North Bend Air Force Station
North Bend Air Force Station (1951-1980) - A Cold War Air Force Radar Station first established in 1951 near North Bend, Coos County, Oregon. Named North Bend Air Force Station on 1 Dec 1953 after the nearby town. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of P-12 and later a Sage ID of Z-12. Abandoned in 1980 and turned over to the State of Oregon.
Established in 1951 with the 761st AC&W Squadron assigned to the newly constructed radar station. Initial equipment included the FPS-8 search radar and an FPS-4 height-finder radar. The radar equipment evolved into one FPS-3 search radar with two FPS-6 height-finder radars while the site was still a manual Ground Control Intercept (GCI) site.
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.
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
The site began operation as a SAGE site in March 1960 initially feeding the Adair SAGE Direction Center DC-13 at Adair AFS. The search radar was upgraded to an FPS-7, one FPS-26A height-finder radar, and one FPS-90 height-finder. With the closure of the Adair SAGE Direction Center in 1969, the site was connected to the McChord SAGE Direction Center DC-12 at McChord AFB near Seattle.
The public announcement of the closure of North Bend AFS came in April 1978. North Bend AFS and the 761st Radar Squadron were deactivated on 11 Feb 1980 and the shutdown was complete on 31 Mar 1980. The site was subsequently turned over to the State of Oregon.
Gap Filler Radars
North Bend AFS was responsible for the maintenance of three 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 gap-fillers maintained by North Bend AFS were located at Port Orford, Disston, and Placer, Oregon.
The physical plant of the site was divided into the main site, a housing area, and a radio site. The main site housed the operations building, the radar towers, the enlisted barracks, the bachelor officer's quarters, the orderly room, the chow hall, the motor pool, and the backup generators. Apart from the main site was a small, 27-unit, housing area for critical married personnel.
A separate radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts. Like most early radar stations, North Bend originally had a radio transmitter site and a separate radio receiver site used by local controllers for voice direction of fighter interceptors to their targets. With the SAGE System, the SAGE Direction centers had the primary task of directing intercepts and the local radio sites were reconfigured, usually into a single site that was known as the Ground to Air Transmitter Receiver (GATR) site. The GATR site communicated with the interceptors from either the local site or the SAGE direction center via voice commands and/or a digital data link.
Currently operated by the State of Oregon as the Shutter Creek Correctional Institution (minimum-security prison) in North Bend, Coos County, Oregon. Some buildings remain, with no public access.