Santa Rosa Island Air Force Station
Santa Rosa Island Air Force Station (1952-1963) - A Cold War U.S. Air Force Radar Station established during the Korean War. Located on Santa Rosa Island in Santa Barbara County, California. Assigned a Permanent ID of P-15. Closed in 1963 and relocated to Lompoc Air Force Station, RP-15.
After negotiating a lease with the Vail Company, owners of the island, for 336.5 acres in four parcels, the Air Force hired civilian contractors Morrison Knudsen to construct the facilities. The facilities included a radar operation site, transmitting and receiving sites located at the top of Vail Peak and a cantonment area near the shore at Johnson’s Lee. Also included was a permanent pier to also be located at Johnson’s Lee. The Air Force paid an annual fee of $20,000 for the 15-year lease.
Construction work was essentially completed by the end of 1951 and a small detachment from the main squadron worked on the island readying it for occupancy by the full squadron.
Transportation support was supplied by the Navy, which provided water transport between Port Hueneme and the construction site. This support included a 78-foot PT boat that transported personnel to and from the island from Port Hueneme and Navy barges that supplied water and bulk cargo to the station.
The 669th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron officially move in on 13 Feb 1952 and the site achieved Air Defense Net acceptance at 1100 hours on 16 Feb 1952. On activation, the site assumed the coverage of the Camp Cooke Lashup Radar Site (L-41) and Port Hueneme Lashup Radar Site (L-42) and they were subsequently closed. In 1952 the site was operating two FPS-10 radars. In 1955 a FPS-3 search radar was added to the site and in 1956 a GPS-3 backup search radar was added. A MPS-14 height-finder radar was added in 1958.
Note: Some sources indicate that operation was begun with a CPS-6B but Searching the Skies indicates that FPS-10s (CPS-6Bs with fewer components) were operating in 1952. FPS-10 components including the tower had CPS-6B nomenclature tags.
From activation until 1 Oct 1959 the 669th reported to the Manual Direction Center at Norton Air Force Base (ADCC) (P-84). In 1959 as the adjacent Norton SAGE Direction Center DC-17 came online, control of the 669th was changed to fall under the new Norton SAGE Direction Center DC-17 and the Los Angeles Air Defense Sector.
At the time of this assignment, Santa Rosa Island AFS had neither the SAGE qualified radar sets (except for one MPS-14) nor the SAGE annex to the operations center that housed the FST-2 required for automatic SAGE operation. The 669th could only provide manual inputs to the Norton SAGE Direction Center DC-17 and the decision was made not to upgrade Santa Rosa Island AFS to automatic operation but to build an entirely new station at Lompoc that would replace Santa Rosa Island AFS and be supported by nearby Vandenberg Air Force Base.
Construction on Lompoc AFS began on 1 Nov 1961, the site was activated on 13 Jun 1962 and became operational on 1 Apr 1963 as a SAGE site that bypassed manual operations.
Santa Rosa Island AFS was deactivated on 31 Mar 1963 and the 669th AC&W Squadron move to Lompoc Air Force Station, RP-15 the next day. The Air Force then abandoned the Santa Rosa Island facility, leaving all buildings, utilities, and much equipment to Vail & Vickers (owners of the island). At the time of abandonment by the Air Force, the site consisted of at least forty buildings and structures.
In the late 1980s, the Army Corps of Engineers removed asbestos and underground storage tanks, and the park service then burned most of the buildings. In the early 1990s, the National Park Service buried the remaining foundations and revegetated the terrain. Only one building remains on the Air Force sites, the Motor Pool maintenance building #147.
The physical plant of the site was divided into the main operations site, a cantonment area, and two radio sites. 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. The site had no family housing area.
Two separate radio sites housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts.
All sites except for building #147 are completely leveled.