MacDill Air Force Base Radar Site

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MacDill Air Force Base Radar Site (1954-1980) - A Cold War U.S. Air Force Radar Station established in 1954. Located on MacDill Air Force Base near Tampa, Hillsborough County, Florida. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of M-129 and a Sage ID of Z-129. Closed in 1980.

History

Established by 1 Aug 1954 and became the first mobile radar site to achieve operational status on 6 Dec 1954 as MacDill Air Force Base Radar Site manned by the 660th AC&W Squadron.

Initial equipment included the MPS-7 mobile search radar and by 1958 it included a GPS-3 search radar and a MPS-14 height-finder radar. In 1959, the MPS-7 and the GPS-3 were replaced by a FPS-20A search radar and a FPS-6B height-finder radar.

This configuration was one height-finder short of meeting the requirements for transition to the SAGE System (a SAGE qualified long range search radar and two SAGE qualified height-finders) but a second height-finder was in the plan and the transition began in 1959.

SAGE System 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.

SAGE System Operation

Former Gunter SAGE Direction Center DC-09
MacDill SAGE Direction Centers & Sectors
Assigned Direction Center Sector
1 Nov 1959 - 1 Apr 1966 Gunter SAGE Direction Center DC-09 Montgomery Air Defense Sector
1 Apr 1966 - 14 Nov 1969 Gunter SAGE Direction Center DC-09 32nd Air Division
14 Nov 1969 - 19 Nov 1969 Fort Lee SAGE Direction Center DC-04 33rd Air Division
19 Nov 1969 - 15 Nov 1980 Fort Lee SAGE Direction Center DC-04 20th Air Division

The site began operation as a SAGE site in 1960 initially feeding the Gunter SAGE Direction Center DC-09. On 1 Mar 1961, the squadron designation was changed from the 660th AC&W Squadron to 660th Radar Squadron (SAGE) indicating the new SAGE System role.

In 1961 the search radar was upgraded to one FPS-7B and a FPS-26A height-finder was added.

In 1963 a FPS-90 height-finder replaced the FPS-6B height-finder.

Around 1966 the MacDill radar site became a joint-use USAF/FAA site with the FPS-7B upgraded to the FPS-7E configuration. Also in 1966 the FPS-26 was modified to be an FSS-7 SLBM detection & warning radar, part of the 14th MWS network.

The FST-2 was probably replaced by February 1973 with a FYQ-47 Common Digitizer. The initial 18-month FYQ-47/49 USAF/FAA replacement program was completed in February of 1973 and the MacDill FYQ-47 would have been in place by then.

On 1 Feb 1974, the 660th Radar Squadron (SAGE) was redesignated 660th Radar Squadron dropping the (SAGE) identifier.

Closure

The MacDill radar site and the 660th Radar Squadron were deactivated on 15 Nov 1980. The FSS-7 SLBM detection & warning radar (the last one in operation) remained in use for about a year, operated by Det 1, 20 MWS. The FSS-7 remained active to provide additional coverage over Cuba.

The Joint Use USAF/FAA radar function moved to the newly completed Fort Lonesome FAA Radar Site where coverage was picked up by a newly installed FAA ARSR-3 search radar and a USAF FPS-116 height-finder.

The GATR site remained operational until the 1983 JSS switch-over. The GATR radios were maintained by the 1928th Communications Squadron on the base.

Gap Fillers

MacDill AFS was responsible for the maintenance of two 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 MacDill AFS gap-filler radars were located at Winter Garden FL and Inverness FL.

MacDill AFB Gap Filler Radar Sites (edit list)
ADC NORAD Location State Type From To GPS Notes
M-129A Z-129A Winter Garden FL FPS-14, FST-1 1958-12 1970-07-01 28.49004,
-81.5082
Building Gone
Tower Gone
M-129B Z-129B Inverness FL FPS-14 replace by
FPS-18, FST-1
1958-12 1970-07-01 28.68806,
-82.40167
Building Gone
Tower Gone



MacDill AFS Major Equipment List
Search Radar HF Radar Data Systems Comm
Unit Designations
  • 660th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron (1954-1961)
  • 660th Radar Squadron (SAGE) (1961-1974)
  • 660th Radar Squadron (1974-1980)
660th Assignments
  • 1 Jan 1951 - Assigned at Selfridge AFB, MI, assigned to 541st AC&W Gp.
  • 6 Feb 1952 - Inactivated.
  • 18 Jun 1955 - Reactivated and assigned to 55th AD, stationed at Dobbins AFB, GA.
  • By 1 Aug 1954 - Moved to MacDill AFB, FL.
  • 15 Nov 1958 - Transferred to 32nd AD.
  • 1 Nov 1959 - Transferred to Montgomery ADS. Gunter SAGE Direction Center DC-09
  • 1 Mar 1961 - Redesignated from AC&W Sq to 660th Radar Sq (SAGE).
  • 1 Apr 1966 - Reassigned 32nd AD. Gunter SAGE Direction Center DC-09
  • 14 Nov 1969 - Reassigned 33rd AD. Fort Lee SAGE Direction Center DC-04
  • 19 Nov 1969 - Reassigned to 20th AD. Fort Lee SAGE Direction Center DC-04
  • 1 Feb 1974 - Redesignated 660th Radar Sq.
  • Nov 1979 - Reorganized into TAC (ADTAC)
  • 15 Nov 1980 - Deactivated


MacDill Air Force Base Radar Site Partial Commanders List (edit list)
Assumed Relieved Rank Name Cullum Notes
1976-08 1978-08 Lt. Colonel Law, John R. N/A

Current Status

The remaining structures have been repurposed.


Location: MacDill Air Force Base in Hillsborough County, Florida.

Maps & Images

Lat: 27.83439 Long: -82.47184


GPS Locations:

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 157-158.
  • 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 33, 108.
  • USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) Database Entry: 2512267 - MacDill Air Force Base

Links:

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