Kotzebue Air Force Station

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Kotzebue Air Force Station (1950-Present) - A Cold War U.S. Air Force Station, part of the Alaska AC&W Radar Network. Initially functioned as a Ground Control Intercept (GCI), with a Permanent System ID of F-24. Later redesignated a surveillance site feeding manual track data to the Campion Direction Center. Became a minimally attended radar site in 1984 and was redesignated as Kotzebue Long-Range Radar Site with a JSS ID of A-12. 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 ZOTZ..

Kotzebue Air Force Station circa 1960s.


Selected in 1948 as a temporary "Lash Up" radar site to fill a gap in radar coverage until Cape Lisburne and Tin City were completed. The temporary installation became operational in 1950 probably using CPS-5 search radar and TPS-1B height-finder radar. In November 1954 it was decided to convert Kotzebue to a permanent installation.

Construction on the permanent site began in June 1955 and was completed in 1958 by the Manson-Osberg Company for $4,949,111. The site was officially dedicated on 10 Mar 1958 at a cost of $3,750,000. The site became operational in 1958 as Kotzebue Air Force Station manned by the 748th AC&W Squadron which had been activated in April 1958 to operate and maintain the site.

Old Radome Towers at Kotzebue circa mid 1990s.

Initial equipment at the permanent included the FPS-8 search radar and one FPS-4 height-finder radar. The radars were upgraded to one FPS-20 search radar in 1963 and one FPS-6 height-finder radar in 1962. Later the FPS-20 was upgraded to a FPS-93A search radar.

Aircraft track data from these radars was manually plotted on plotting boards and passed to the Campion Manual Direction Center on voice circuits. In 1965 the FYQ-9 Semiautomatic Data Processing and Display System was implemented on Alaska AC&W radar sites automating the passing of track data to the direction centers. The result was reduced manpower requirements and increased efficiency.

In mid-1973, Alaska Air Command converted Campion Air Force Station from a control center to a GCI site and Kotzebue Air Force Station from a GCI site to a surveillance site Murphy Dome assumed control-center responsibilities for the entire north sector.

Further 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 and some 69 military positions at Kotzebue AFS were deleted. The remaining 16 military positions were primarily in operations.

JSS common digitizers were installed on the AC&W radars sites, including Kotzebue, by 1982. This upgrade enabled transmission of radar track data via satellite 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. The Kotzebue AFS was deactivated on 1 Nov l983 even before the FPS-117 radars were installed.

Kotzebue Long-Range Radar Site

Kotzebue Long-Range Radar Site 1 Jan 1989.
Kotzebue Long-Range Radar Site with Deployable Wind Farm.

A new FPS-117 Minimally Attended Radar (MAR) was installed between April-June 1984. The site was operational on 9 Jun 1984 and re-designated as Kotzebue Long-Range Radar Site operated and maintained by contractors. The Long-Range radar site was connected to the Elmendorf JSS Regional Operations Control Center (ROCC) which was activated on 14 Jun 1983. The FPS-117 radar fed data to the ROCC FYQ-93 computers 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 Kotzebue. 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.

Physical Plant

The physical plant of the site was originally divided into the main site, a cantonment area. The main site housed the radar towers and the backup generators. The cantonment area housed the operations area, the enlisted quarters (BAQ), the bachelor officer's quarters (BOQ), the orderly room, the dining hall and other support areas in a single large two-story composite building. A separate recreation hall was connected to the composite building. No family housing was provided as this was considered a remote unaccompanied tour (1 year).

Air-Ground (A-G) Communications

Separate radio facilities housed the radio equipment for communicating with aircraft.

Kotzebue White Alice Communications Site

After HF 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 Kotzebue White Alice tropo site was activated on 25 May 1957. It linked to Granite Mountain WACS (105 miles) with a pair of 30’ tropo dish antennas and to Lisburne WACS (168 miles) with a pair of 60’ tropo billboard antennas. The equipment and power building was 5,280 square-foot facility. POL storage was three tanks totaling 7950 barrels.

The specific links from Kotzebue (OTZ) as/of July 1977 were:

Kotzebue WACS (OTZ1)

  • TR1 Tropo to Granite Mountain (GMT) (105 miles) 2-30' Tropo Dish Antennas
  • TR1 Tropo to Lisburne (LUR) (168 miles) 2-60' Tropo Billboard Antennas
  • CA Cable to Kotzebue E.S. (OTZ8)

Kotzebue E.S. (OTZ8)

  • CA Cable to Kotzebue WACS (OTZ1)
  • SAT to Bartlett E.S. (BTL)

The Kotzebu WACS was inactivated circa 1979 and replaced by an Alascom-owned satellite earth terminal.

Kotzebue AFS Major Equipment List
Search Radar HF Radar Data Systems Radio
Unit Designations
  • 748th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron (1958-1983)
748th Assignments
  • April 1958 - Activated
  • 1 Oct 1983 - Deactivated

Kotzebue AFS Partial Commanders List (edit list)
Assumed Relieved Rank Name Cullum Notes
1958~ Major Perry, William S. N/A
1970~ Major Gilhooly, David P. N/A
1980-02 1981-02 Major Baughn, Donald T. N/A

Current Status

Active long-range radar site but most of the old AC&W site buildings have been demolished. The 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. What remains is the FPS-117 Building and the ...... operations LRRS building.

Remaining Facilities
AC&W System Facilities MAR System Facilities
  • No. 203 - Radome tower
  • No. 85017 - Road system
  • No. ??? - Gravel pad system
  • No. 206 - Electric power station

Location: Kotzebue in Northwest Arctic Borough, Alaska.

Maps & Images

Lat: 66.84333 Long: -162.59556

  • Multi Maps from ACME
  • Maps from Bing
  • Maps from Google
  • Elevation: 150'

GPS Locations:

See Also:



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