Fort Yukon Air Force Station
Fort Yukon Air Force Station (1958-Present) - A Cold War U.S. Air Force Station, part of the Alaska AC&W Radar Network. Initially functioned as a Ground Control Intercept (GCI) radar site, with a Permanent System ID of F-14. Later redesignated a surveillance site feeding manual track data to Murphey Dome Direction Center. Became a minimally attended radar site in 1984 and was redesignated as Fort Yukon Long-Range Radar Site with a JSS ID of A-01. Now feeds radar track data to the FAA Anchorage ARTCC (ZAN) and to the Elmendorf NORAD Regional Air Operations Center (RAOC). Active Long-Range Radar Site (LRRS) with an FAA ID of ZFYU.
Construction began in June 1955 and was completed in February 1958 by the Manson-Osberg Construction Company for $5,068,139. The site became operational in April 1958 as Fort Yukon Air Force Station manned by the 709th AC&W Squadron which had been activated in January 1957 to operate and maintain the site.
Initial equipment included the FPS-3 search radar and one FPS-6 height-finder radar. The radars were upgraded to one FPS-20 search radar and one FPS-90 height-finder radar. Later the FPS-20 was upgraded to a FPS-93A search radar.
Radar track data was manually passed to the Murphy Dome manual direction center on voice circuits. The FYQ-9 Semiautomatic Data Processing and Display System became operational in July 1965, eliminating the need to pass aircraft track data manually. The result was reduced manpower requirements and increased efficiency.
Further manpower reductions came on 1 Oct 1977 when the Alaska Air Command (ACC) contracted with RCA Services for site support services. This was a part of an Air Force effort to reduce remote tours and 69 military positions were deleted. The remaining 27 military personnel were primarily in operations.
JSS common digitizers were installed on the AC&W radars sites, including Fort Yukon AFS, by 1982. This upgrade enabled transmission of radar track data via satellite to the new Elmendorf JSS Regional Operations Control Center (ROCC) near Anchorage. The Elmendorf ROCC was activated on 14 Jun 1983 and that event triggered a series of events that included the closure of the AC&W sites, the disbandment of the AC&W Squadrons, and the creation of Long-Range Radar Sites (LRRS) with full contractor operation and maintenance and new FPS-117 3D radars. Fort Yukon AFS was deactivated on 1 Nov 1983 even before the FPS-117 radars were installed.
A new FPS-117 Minimally Attended Radar (MAR) was installed was installed between Jun-Aug 1984. The site was operational on 14 Aug 1984 and re-designated as Fort Yukon Long-Range Radar Site operated and maintained by contractors. The Long-Range radar site was connected to the Elmendorf JSS Regional Operations Control Center (ROCC) which was activated on 14 Jun 1983. The FPS-117 radar fed data to the ROCC FYQ-93 computers via satellite.
The Elmendorf ROCC evolved into a Regional Air Operations Center (RAOC) which now operates with the Battle Control System-Fixed (BCS-F) FYQ-156 computer system. The RAOC is currently a component of the Alaska NORAD Region (ANR) and is operated by active Alaska Air National Guard members, Canadian servicemembers, and active duty augmentees. Elmendorf AFB is now a part of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
By 2011 the MAR FPS-117 radars were outdated and increasingly unsupportable because parts and components were no longer available. In 2011 the U.S. Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin $46.8 million in contract options to begin modernization of 29 long-range radars. Under the EPRP contract, Lockheed Martin was to modernize 15 radars in Alaska including Fort Yukon. The last FPS-117 site was upgraded in June 2015.
The EPRP program replaced four major subassemblies on the FPS-117: the Maintenance and Control System, the Beacon system, the Uninterruptable Power Supply/Communications Rack, and Local Control Terminals, which allow remote monitoring, troubleshooting, and control of the radars. The modifications reduced the line-replaceable unit count by approximately 80 percent, easing maintenance and the number of parts on the shelf. The program is expected to extend the supportably of the radar thru 2025.
The physical plant of the site was originally divided into the main site, a cantonment area, and a radio site. The main site housed the radar towers and the backup generators. The cantonment area housed the operations area, the enlisted quarters (BAQ), the bachelor officer's quarters (BOQ), the orderly room, the dining hall and other support areas in a single large two-story composite building. A separate recreation hall was connected to the composite building. No family housing was provided as this was considered a remote unaccompanied tour (1 year).
A steel operations LRRS building was built at Fort Yukon for the transition to the FPS-117. The former AC&W composite building was left standing and boarded-up for years. The White Alice power plant building, billboard antenna also stood for years after being abandoned. One of the two original radar domes was modernized to house the FPS-117 and the other was leveled.
Air-Ground (A-G) Communications
Separate radio facilities housed the radio transmitter and receiver equipment for communicating with aircraft.
After HF systems proved inadequate for command and control communications, the Air Force implemented the White Alice Communications System (WACS). This was a system of tropospheric scatter and microwave radio relay sites constructed during the mid-1950s to provide reliable communications to AAC's AC&W system.
The Fort Yukon White Alice tropo scatter site was activated on 25 Nov 1957. It was originally linked to Pedro Dome (124 miles) by a pair of 60' tropo billboard antennas. Two 120' tropo billboard antennas were installed in 1961-1962, to connect to the DEW-line station at Barter Island, some 250 miles away. Site facilities included a 4,960 square-foot equipment/power building, three smaller buildings and four POL tanks totaling 10,200 gallons.
The specific links from Fort Yukon (FYU) as/of July 1977 were:
Fort Yukon WACS was inactivated on 10 Jul 1980 and replaced by an Alascom-owned satellite earth terminal. This site was the last White Alice site inactivated.
Active long-range radar site but most of the old AC&W site buildings have been demolished. The site has also had an environmental remediation project that has further erased signs of the old AC&W site and the White Alice tropo scatter site. What remains is the FPS-117 Tower and Radome and the steel Composite building.