Custer Air Force Station

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Custer Air Force Station

Airdefensecommand-logo.jpg

Part of Air Defense Command (ADC)
Coordinates 42°20′32″N 085°16′49″W / 42.34222°N 85.28028°W / 42.34222; -85.28028 (Custer AFS P-67)
Type Air Force Station
Site information
Controlled by  United States Air Force
Site history
Built 1952
In use 1952–1965
Garrison information
Garrison 781st Aircraft Control and Warning (later Radar) Squadron
Custer AFS is located in Michigan
Custer AFS
Custer AFS
Magnify-clip.png
Location of Custer AFS, Michigan
Emblem of the 781st Radar Squadron
Emblem of the Detroit Air Defense Sector
Emblem of the 34th Air Division

Custer Air Force Station (ADC ID: P-67 DC-6, NORAD ID: Z-67, DC-6) is a closed United States Air Force General Surveillance Radar and Direction Center station. It is located 5.3 miles (8.5 km) west-northwest of Battle Creek, Michigan. It was closed in 1969.

History[edit]

Cold War era[edit]

Prompted by the start of the Korean War, on July 11, 1950, the Secretary of the Air Force asked the Secretary of Defense for approval to expedite construction of the second segment Air Defense Commands permanent radar network.[1] Receiving the Defense Secretary’s approval on July 21, the Air Force directed the Corps of Engineers to proceed with construction of what became the network of Semi Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) sites.[1] The SAGE system was a network linking Air Force (and later FAA) General Surveillance Radar stations into a centralized center for Air Defense, intended to provide early warning and response for a Soviet nuclear attack.

The SAGE site that would become Custer Air Force Station was carved out of the eastern side of the Army's Fort Custer Training Center near Battle Creek, Michigan.[2] The site was officially established on 18 April 1953. However, the 781st Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron (AC&W Sq) began operations with AN/FPS-3 and AN/CPS-4 radars at the site in April 1952. Initially the station functioned as a Ground-Control Intercept (GCI) and warning station. As a GCI station, the squadron's role was to guide interceptor aircraft toward unidentified intruders picked up on the unit's radar scopes.

The site was renamed Custer Air Force Station on 1 July 1956. An AN/FPS-4 replaced the AN/CPS-4 in 1956 and an AN/FPS-6 superseded this unit two years later. Also in 1958 an AN/FPS-20 replaced the AN/FPS-3 search radar. This radar was upgraded to an AN/FPS-66 in 1961. A second height-finder radar was installed in 1959. On 31 July 1963, the site was redesignated as NORAD ID Z-67.

In 1958, the SAGE Data Center (DC-06) was established at Custer AFS (Fort Custer). DC-06 was co-located on the Cantonment area of the 781st AC&W Sq. During September, 1959, the 781st AC&W Sq joined the SAGE system,[2] feeding data to DC-06. After joining, the squadron was re-designated as the 781st Radar Squadron (SAGE) (Radar Sq) on 1 September 1959. The squadron provided information 24/7 the SAGE Direction Center where it was analyzed to determine range, direction altitude speed and whether or not aircraft were friendly or hostile.[2]

In addition to the main facility, Custer AFS operated the following AN/FPS-18 Gap Filler sites:

DC-06 was initially under the Detroit Air Defense Sector (DeADS), originally established as the 4627th Air Defense Wing on 8 January 1957. The 781st Radar Sq was inactivated on 25 June 1965 and the sector was discontinued on 1 April 1966.[3] The DeADS was replaced by the 34th Air Division (AD). DC-06 with its AN/FSQ-7 computer remained under the 34th AD until it was inactivated on 30 September 1969 when technology advances allowed the Air Force to shut down many SAGE Data Centers. With the inactivation of the Air Division, Custer AFS was closed effective 31 Dec 1969.[2]

Current status[edit]

Today the site appears to be a light business office park along with being the headquarters of the 24th NORAD Division. The large SAGE DC-06 blockhouse remains, now being a security archives warehouse. There is also a sign on the perimeter fence for a construction trucking company. The buildings in the immediate area of the SAGE blockhouse are in generally good repair, with some still in use. The Battle Creek regional chapters of the Air Force Sergeant's Association and Air Force Enlisted Association use the old Open Mess building.

Air Force units and assignments[edit]

Units[edit]

  • 34th Air Division (Defense) redesignated 34th Air Division and activated on 20 January 1966
Organized on 1 April 1966
Inactivated on 31 December 1969
  • 4627th Air Defense Wing designated December 1956
Redesignated as Detroit Air Defense Sector and organized on 8 January 1957
Discontinued on 1 April 1966
  • Constituted as the 781st Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron
Activated on 16 April 1951
Redesignated as 781st Radar Squadron (SAGE) on 1 September 1959
Discontinued and inactivated on 25 June 1965
  • Organized as the 4627th Air Base Squadron ca. 8 January 1957
Discontinued ca. 15 July 1959
  • Organized as the 4627th Support Squadron (SAGE) on 15 July 1959
Discontinued ca. 31 December 1969
  • Constituted as the 644th USAF Dispensary
Activated ca. 8 January 1957
Discontinued and inactivated ca. 30 June 1964

Assignments[edit]

  • 34th Air Division
First Air Force 1 April 1966 - 31 December 1969
  • 4627th Air Defense Wing (later Detroit Air Defense Sector)
30th Air Division, 8 January 1957
26th Air Division. 4 September 1963 - 1 April 1966
  • 4627th Air Base Squadron
Detroit Air Defense Sector ca. 8 January 1957 - ca. 15 July 1959
  • 4627th Support Squadron
Detroit Air Defense Sector 15 July 1959
30th Air Division 1 Apr 1966 - ca. 31 December 1969
  • 644th USAF Dispensary
Detroit Air Defense Sector ca. 8 January 1957 - ca. 30 June 1964

See also[edit]

References[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  1. ^ a b Winkler, David F. & Webster, Julie L. (1997). Searching the Skies, The Legacy of the United States Cold War Defense Radar Program. US Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratories, Champaign, IL. 
  2. ^ a b c d Thole, Lou (1997). "Custer Air Force Station and SAGE". The Friends Journal (Summer 1997): 26–28. 
  3. ^ Cornett, Lloyd H. and Johnson, Mildred W. (1980). A Handbook of Aerospace Defense Organization 1946 - 1980. Office of History, Aerospace Defense Center, Peterson AFB, CO. 

External links[edit]

  • A Handbook of Aerospace Defense Organization 1946 - 1980, [1] Office of History, Aerospace Defense Center, Peterson AFB, CO (1980).
  • Searching the Skies, The Legacy of the United States Cold War Defense Radar Program, [2] US Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratories, Champaign, IL (1997).
  • Information for Custer AFS, MI