Glencoe Aerostat Radar Site
Glencoe Aerostat Radar Site (1993-2004) - A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Aerostat Radar Site located near Glencoe, St. Mary Parish, Louisiana. Assigned a TARS ID of B-90. Closed in 2004. Also Known as Morgan City Aerostat Radar Site.
U.S. Customs Service (1988-1992)
Preparation began on the 23.9 acre Glencoe site in January 1993 and the site was operational by August 1993. The Glencoe Aerostat Radar Site was then turned over to the U.S. Air Force who operated and maintained the site with civilian contractors. The site fed radar data to the U.S. Customs West Coast Command Center at March Air Force Base in Riverside, California. Initial equipment included the TPS-63 search radar.
U.S. Air Force (USAF) (1992-2013)
By 1992 the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Coast Guard, and U.S. Customs were operating three separate Aerostat systems. In 1992 Congress mandated that DoD consolidate and manage the separate programs. The Air Force was designated as the executive agent. The Air Force made the 4700th Operations Support Squadron (OSS), a component of the Air Combat Command (ACC), responsible for the management of the system. The resulting system became known as the Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS).
Immediate problems emerged as USAF accepted the turnover of sites from other agencies. The newly acquired systems had not gone through the normal acquisition process and proper support was not in place. Provisioning problems caused five TARS sites to be nonoperational for up to 28 months. Telephone Hot Line complaints from personnel resulted in a 1994 Department of Defense Inspector General Audit Report that documented the issues and provided guidance for getting the system on track. Issues with the General Electric aerostats dictated a contracting effort to replace the three existing systems with a single standard configuration. The Glencoe Aerostat Radar Site was of these sites.
Immediate problems emerged as USAF accepted the turnover of sites from other agencies. The newly acquired systems had not gone through the normal acquisition process and proper support was not in place. Provisioning problems caused five TARS sites to be nonoperational for up to 28 months. Telephone Hot Line complaints from personnel resulted in a 1994 Department of Defense Inspector General Audit Report that documented the issues and provided guidance for getting the system on track. Issues with the General Electric aerostats dictated a contracting effort to replace all the existing systems with a single standard configuration.
A 30 Dec 1995 NORAD configuration document shows the Glencoe TARS site as one of the four TARS sites furnishing radar data to the South East Air Defense Sector (SEADS) direction center at Tyndall AFB in Florida. It was shown with a TARS ID of B-90. The site was actually erroneously listed as Morgan City but with the correct TARS ID B-90.
Note: Morgan City was considered for the location of this aerostat site but because of the high volume of air traffic from Morgan City to the oil fields and a large number of high radio towers the FA did not approve of that location and the site was established at Glencoe, some 30 miles away from Morgan City. The Air Force accepted the site from the U.S. Customs service and established signage that identified the site as "U.S. Air Force Aerostat Site Morgan City" and many Air Force/NORAD documents refer to the site as "Morgan City". Local newspapers used the Glencoe name to avoid confusing local readers.
In 1999 Lockheed Martin was awarded a contract to modernize six TARS site installations and by March 2002 they had transitioned three of the six sites to a standard 420K Aerostat balloon and the L-88 radar system.
On 30 Aug 2000, the moored Glencoe Aerostat balloon was damaged beyond repair by 90-knot winds. No replacement ballons were available and funds were not available for the newer Lockheed Martin Aerostat package so the site went without a balloon for about a year. In August of 2001 the contractor was notified by the Air Force that Glencoe, Matagorda and Horseshoe Beach sites would be closed as of 1 Oct 2001. The Glencoe manager immediately laid off half of the crew and the remainder were notified that they would be laid off by 1 Oct 2001. The events of 9-11 2001 obviously changed things because one year later funding was restored and the site reopened. In October 2002 the balloon again was grounded for repairs to its outer fabric.
An Air Combat Command Fact Sheet for the Tethered Aerostat Radar System that was current as of January 2003 indicates that the Glencoe TARS site (aka Morgan City) was in a cold storage configuration. In 2011 the FAA terminated the flight restrictions for Restricted Area R-3807 Glencoe, LA and commented that "The aerostat balloons have not been operational for several years and the United States Air Force (USAF) has no intent to replace them." It is unclear how long the cold storage status held before the site was effectively closed but according to some sources, the site was deactivated in early 2004.
A 2018 Satellite photo indicates that the site is still relatively intact with the large circular concrete pad and several structures in place but no equipment visible. The property was originally a 23.9-acre site leased from private owners and comprised of parts of three different land parcels, parcels 1634684050.00, 1754764010.00 and 1754764016.00 with access via Glencoe School Lane. In 2010 an environmental assessment was conducted with a view toward returning the land and improvements back to the owners and the study found no significant impact.