North Charleston Air Force Station

From FortWiki
Jump to: navigation, search

North Charleston Air Force Station (1955-1980) - A Cold War U.S. Air Force Radar Station established in 1955. Located near North Charleston, Charleston County, South Carolina. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of M-113 and a Sage ID of Z-113. Closed in 1980.


Established in 1955 and became operational in 1955 as North Charleston Air Force Station manned by the 792nd Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron.

Initial equipment included the MPS-7 search radar. By 1956, GPS-3, MPS-14, and MPS-8 radars had been added. In 1959 a FPS-20A search radar was installed. In 1961 the FPS-20A search radar was upgraded and redesignated as a FPS-66. By August 1962, a GPA-37 Course Directing Group, weapons directing analog computer system, was in operation at North Charleston AFS running manual radar intercepts. The installed radar configuration (a SAGE qualified long-range search radar and two SAGE qualified height-finders) met the requirements for transition to SAGE System operation.

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 Fort Lee SAGE Direction Center DC-04.
North Charleston AFS Direction Centers & Sectors
Assigned Direction Center Sector
Fall 1954 - 15 Nov 1958 Dobbins Manual Direction Center M-87 35th Air Division (Defense)
15 Nov 1958 - 1 Jul 1961 Syracuse Manual Direction Center P-05 32nd Air Division (Defense)
1 Jul 1961 - 1 Apr 1966 Fort Lee SAGE Direction Center DC-04 Washington Air Defense Sector
1 Apr 1966 - 19 Nov 1969 Fort Lee SAGE Direction Center DC-04 33rd Air Division
19 Nov 1969 - 1 Jun 1980 Fort Lee SAGE Direction Center DC-04 20th Air Division

The site began operation as a SAGE site on 1 Jul 1961 initially feeding the Fort Lee SAGE Direction Center DC-04. On 25 Mar 1962, the squadron designation was changed from the 792nd AC&W Squadron to 792nd Radar Squadron (SAGE) indicating the new SAGE System role.

In 1964 the site received a FPS-27 search radar. In the early 1970s, the vacuum tube FST-2 Coordinate Data Transmitter was probably replaced with a solid-state FYQ-47 Common Digitizer. On 1 Jul 1974, the 792nd was redesignated as the 792nd Radar Squadron. The MPS-14 was modified to become a FPS-116 height-finder about 1977. The FPS-26A height-finder was retired circa 1979. The facility came under TAC (ADTAC) control in 1979 when ADC was eliminated.


North Charleston AFS and the 792nd Radar Squadron were deactivated on 1 June 1980. The GATR facility remained operational until the JSS switchover, circa 1984.

FAA Joint Use

In late 1959 the Air Force radar site was also performing air traffic control duties for the FAA with the FPS-20A search radar and MPS-14 height-finder. The FPS-20A was upgraded to a FPS-66 about 1961. In 1966, the FAA departed along with the FPS-66 search radar.

Gap Fillers

North Charleston 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 North Charleston AFS gap-filler radars were located at Stateburg SC, Georgetown SC, and Parris Island MCAS, SC.

North Charleston AFS Gap Filler Radar Sites (edit list)
ADC NORAD Location State Type From To GPS Notes
M-113A Z-113A Stateburg SC FPS-18, FST-1 1959-08 1980-06-01 33.9439,
Building gone
Tower Gone
M-113B Z-113B Georgetown SC FPS-14, FST-1 1958-05 1970-07-01 33.31599,
Building exists
Tower Exists
M-113C Z-113C Parris Island MCAS SC FPS-18, FST-1 1958-04 1970-07-01 32.328472,
Building gone
Tower Gone

Physical Plant

The physical plant of the site was divided into a main operations site, a cantonment area, a housing area, and a radio site. The main operations site housed the operations buildings, the radar towers, and the backup generators. The cantonment area housed the enlisted barracks, the bachelor officer's quarters, the orderly room, the dining hall, the motor pool, and other support buildings. Apart from the main site was a small 22 unit housing area for married personnel.

A separate radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts. Like most early radar stations, North Charleston 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.

North Charleston AFS Major Equipment List
Search Radar HF Radar Data Systems Com Displays IFF/SIF
Unit Designations
  • 792nd Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron (1955-1962)
  • 792nd Radar Squadron (SAGE) (1962-1974)
  • 792nd Radar Squadron (1974-1980)
792nd Assignments
  • 16 Mar 1951 - Activated at Tinker AFB, OK, assigned to 546th AC&W Gp.
  • 4 Jun 1951 - Discontinued.
  • 1 Nov 1953 - Reactivated at Ethan Allen AFB, VT, assigned to 32nd AD.
  • 24 Dec 1953 - Transferred to 35th AD (CADF) and moved to Dobbins AFB, GA.
  • fall of 1954 - Moved to Charleston AFB, SC.
  • summer of 1955 - Moved to North Charleston AFS, SC.
  • 15 Nov 1958 - Transferred to 32nd AD.
  • 1 Jul 1961 - Transferred to Washington ADS. (Fort Lee SAGE Direction Center DC-04)
  • 25 Mar 1962 - Redesignated from AC&W Sq to 792nd Radar Sq (SAGE).
  • 1 Apr 1966 - Transferred to 33rd AD. (Fort Lee SAGE Direction Center DC-04)
  • 19 Nov 1969 - Reassigned to 20th AD. (Fort Lee SAGE Direction Center DC-04)
  • 1 Jul 1974 - Redesignated as 792nd Radar Squadron.
  • 1979 - Reorganized into TAC (ADTAC).
  • 4 Jun 1980 - Discontinued.

North Charleston Air Force Station Partial Commanders List (edit list)
Assumed Relieved Rank Name Cullum Notes
1955~ Major Armagost, Edgar R. N/A Deceased 17 Aug 2014
1961~ Lt. Colonel Knisely, James W. N/A
1965~ Major Neprud, J. K. N/A
1969~ Captain Lyng, Reginald W. N/A
1980~ Major Sykes, Ronald D. N/A Last Commander

Note: Reported dates overlap and may be incorrect or reflect periods of intermittant temporary command.

Current Status

The main site has been leveled and overbuilt with North Charleston Public Works buildings. Only the cantonment area has any signs of the Air Force Station buildings and only some of the foundation pads remain. The housing area is gone with no signs at all of the housing units.

Location: North Charleston in Charleston County, South Carolina.

Maps & Images

Lat: 32.89556 Long: -80.02222

GPS Locations:

See Also:


  • 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 170.
  • 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 153.
  • USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) Database Entry: 2089735


Visited: 14 Feb 2018

Personal tools