Tierra Amarilla Air Force Station

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Tierra Amarilla Air Force Station (1950-1958) - A Cold War Air Force Radar Station first established in 1950 near El Vado, NM as Lashup Site L-44 to provide coverage for Los Alamos nuclear facilities. Moved northeast to Tierra Amarilla, Rio Arriba County, New Mexico as site LP-8. Renamed Tierra Amarilla Air Force Station on 1 Dec 1953 and assigned a Permanent ID of P-8. Deactivated in 1958. Original L-44 site known as Los Alamos Lashup Radar Site and El Vado Lashup Radar Site


Tierra Amarilla AFS Historic District Plan

Initially established by the 767th AC&W Squadron as Lashup Radar Site L-44 on 27 Nov 1950 on a site near the El Vado Dam. Known variously as Los Alamos Lashup Radar Site and El Vado Lashup Radar Site it was established to provide radar coverage for the nearby Los Alamos nuclear facilities. Sources differ on exactly when this temporary site was abandoned and the new permanent site, designated LP-8 became operational. It appears that the new site was operational by September 1952 and on 1 Dec 1953 the new site was named Tierra Amarilla Air Force Station with a Permanent ID of L-8.

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 the first lashup site included the CPS-5 search radar. After the move to the new site, an FPS-3 and FPS-5 were in operation in 1953. The FPS-5 was said to have been replaced about 1957 by an FPS-6 height-finder radar. Available information on the FPS-5 indicates that it was a search radar so this seems unlikely.


Deactivated in 1958.

Physical Plant

The physical plant of the site was divided into the main site, a cantonment area, a housing area, a trailer park, and two radio sites. 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 and distant from the main site was a small housing area for critical married personnel. The housing area seems to have been located at or near the original site location by El Vado Dam. Two separate Ground to Air Transmitter/Receiver (GATR) radio sites housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts.

Tierra Amarilla AFS Major Equipment List
Search Radar HF Radar Data Systems
Unit Designations
  • 767th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron (1950-1959)
767th Assignments
  • 1 Jan 1951 - Assigned at El Vado, NM, as the 540th AC&W Group.
  • 1 May 1951 - Transferred to 34th Air Division.
  • 1 Dec 1953 - Site redesignated to Tierra Amarilla AFS, NM.
  • 8 Feb 1959 - Inactivated.

Current Status

Abandoned sites near El Vado Dam and Tierra Amarilla, Rio Arriba County, New Mexico. The site at El Vado Dam appears to have been overbuilt with private housing.

Location: Tierra Amarilla in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico.

Maps & Images

Lat: 36.62333 Long: -106.66389

  • Multi Maps from ACME
  • Maps from Bing
  • Maps from Google
  • Elevation: 7,301'

GPS Locations:

See Also:


  • 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, page 101.
  • 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, page 139.
  • Re-use Study for Tierra Amarilla AFS P-8 Radar Site Historic District, 23 Sep 2003, Cherry/See Architects for the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division Bad Links /museum/documents/Tierra%20Amarilla%20reuse%20study.pdf pdf].


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