Guthrie Air Force Station
Guthrie Air Force Station (1951-1968) - A Cold War U.S. Air Force Radar Station established during the Korean War. Located near Guthrie, Kanawha County, West Virginia. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of P-43 and later a Sage ID of Z-43. Closed in 1968.
Established in 1951 and became operational in June 1952 as Guthrie Air Force Station manned by the 783rd Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron. The missions included radar search and manual Ground Control and Intercept (GCI) of unknown aircraft entering the covered area.
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
The site began operation as a SAGE site in 1962 initially feeding the Custer SAGE Direction Center DC-06. On 1 Jul 1962, the squadron designation was changed from the 783rd AC&W Squadron to 783rd Radar Squadron (SAGE) indicating the new SAGE System role.
In 1962 the FPS-20 search radar was upgraded to an FPS-67. A second FPS-6 height-finder radar was added in 1963. One FPS-6 was removed in 1966.
The public announcement of the closure of Guthrie AFS came on 20 Nov 1964 with the Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara's announcement of massive military cutbacks and closures of some 95 installations. The site was originally scheduled to close in mid-1966 but that was later delayed to 1968. Guthrie AFS and the 783rd were finally deactivated on 18 June 1968 but the phase-out of the Air Force Station continued through November 1968.
Guthrie 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 Guthrie AFS gap-filler radars were located at Hellier KY, Bainbridge OH, and Lewisville OH.
The physical plant of the site was divided into the operations 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 27 unit housing area for married personnel.
A separate radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts. Like most early radar stations, Guthrie 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.
After closure, the site was transferred to the State of West Virginia and became the Guthrie Agricultural Center owned by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. Since 2012 known as the Gus R. Douglass Agricultural Center at Guthrie. Part also utilized by the West Virginia Conservation Agency.
Some buildings remain including the operations building and several cantonment buildings. The GATR site building appears to be overbuilt with newer buildings. Many of the housing area buildings remain.