Savannah Air Force Station

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Savannah Air Force Station (1955-1979) - A Cold War U.S. Air Force Radar Station established in 1955 as Hunter Air Force Base Radar Site. Located on former Hunter Air Force Base (now Hunter Army Airfield) near Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia. In 1967, the radar site was renamed Savannah Air Force Station when Hunter AFB was transferred to the US Army. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of M-112 and later a Sage ID of Z-112 in 1963. Closed in 1979. Reopened in 1979 as a Georgia Air National Guard Tactical Radar Site. Active military facility.

Savannah Air Force Station circa 1972.

History

Established in 1955 and became operational in 1955 as Savannah Air Force Station manned by the 702nd Radar Squadron (SAGE).

Initial equipment included the MPS-7 search radar (mobile FPS-3, a TPS-10D height-finder, and a MPS-14 height-finder (mobile FPS-6) radars. Between 1956 and 1958, a GPS-3 was operating.

By 1959 only a FPS-20A search radar and a MPS-14 height-finder was operating. A second height-finder, a FPS-26, was installed about 1961. In 1962, the FPS-20A was upgraded to become an FPS-67. This 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 Gunter SAGE Direction Center DC-09
Savannah SAGE Direction Centers & Sectors
Assigned Direction Center Sector
1 Jul 1961 - 1 Apr 1966 Gunter SAGE Direction Center DC-09 Montgomery Air Defense Sector
1 Apr 1966 - 14 Nov 1969 Gunter SAGE Direction Center DC-09 32nd Air Division
14 Nov 1969 - 19 Nov 1969 Fort Lee SAGE Direction Center DC-04 33rd Air Division
19 Nov 1969 - 5 June 1979 Fort Lee SAGE Direction Center DC-04 20th Air Division

The site began operation as a SAGE site in 1961 initially feeding the Gunter SAGE Direction Center DC-09. On 1 Feb 1962, the squadron designation was changed from the 702nd AC&W Squadron to 702nd Radar Squadron (SAGE) indicating the new SAGE System role. With the deactivation of the Gunter SAGE Direction Center DC-09 in 1969, control of Savannah AFS was switched to the Fort Lee SAGE Direction Center DC-04 in Virginia.

The FPS-67 search radar was upgraded to a FPS-67B in 1966. The MPS-14 height-finder was removed in 1968.

The FST-2 Coordinate Data Transmitter was probably replaced with a solid state FYQ-47 Common Digitizer by February 1973 when the 18 months FAA/USAF replacement program was complete.

On 1 Feb 1974, the squadron was redesignated 702 Radar Squadron, dropping the (SAGE) designator.

Savannah Air Force Station Composite Plan


Closure

Savannah AFS and the 702nd were deactivated on 5 June 1979.

117th Air Control Squadron (ACS)

TSQ-91 Plotting Board during Solid Shield Exercise 1977.

On 3 Nov 1979 the 117th Air Control Squadron, Georgia Air National Guard, assumed the 200 acres vacated by Savannah AFS.

In the early 1970s, the 117th received TPS-43E radar and the TSQ-91 Tactical Air Control System Control and Reporting Center (CRC). New Modular Control Equipment was received in January 1994. The 117th ACS conversion to the state of the art Modular Control System, and the TPS-75 radar completed in July 1996.

Gap Fillers

Savannah 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 Savannah AFS gap-filler radars were located at MCAS Parris Island SC, Alma GA, and Jeffersonville GA.

Savannah AFS Gap Filler Radar Sites (edit list)
ADC NORAD Location State Type From To GPS Notes
M-112A Z-112A Parris Island MCAS SC FPS-14 replaced by
FPS-18, FST-1
1958-04 1970-07-01 32.32846,
-80.70597
Building gone
Tower gone
M-112C Z-112C Alma GA FPS-18, FST-1 1958-04 1970-04-13 31.60833,
-82.54667
Building modified
Tower footings only
M-112E Z-112E Jeffersonville GA FPS-18, FST-1 1962-10 1967-12 32.56273,
-83.39236
Building exists
Tower gone


Savannah AFS Major Equipment List
Search Radar HF Radar Data Systems IFF/SIF Radio
Unit Designations
  • 702nd Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron (1953-1962)
  • 702nd Radar Squadron (SAGE) (1962-1974)
  • 702nd Radar Squadron (1974-1979)
702nd Assignments


Current Status

Occupied since 3 Nov 1979 by 117th Air Control Squadron, Georgia Air National Guard. Some original buildings remain.


Location: Hunter Army Airfield near Savannah in Chatham County, Georgia.

Maps & Images

Lat: 32.01704 Long: -81.16626

See Also:

Sources:

  • 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 46, 162.
  • 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 111.
  • USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) Database Entry: 2646213 Hunter Army Airfield

Links:

Visited: No


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