers in the underground facility.

Fort Lee SAGE Direction Center DC-04
Unit Designation From To
Washington Air Defense Sector 1957-01-08 1966-04-01
33nd Air Division 1966-04-01 1969-11-19
20th Air Division 1969-11-19 1983-03-01

The Fort Lee SAGE Direction Center was one of six direction centers designated as a SAGE Regional Control Centers (RCCs) in 1966 and it remained operational, still using the vacuum tube FSQ-7 computer, until 1 Mar 1983.

Fort Lee SAGE Direction Center DC-04 Radar Sites (edit list)
Location Type State Unit ADC NORAD JSS From To GPS Notes
Fort Fisher AFS NC 701st M-115 Z-115 J-02 1961-07-01 1983-03-01 33.99,
Tyndall AFB FL 678th TM-198 Z-198 J-11 1969-11-19 1983-03-01 30.0760296,
Aiken AFS SC 861st SM-159 Z-159 1969-11-19 1975-06-30 33.64611,
Bedford AFS VA 649th M-121 Z-121 1958-09-01 1975-06-30 37.51722,
Cape Charles AFS VA 771st P-56 Z-056 1958-09-01 1981-06-01 37.13278,
Cherry Point MCAS NC 614th M-116 Z-116 1961-07-01 1963-08-01 34.902778,
Dauphin Island AFS AL 693rd
TM-196 Z-196
J-12 1969-11-14
Fort Meade RS MD 770th RP-54 Z-227 1961-10-01 1979-10-01 39.116343,
Jacksonville NAS FL 679th M-114 Z-114 1969-11-14 1981-07-01 30.22138,
Key West NAS FL 671st Z-209 J-07 1969-11-14 1983-03-01 24.584444,
Manassas AFS VA 647th P-55 Z-055 1958-09-01 1965-06-25 38.62778,
North Charleston AFS SC 792nd M-113 Z-113 1961-07-01 1980-06-01 32.89556,
Palermo AFS NJ 770th
P-54 Z-054 1968-04-01 1970-05-30 39.22194,
Patrick AFB FL 645th Z-211 Z-211 J-05 1969-11-14 1974-04-01 28.21424,
Roanoke Rapids AFS NC 632nd M-117 Z-117 1958-09-01 1978-09-30 36.43972,
Winston-Salem AFS NC 810th M-130 Z-130 1961-07-01 1970-07-01 36.04361,
Savannah AFS GA 702nd M-112 Z-112 1969-11-14 1979-06-05 32.01704,
Richmond AFS FL 644th Z-210 Z-210 J-06 1969-11-14 1978-04-01 25.62333,
Lake Charles AFS LA 634th TM-194 Z-248 J-14 1973 1976 30.184722,
MacDill AFB FL 660th M-129 Z-129 1969-11-14 1980-11-15 27.83439,
Cross City AFS FL 691st TM-200 Z-200 1969-11-14 1970-09-30 29.63461,
Winston-Salem AFS NC 810th M-130 Z-130 1969-11-14 1970-07-31 36.04361,
Houma AFS LA 657th M-126 Z-126 1969-11-14 1970-09-30 29.5625,

Current Status

Sage Direction Center blockhouse repurposed as Von Steuben Hall on Fort Lee in Prince George, Prince George County, Virginia.

Location: Fort Lee near Prince George in Prince George County, Virginia.

Maps & Images

Lat: 37.25255 Long: -77.32252

See Also:


  • 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 162
  • 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 59


Visited: 27 May 2016

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