McChord SAGE Direction Center DC-12

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McChord SAGE Direction Center DC-12 (1958-1983) - A Cold War SAGE System Direction Center first established in 1958 on McChord AFB, Lakewood, Pierce County, Washington. Named McChord SAGE Direction Center after the location. Assigned a Sage ID of DC-12. Deactivated as a SAGE Direction Center in 1983.

McChord AFB Former SAGE Direction Center DC-12 and SAGE Combat Center CC-3 behind the F-4C Fighter Aircraft and FPS-26A Radar Antenna Static Displays.


Established 8 Jan 1958 as McChord SAGE Direction Center DC-12, Seattle Air Defense Sector (SeADS), one of four sectors in the 25th Air Division headquartered at McChord AFB. The 25th Air Division operated Combat Center #3 (CC-3) to provide control over the four SAGE direction centers in the 25th Air Division. The four-story DC-12 building is located adjacent to the three-story CC-3 building on the base.

25th AD McChord SAGE Combat Center CC-3
Air Defense Sector Direction Center
Seattle ADS McChord SAGE Direction Center DC-12
Portland ADS Adair SAGE Direction Center DC-13
Spokane ADS Larson SAGE Direction Center DC-15
Reno ADS Stead SAGE Direction Center DC-16

This initial configuration changed as direction centers and radar sites were closed and sectors were realigned and consolidated.

SAGE System Data Flow

Direction center equipment included the duplex FSQ-7 computer system and associated communication equipment. The FSQ-7 computer system assembled digitized inputs from USAF Radar Sites to provide tracking and identification of all aircraft within their sector of responsibility. The digitized radar inputs came from USAF Radar Sites, airborne radar pickets, Texas Towers, Gap Filler Radar Sites and other radar sources. The total picture of aircraft in the sector was assembled and any unknown aircraft were checked out and hostile aircraft were engaged by USAF fighter aircraft, Bomarc missiles or NIKE missiles. The primary defense was against the Soviet threat of a mass nuclear bomber attack on the US. The system evolved before the advent of ICBMs and provided no missile defense against them.

The computer technology was first generation vacuum tube equipment and required significant power and air conditioning. The physical plant of the direction center was enclosed in a large multi-story concrete blockhouse that housed the duplex FSQ-7 computer, communications equipment, a powerhouse, air conditioning systems and operational areas. The operational areas included radar mapping, air surveillance, identification, communications and weapons direction.

The enormous cost of the radar sites, direction centers, personnel, and training caused an immediate reevaluation and almost as quickly as they were built some facilities were closed. The first mass closures began in the 1960s when many radar sites and virtually all the gap filler sites were closed. The first round of direction center closures came in 1963 when six were closed, a second round in 1966 and a third in 1969 that closed a total of 17 out of 23. The remaining six direction centers became SAGE Regional Control Centers (RCCs) still using the massive FSQ-7 vacuum tube computers. As the direction centers and radar sites closed the remaining sites were realigned into ever-increasing sectors.

A new Joint Surveillance System (JSS) evolved as a partnership between the Air Force and the FAA to provide nationwide radar coverage. When completed in 1983 it consisted of only forty-six radar sites feeding into four new Region Operation Control Centers (ROCCs) with FYQ-93 computer systems. With the activation of the four U.S. ROCCs and the two Canadian ROCCs, the last seven of the SAGE direction centers were deactivated and this signaled the end of the SAGE system. Of the remaining forty-six radar sites, thirty-one had FAA-operated search radars and USAF operated height finders. Five sites just had FAA search radars and only ten sites were operated by the Military. With the deployment of forty FAA ARSR-4 3D radar sets in the 1990s, the earlier military and FAA radars were replaced.

The Canadians closed their underground SAGE Direction Center and created two ROCCs (CAN-East and CAN-West) using the FYQ-93 computers in the underground facility.

DC-12 shut down the vacuum tube FSQ-7 computer in June 1983. CC-3 shut down the vacuum tube FSQ-8 computer on 1 Apr 1966.

McChord SAGE Direction Center DC-12 Radar Sites (edit list)
Location Type State Unit ADC NORAD JSS From To GPS Notes
Blaine AFS WA 757th P-46 Z-46 1960-03-01 1979-03-30 48.91333,
Burns AFS OR 634th M-118 Z-118 1969-09-15 1970-09-30 43.5625,
Condon AFS OR 636th P-32 Z-32 1963-06-01
Cottonwood AFS ID 822nd SM-150 Z-150 1963-06-01 1965-06-25 46.06694,
Keno AFS OR 827th TM-180 Z-180 J-82 1969-11-09 1970-03-01 42.06889,
Fort Lawton AFS WA 635th RP-1 Z-1 1960-03-01 1963-03 47.6575,
Makah AFS WA 758th P-44 Z-44 J-80 1960-03-01 1983 48.37167,
Naselle AFS WA 759th P-57 Z-57 1960-03-01 1966-06-01 46.42194,
Othello AFS WA 637th P-40 Z-40 1963-09-01 1975-03-31 46.72139,
North Bend AFS OR 761st P-12 Z-12 1969-09-15 1980-02-11 43.53333,
Baldy Huges AS BC 918th C-20 C-20 R-34 1960-03-01 1983-03-01 53.61833,
Puntzi Mountain AS BC 917th C-19 C-19 1960-03-01 1966-09-30 52.16139,
Holberg CFS BC 53 RS C-18 C-18 1960-05-15 1983-03-01 50.64028,
Kamloops AS BC 825th SM-153 C-153 1963-04-01 1982 50.80222,
Beaverlodge AS AB 919th C-21 C-21 1963-04-01 1983-03-01 55.23083,

Current Status

Sage Direction Center and Combat Center blockhouses now the Air National Guard (ANG), Western Air Defense Sector (WADS) on McChord AFB in Lakewood, Pierce County, Washington.

Location: McChord AFB, Lakewood, Pierce County, Washington.

Maps & Images

Lat: 47.12167 Long: -122.50389

  • Multi Maps from ACME
  • Maps from Bing
  • Maps from Google
  • Elevation: 322'

GPS Locations:

See Also:


  • 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.
  • 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.


Fortification ID:

  • WA0208 - McChord SAGE Direction Center DC-12

Visited: 21 Sep 2015

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