Pickstown Air Force Station
Pickstown Air Force Station (1961-1968) - A Cold War Air Force Radar Station first established in 1961 near Pickstown in Charles Mix County, South Dakota. Named Pickstown Air Force Station after the location. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of SM-134, later a Sage ID of Z-134. Abandoned in 1968.
Established in November 1960 and became operational on 14 Dec 1961 as Pickstown Air Force Station manned by the 695th AC&W Squadron. The station was purpose-built as a SAGE System long-range radar site. The site also had a limited capability for both a manual Ground-Control Intercept (GCI) and an early warning mission. The manual early warning mission involved tracking and identifying all aircraft entering their airspace while the manual GCI mission involved guiding Air Force interceptors to any identified enemy aircraft. Controllers at the station could vector fighter aircraft at the correct course and speed to intercept enemy aircraft using voice commands via ground-to-air radio.
SAGE System Operation
The site began operation as a SAGE site on 14 Dec 1961 initially feeding the Sioux City SAGE Direction Center DC-22. The Sioux City Air-Defense Sector (SCADS) was deactivated on 1 Apr 1966 and the 30th Air Division took up operations at the Sioux City SAGE Direction Center DC-22 and Pickstown AFS remained connected to that direction center.
On 18 Sep 1968, in the third round of SAGE System closures, the 30th Air Division and Sioux City SAGE Direction Center DC-22 were both deactivated. Most of the attached radar sites were closed on or about the same time, including Pickstown Air Force Station.
Pickstown Air Force Station and the 695th Radar Squadron (SAGE) were deactivated on 8 Sep 1968.
The main site and operations area was located about a mile and a half east of Pickstown South Dakota. The main site housed only the three radar towers covered with radomes and the operations building that housed the manual operations equipment and the SAGE System FST-2.
The cantonment area was located in the old General Pick Hotel in Pickstown, South Dakota, see #25 on the plan above. The hotel housed the Headquarters, administration, the enlisted dorm, the bachelor officer's quarters, the dining hall, and the dispensary. The building was completely remodeled for the Air Force and was a unique cantonment area. A separate recreation building was remodeled and became the Post Exchange, see # 21 on the plan above. The supply section was housed in the remodeled old Pickstown Garage.
A number of houses in Pickstown were remodeled and made available to Air Force families.
A separate SAGE System GATR radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts.
The main site is currently the Fort Randall Casino & Hotel operated by the Yankton Sioux Tribe, no remains of the Air Force Station. The GATR Site building still exists but has been greatly modified. A microwave radio site just outside the main compound still exists. None of the cantonment area still exists.
The town has a Museum named Fort Randall and Pickstown Museum. It has well over 2,000 exhibit artifacts along with over 450 professionally done wall exhibits regarding the town history.
Visited: 15 Jul 2020