Port Austin Air Force Station

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Port Austin Air Force Station (1952-1988) - A Cold War Air Force Radar Station first established in 1952 near Port Austin, Huron County, Michigan. Named Port Austin Air Force Station after the location. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of P-61, later a Sage ID of Z-61 and a JSS ID of J-57. Abandoned in 1988.


Constructed in 1950-1951 and became operational in 1952 as Port Austin Air Force Station manned by the 754th AC&W Squadron. 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.

Initial equipment included the FPS-3 search radar and later in 1954 a CPS-4 height-finder radar.

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.

The site began operation as a SAGE site in 1959 initially feeding the Custer SAGE Direction Center DC-06. The search radar was upgraded to an FPS-20 and two FPS-6 height-finder radars were installed.

In 1962 a large FPS-24 search radar was installed followed by an FPS-26A height-finder in 1964. The FPS-6 height-finders were removed in 1964 and 1968. The FPS-24 and the FPS-26A remained the site radar until the FPS-24 suffered a catastrophic bearing failure in 1982 and was replaced with an FPS-91A in 1983. The FPS-26A was later replaced by an FPS-116. The FPS-91A and FPS-116 remained until the site closed in 1988.

BUIC System

A technological change came to Port Austin with the BUIC II system and the installation of the Burroughs D825 (GSA-51) computer system. The BUIC II system officially went operational at Port Austin AFS in 1965.

In 1968 Port Austin AFS became a BUIC III site. The BUIC III system provided a backup for SAGE direction centers and provided the ability to display sector-wide radar data on consoles for local weapons controllers. The system duplicated the functionality of the vacuum tube direction center computers with more up-to-date computers. On 15 Jan 1970 the BUIC III mission was terminated and Port Austin AFS reverted to a long-range radar site status. The vacuum tube FST-2 was replaced with the solid-state FYQ-47 early in the 1970s.

JSS System

In 1983, with the deactivation of the SAGE System, Port Austin joined the JSS System as site J-57, one of only seven USAF military sites to do so. As a JSS site, Port Austin operated an FPS-91A search Radar and an FPS-116 Height finder. The secondary radar was a UPX-14.


Port Austin AFS was deactivated on 30 Sep 1988.

Physical Plant

The physical plant of the site was divided into the main site, a cantonment area, a small housing area, and a radio site. The main 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. Northeast of the main site was a small housing area for married personnel. South of the site was a trailer park. A separate radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts. The BUIC III upgrade in 1968 added a new operations building to house the computer equipment and operators' consoles. A second new building was added to house the Operations Director and a large operations training team.

Port Austin AFS Major Equipment List
Search Radar HF Radar Data Systems Scopes Comm IFF/SIF/Beacon
Unit Designations
  • 754th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron (1951-1959)
  • 754th Radar Squadron (SAGE) (1959-1974)
  • 754th Radar Squadron (1974-1979)
  • 754th Radar Squadron (TAC) (1979-1988)
754th Assignments
  • 1 Jan 1951 - activated as the 754th AC&W Squadron at Oscoda, MI
  • Jul 1951 - Moved to Port Austin, MI
  • (1 Jan 1951 - 6 Feb 1952) Assigned to 541st AC&W Group
  • (6 Feb 1952 - 16 Feb 1953) Assigned to 30th AD
  • (16 Feb 1953 - 8 Jul 1956) Assigned to 4708th Defense Wing
  • (8 Jul 1956 - 1 Apr 1959) Assigned to 30th AD
  • (1 Apr 1959 - 1 Apr 1966) Assigned to Detroit ADS
  • 1 Sep 1959 - Redesignated as 754th Radar Squadron (SAGE)
  • (1 Apr 1966 - 14 Nov 1969) Assigned to 34th AD
  • (14 Nov 1969 - 19 Nov 1969) Assigned to 29th AD
  • (19 Nov 1969 - 30 Mar 1979) Assigned to 23rd AD
  • 1 Feb 1974 - Redesignated as 754th Radar Squadron
  • (1 Oct 1979 - 30 Sep 1988) - Assigned to TAC
  • 1 Oct 1979 - Redesignated as 754th Radar Squadron (TAC)
  • 30 Sep 1988 - Deactivated

Current Status

Abandoned in Port Austin, Huron County, Michigan.

Location: Near Port Austin, Huron County, Michigan.

Maps & Images

Lat: 44.03028 Long: -83.00167

  • Multi Maps from ACME
  • Maps from Bing
  • Maps from Google
  • Elevation: 669'

GPS Locations:

See Also:


  • 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 124.
  • 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 164.
  • ADTAC Communications Digest, July 1982, Tactical Air Command, page 63.
  • USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) Database Entry: 2089925


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