Waverly Air Force Station

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Waverly Air Force Station (1952-1969) - A Cold War U.S. Air Force Radar Station established during the Korean War. Located near Waverly, Bremer County, Iowa. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of P-81 and a Sage ID of Z-81. Closed in 1969.


The station opened in May 1951 and became operational in 1952 as Waverly Air Force Station manned by the 788th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron.

Initial equipment included two FPS-10 radars, one used as a search set, and one used as a height-finder. In 1959, a FPS-6 and an FPS-6A replaced the FPS-10 height-finder. This configuration (a long-range search radar and two SAGE qualified height-finders) just 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

Waverly Direction Centers & Sectors
Assigned Direction Center Sector
1 Mar 1956 - 15 Oct 1958 Richards-Gebaur Manual Direction Center SM-169 20th Air Division
15 Oct 1958 - 1 Apr 1959 Truax Manual Direction Center SM-168 37th Air Division
1 Apr 1959 - 1 Jun 1959 50th Air Division
1 Jun 1959 - 1 Apr 1966 Truax SAGE Direction Center DC-07 Chicago Air Defense Sector
1 Apr 1966 - 1 Dec 1967 Truax SAGE Direction Center DC-07 20th Air Division
1 Dec 1967 - 1 Jul 1968 Sioux City SAGE Direction Center DC-22 30th Air Division
1 Jul 1968 - 30 Sep 1969 Duluth SAGE Direction Center DC-10 29th Air Division

The site began operation as a SAGE site in 1959 initially feeding the Truax SAGE Direction Center DC-07. On 1 Nov 1959, the squadron designation was changed from the 788th AC&W Squadron to 788th Radar Squadron (SAGE) indicating the new SAGE System role.

By 1963 one of the FPS-6 height-finder radars was replaced by an FPS-90 and the second was replaced by an FPS-26A. The remaining FPS-10 was replaced with an FPS-27 that went operational circa August 1964.

Originally Waverly AFS was slated to be the site of one of the 20 SAGE/BUIC III sites but an OSD review in August 1965 reduced the number of sites to 19, dropping the Waverly site.

On 1 Jul 1968 SAGE control of Waverly AFS shifted to Sioux City SAGE Direction Center DC-22 and on 1 Jul 1968, it shifted again to the Duluth SAGE Direction Center DC-10 as the SAGE System underwent reconfiguration.


The closure of Waverly AFS was officially announced in local newspapers on 1 May 1969. The 788th and Waverly Air Force Station were deactivated on 30 Sept 1969.

Gap Fillers

Waverly AFS was responsible for the maintenance of four 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 Waverly AFS gap-filler radars were located at Dallas Center IA, La Motte IA, Cresent MN, and Washington IA. One additional gap filer at Glennville, MN was planned but never built.

Waverly AFS Gap Filler Radar Sites (edit list)
ADC NORAD Location State Type From To GPS Notes
P-81A Z-81A Dallas Center IA FPS-18, FST-1 1960-05 1967-12 41.71816,
Building and tower exist
P-81B Z-81B La Motte IA FPS-18, FST-1 1960-06 1967-12 42.3235,
Building repurposed
P-81C Z-81C La Crescent MN FPS-18, FST-1 1959-11 1967-12 43.85967,
Building and tower exist
P-81E Z-81E Washington IA FPS-18, FST-1 1959-07 1967-12 41.271243,
Building and tower exist

Physical Plant

The physical plant of the site was divided into the main site, a cantonment area, a 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. Apart from the main site was a small 9 unit housing area, later upgraded to 23 units, for married personnel.

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

Waverly AFS Major Equipment List
Search Radar HF Radar Data Systems Comm
Unit Designations
  • 788th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron (1952-1959)
  • 788th Radar Squadron (SAGE) (1959-1969)
788th Assignments

Waverly Air Force Station Partial Commanders List (edit list)
Assumed Relieved Rank Name Cullum Notes
1954~ Major Reber, Ted N/A
1955~ Major Cooley, Gipson R. N/A
1963~ 1964~ Major White, John B. N/A
1965-06 Major McComb, Ward L. N/A
1967~ Lt Colonel Allen, James J. N/A
1969~ Major Pruitt, William N/A

Current Status

In private hands.

Location: Waverly in Bremer County, Iowa.

Maps & Images

Lat: 42.69 Long: -92.48444

  • Multi Maps from ACME
  • Maps from Bing
  • Maps from Google
  • Elevation: 1007'

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 169.
  • 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 115.
  • USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) Database Entry: 2090223


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