Rockport Air Force Station
Rockport Air Force Station (1958-1963) - A Cold War U.S. Air Force Radar Station. Located near Rockport, Aransas County, Texas. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of TM-191. Closed in 1963.
Established in 1958 and became operational in February 1959 as Rockport Air Force Station manned by the 813th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron.
This station was one of eight stations established in the final phase of the Permanent AC&W Radar Program for the 33rd Air Division. The 33rd Air Division would remain a manual operation throughout the transition of the rest of the Air Defense System to the semi-automatic SAGE System. The Oklahoma City Manual Direction Center P-86 remained connected to these sites until they closed down one by one. Because the sites were never destined to become SAGE sites they received older less capable equipment and facilities and they were among the first to be closed when budgets constricted. The eight sites were:
The station initially had 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.
Initial equipment at Rockport AFS in 1959 included a FPS-3 search radar and a FPS-6 height-finder radar. The site was equipped with a GPA-37 analog computer course directing set that could allow a single weapon directing team to handle up to six simultaneous intercepts of unknown aircraft. The GPA-37 appears to have been in use over the lifespan of the site.
Manual System Operation
In the summer of 1958 the 813th AC&W Squadron moved to Rockport Air Force Station, assigned to the 33rd Air Division Headquartered at Oklahoma City Air Force Station. The 33rd Air Division provided command and control over subordinate radar stations from the Oklahoma City Manual Direction Center P-86 also located on Oklahoma City Air Force Station. The Direction center was connected to Rockport via telephone lines and track data could be passed via voice, teletype, and encrypted teletype. This station also performed air traffic control duties for the FAA.
The Pentagon announced the closure of Rockport AFS and it's gap-fillers on 26 Apr 1963. Rockport Air Force Station and the 813th AC&W Squadron were deactivated on 1 Aug 1963.
Rockport 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 Rockport AFS gap-filler radars were located at Delmita TX, Riviera, TX and Palacios TX. The three gap-filler sites were deactivated on 1 Jun 1963 just before the station itself on 1 Aug 1963.
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 27 unit housing area for married personnel.
A separate radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts.
The original site is now part of the Aransas County Airport property. Some buildings remain standing but in a dilapidated condition and the circular outline of the old radar tower is still visible in imagery from 29 Aug 2017. The old 27 unit Air Force Housing Area, now private housing, looked severely damaged in the same imagery.