Palermo Air Force Station
Palermo Air Force Station (1948-1970) - A Cold War Air Force Radar Station first established in 1948 near Ocean City, Cape May County, New Jersey. Named Palermo Air Force Station after the location. Initially assigned a Lashup ID of L-13 a temporary ID of LP-54 a Permanent ID of P-54 and later a Sage ID of Z-54. Closed in October 1961 and in the process of becoming a gap-filler site when it was reestablished 1 Jun 1962 to compensate for the loss of Texas Tower 4 on 15 Jan 1961. Abandoned in 1970.
History of Palermo Air Force Station
Established in 1948 and became operational in March 1950 as Lashup Radar Site L-13 later manned by the 770th AC&W Squadron on 1 Jan 1951. The station came to have both a Ground-Control Intercept (GCI) and early warning mission. The early warning mission involved tracking and identifying all aircraft entering their airspace while the GCI mission involved guiding Air Force interceptors to any identified enemy aircraft. Controllers at the station vectored fighter aircraft at the correct course and speed to intercept enemy aircraft using voice commands via ground-to-air radio.
In the spring of 1957 one of the first FPS-20 radars was installed at Palermo AFS along with two FPS-6 height-finders in preparation for the SAGE System implementation.
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.
The site began operation as a SAGE site in June 1958 initially feeding the McGuire SAGE Direction Center DC-01.
The site was inactivated in October 1961 and was in the process of becoming a gap-filler site when it was reestablished on 1 Jun 1962 to compensate for the loss of Texas Tower 4 on 15 Jan 1961. The site was reestablished and manned by the 680th Radar Sq (SAGE) from the deactivated site at Yaak Air Force Station Montana.
The search radar was upgraded to an FPS-65 in 1963.
Palermo AFS became a BUIC I GCI site in 1962 and was operational as a BUIC II site before the end of 1965, the second operational BUIC II site after North Truro. The BUIC II system provided a backup for a SAGE direction center with the GSA-51 computer system and provided the ability to display sector wide radar data on consoles for local weapons controllers. The system duplicated the functionality of the vacuum tube direction center computers with the more up-to-date GSA-51 computer system and the old FST-2. Palermo AFS was not chosen to receive the updated BUIC III system.
Palermo AFS and the 770th were deactivated on 30 May 1970.
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 housing area for critical married personnel. A separate Ground to Air Transmitter/Receiver (GATR) radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts.
Main site overbuilt by a housing development. The GATR site has at least one antenna pole remaining. The housing area is in private hands.