Houma Air Force Station

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Houma Air Force Station (1955-1970) - A Cold War Air Force Radar Station first established in 1955 near Houma, Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana. Named Houma Air Force Station after the location. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of M-126, later a Sage ID of Z-126. Abandoned in 1970.

History of Houma Air Force Station

Established on 1 Apr 1955 and became operational on 7 Dec 1955 as Houma Air Force Station, manned by the 657th AC&W Squadron. The station initially had both a Ground-Control Intercept (GCI) and 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 TPS-1D combination search and height-finder radar, one MPS-14 height-finder radar and one TPS-10D height-finder radar.

SAGE 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.

The site began operation as a SAGE site in 1961 initially feeding the Gunter SAGE Direction Center DC-09. The search radar was upgraded to an FPS-20 and one MPS-14 and one MPS-7 height-finder radars were installed. In 1960 an FPS-6 was added. In 1962 the FPS-20 search radar was upgraded to an FPS-67 and the FPS-6B was upgraded to an FPS-90.

A prototype Raytheon FPS-28 frequency diversity radar was added in 1959, the only one acquired. The FPS-28 was deactivated in May 1965. Both height-finder radars were then deactivated, the MPS-14 in 1968 and the FPS-90 in 1969. This left Homua AFS with only the FPS-67B search radar at the end of 1969.

In preparation for the closure of the Gunter SAGE Direction Center DC-09 in December 1969 control of Houma AFS was shifted to the Fort Lee SAGE Direction Center DC-04 on 14 Nov 1969.

Gap Fillers

Houma AFS was responsible for the maintenance of one remote unattended gap-filler radar site. 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 Houma AFS gap-filler radar site was located at Camp Leroy Johnson on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans. The site was originally equipped with the FPS-14 radar but was later upgraded to an FPS-18 radar.

Houma AFS Gap Filler Radar Sites (edit list)
ADC NORAD Location State Type From To GPS Notes
M-126A Z-126A New Orleans LA FPS-14, FST-1
FPS-18, FST-1
1957-10
1970-07-01
30.02748,
-90.04861

Closure

Houma AFS and the 657th Radar Squadron were deactivated on 30 Sep 1970.

Physical Plant

The physical plant of the site was divided into the main site, a cantonment area, a housing area and a radio site. Because of the location on a U.S. Navy facility some support operations were furnished by the host support base. The USAF Air Force Station site occupied some 96 acres of land.

The main site housed the operations buildings, the radar towers, and the backup generators. The cantonment area housed the enlisted barracks, the orderly room, the dining hall and other support buildings. There was no BOQ or Officer's club on the USAF site. The site originally had metal quonset hut style buildings but a masonry dining hall and airman's dormitory was completed in June 1966.

Apart from the main site was a small 27 unit family housing area for married personnel that was accepted for use in May 1959. The Houma AFS is listed as having 29 total family housing units and 10 trailer sites.

Originally built with separate radio receiver and transmitter sites. SAGE implementation brought a single Ground to Air Transmitter/Receiver (GATR) radio site that housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts. The GATR site was housed in the former radio transmitter site about 600' from the operations building.


Houma AFS Major Equipment List
Search Radar HF Radar Data Systems
Unit Designations
  • 657th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron (1955-1961)
  • 657th Radar Squadron (SAGE) (1961-1970)
657th Assignments
  • 1 Jan 1951 - Assigned at Fort Williams, ME, assigned to 540th AC&W Gp.
  • 18 Oct 1951 - Inactivated.
  • 18 Jun 1955 - Reactivated at Tinker AFB, OK, assigned to 33rd AD.
  • Mar 1955 - Moved to Houma NAS, LA.
  • 10 Apr 1955 - Transferred to 35th AD
  • 15 Nov 1958 - Transferred to 32nd AD.
  • 1 Nov 1959 - Transferred to Montgomery ADS.
  • 1 Mar 1961 - Redesignated from AC&W Sq to 657th Radar Sq (SAGE).
  • 1 Apr 1966 - Reassigned to 32nd AD (Gunter AFB).
  • 14 Nov 1969 - Reassigned to 33rd AD. (Fort Lee AFS)
  • 19 Nov 1969 - Reassigned to 20th AD. (Fort Lee AFS)
  • 30 Sep 1970 - Inactivated


Houma Air Force Station Partial Commanders List (edit list)
Assumed Relieved Rank Name Cullum Notes
~1970 Major Calhoun, John N/A

Current Status

Abandoned in Houma, Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana.


Location: Houma in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana.

Maps & Images

Lat: 29.5625 Long: -90.675

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 157.
  • 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 118.
  • USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) Database Entry: 2087767


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