Ellington Air Force Base Radar Site
Ellington Air Force Base Radar Site (1952-1969) - A Cold War U.S. Air Force Radar Station established during the Korean War. Originally located on the former Ellington Air Force Base near Houston, Harris County, Texas. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of P-79, a Sage ID of Z-79, and a JSS ID of J-15. A Sage ID of Z-240 was assigned when SAGE inputs were resumed circa 1974. Closed as a USAF radar site in 1969 and became an FAA radar site that is still operational.
Established in 1952 and became operational in April 1952 as the Ellington Air Force Base Radar Site manned by the 747th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron.
Initial equipment included two FPS-10 radar sets, one serving as a search radar, and one used as a height-finder radar.
On 29 Oct 1969, the Pentagon publicly announced cutbacks in military forces and facilities that included inactivating the 747th AC&W Squadron at Ellington by January 1970. The 747th AC&W Squadron was deactivated on 31 Dec 1969 but the FAA continued to operate and maintain the ARSR-1 on the site.
Follow on USAF Operations
In late 1972 a detachment of the 630th Radar Squadron began to operate a FPS-90 height-finder radar at the FAA Site. The FPS-90 was modified to become a FPS-116 about 1977 and was removed about 1988. The USAF limited use of the site ceased sometime in the 1990s when the Morales ARSR-4 became operational and tied into the JSS System. Data tied USAF use resumed following 9/11, 2001.
Ellington AFS was responsible for the maintenance of two remote unattended gap-filler radar sites between 1960 and 1964. 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 Ellington AFS gap-filler radars were located at Fannett and Van Vleck, Texas.
The Houston FAA Radar site began equipment operation about 1960 with the installation of an FAA ARSR-1A search radar. That radar was upgraded to an ARSR-1E in 1964. The FAA continued to operate the ARSR-1E after the departure of the 747th AC&W Squadron in 1969.
In 1972 a USAF FPS-90 Height-Finder radar was installed at this site to provide target height information to the newly formed Southern Air Defense Sector (SADS). SADS operated from the Houston Manual NORAD Control Center co-located with the Houston ARTCC. The FPS-90 height-finder was maintained and operated by elements of the OL-AC 630th Radar Squadron and in 1975 by OL-AG of the 678th Air Defense Squadron. The FPS-90 later became an FPS-116 before being removed circa 1988.
A FYQ-47 Common Digitizer was probably placed in service by February 1973 when the USAF/FAA FST-2 to FYQ-47 replacement program was completed. By 1990 the site was equipped with an ARSR-1E search radar and a CD-2C Common Digitizer. The Houston CD-2C was scheduled to receive an upgrade kit to implement three level weather data processing in August 1992.
The nationwide replacement program converting FAA legacy radar systems to the CARSR radar configuration was completed by 17 Aug 2015 and Houston FAA Radar Site was a part of that program. Legacy FAA radars underwent a Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) that replaced key components in the vintage ARSR-1, ARSR-2, FPS-20, FPS-66 and FPS-67 radars. The CARSR program replaced legacy klystron radar transmitters with a solid-state transmitter as well as renovating the radar receiver and signal processor. The CARSR modification also included common digitizer functionality making a separate common digitizer unnecessary. The Houston FAA Radar Site is now operating with the CARSR radar. The Houston CARSR radar became operational in 2011.
The radar site data is now available to the USAF/NORAD Battle Control System-Fixed (BCS-F) operations centers (EADS & WADS) as well as the FAA Houston ARTCC (ZHU) and adjacent ARTCCs. Other federal agencies have access to the data under the Homeland Security umbrella.
Active FAA Radar site. The remains of the USAF radar site could be seen until 2017 when the buildings were leveled and the concrete pads were removed. The Orderly Room building had been removed circa 2004. The only remaining structure from the USAF Radar Site era is an abandoned FPS-6 radar tower.
Visited: 10 Nov 2020