Fort Fisher Air Force Station
|Part of Air Defense Command (ADC)|
Cover of welcome brochure, 701st Radar Squadron
|Type||Air Force Station|
|Location code||ADC ID: M-115, NORAD ID: Z-115
Currently JSS ID: J-02
|Controlled by||United States Air Force]|
|Garrison||701st Air Defense Group
701st Aircraft Control and Warning (later Radar) Squadron
Fort Fisher Air Force Station was a US Air Force installation located on the Atlantic coast 08 miles (13 km) southwest of Kure Beach, North Carolina. Its primary mission was as a radar complex. It was closed on 30 June 1988 by the Air Force, and turned over to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (October 2012)|
In late December 1940, a new military facility was built as an Army anti-aircraft artillery training facility. It was named Camp Davis, and was manned by about 20,000 officers and men. Camp Davis was attached to the First Army, Fourth Corps Area. It was an expansive facility consisting of more than 3,000 buildings on 45,538 acres (184.3 km2) with access provided by newly built railroad spurs leading into the camp.
Camp Davis was different from most military installations by having its firing ranges outside of the boundaries of the main post. In total five ranges were set up outside of Camp Davis for conducting live anti-aircraft training. These ranges were spread out along the southern coast of North Carolina at Sears Point, New Topsail Inlet, Maple Hill, Holly Shelter, and Fort Fisher.
Fort Fisher Army Air Field
The Fort Fisher range ultimately became the main range for Camp Davis and the installation was given the name Fort Fisher Army Air Field (AAF). Because of the new range's prominence, it was deemed necessary to make the range a self-sustaining post. This called for the construction of 48 frame buildings, 316 tent frames, showers and latrines, mess halls, warehouses, radio and meteorological stations, a post exchange, photo lab, recreation hall, outdoor theater, guardhouse, infirmary, and an administration building. In addition to these facilities, the site featured a 10,000-gallon water storage tank, a motor pool, a large parade ground, and three steel observation towers along the beach.
One of the more prominent features of the range was a 2,500 ft (760 m). unpaved runway. From a historical standpoint this is unfortunate as a section of the earthworks for the fort's land face, known as Shepard's Battery, were leveled to make the runway. The Army was well aware of the historical significance of the old fort, but the necessities of the war outweighed historic preservation. Today, the parking lot and visitor center for Fort Fisher sit on the remains of the runway.
In 1944 the anti-aircraft training facility was transferred to another base and Camp Davis was closed. At the time of its closure, Fort Fisher AAF had grown to include an 80-seat cafeteria, a 350-bed hospital and dental clinic, and covered an area of several hundred acres.
Fort Fisher Air Force Station
In 1955, the United States Air Force retained part of Fort Fisher AAF and renamed it Fort Fisher Air Force Station. It was assigned to Air Defense Command (ADC) as part of a planned deployment of forty-four Mobile radar stations. Fort Fisher AFS was designed as site M-115 and the 701st Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron was assigned on 1 August 1955. ADC initially installed AN/MPS-7 and AN/MPS-8 radars at the site, and 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 squadron's radar scopes. By 1958 the AN/MPS-8 had been converted into an AN/GPS-3 and an AN/MPS-14 had been added.
In 1962 an AN/FPS-7C and AN/FPS-26 were placed in operation along with the AN/MPS-14 radars. During 1962 Fort Fisher AFS joined the Semi Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) system, initially feeding data to DC-04 at Fort Lee AFS, Virginia. After joining, the squadron was redesignated as the 701st Radar Squadron (SAGE) on 1 July 1962. The radar 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.
On 31 July 1963, the site was redesignated as NORAD ID Z-115. The station was supported logistically by nearby Myrtle Beach Air Force Base South Carolina. In addition, an AN/FSS-7 radar was operated by 4783d Surveillance Squadron, 14th Aerospace Force to monitor for Ballistic Missile launches by submarines.
In addition to the main facility, Fort Fisher AFS operated several unmanned Gap Filler sites:
- Myrtle Beach, SC (M-115A/Z-115A):
- Fort Bragg, NC (M-115B/Z-115B):
Myrtle Beach operated an AN/FPS-14, while Fort Bragg operated an AN/FPS-18. In addition, with the closure of ADC facilities at MCAS Cherry Point (M-116), the AN/FPS-14 Gap Filler at Holly Ridge, NC was redesignated Z-115C in 1963.
Over the years, the equipment at the station was upgraded or modified to improve the efficiency and accuracy of the information gathered by the radars.
The 701st Radar Squadron (SAGE) was inactivated and replaced by the 701st Air Defense Group in March 1970 Just before inactivation, the squadron earned an Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for exceptionally meritorious service for the period from 1 December 1968 through 28 February 1970. The upgrade to group status was done because of Fort Fisher AFS' status as a Backup Interceptor Control (BUIC) site. BUIC sites were alternate control sites in the event that SAGE Direction Centers became disabled and unable to control interceptor aircraft. The group was inactivated and replaced by 701st Radar Squadron (SAGE) in January 1974. in reductions to defenses against manned bombers. The group and squadron shared a second AF Outstanding Unit Award for the period 1 January 1973 through 31 December 1974.
Fort Fisher AFS came under Tactical Air Command jurisdiction in 1979 with the inactivation of Aerospace Defense Command and the creation of ADTAC. It operated in this capacity until its closure on 30 June 1988.
Upon decommissioning the site, the FAA continued to run the radar as part of the Joint Surveillance System (JSS) network as site J-02. In 1995 an AN/FPS-91A radar performed search duties. After its closure, a portion of the base was returned to the state of North Carolina which turned much of it into the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area and historic site. The Air Force, however, decided to retain the housing complex for the base and turn it into a recreation area known as Fort Fisher Air Force Recreation Area.
With the closure of Myrtle Beach AFB in 1993, the Air Force facilities at Fort Fisher are currently supported by Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. Besides being a recreation area, the Fort Fisher site is used by the National Guard as a training area and also hosts the Annual Seafood, Blues and Jazz Festival.
Air Force units and assignments
- Constituted as 701st Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron
- Activated 1 December 1953 at Dobbins AFB (M-87), GA (not manned or equipped)
- Moved to Fort Fisher AFS on 1 August 1955
- Redesignated 701st Radar Squadron (SAGE), 1 July 1962
- Inactivated on 1 March 1970
- Redesignated 701st Radar Squadron on 1 January 1974
- Activated on 17 January 1974
- Inactivated on 30 June 1988
- Constituted as 701st Air Defense Group on 13 February 1970
- Activated on 1 Mar 1970
- Inactivated on 17 Jan 1974
- Disbanded on 27 September 1984
- 35th Air Division, 1 December 1953
- 85th Air Division, 1 March 1956
- 35th Air Division, 1 September 1958
- Washington Air Defense Sector, 1 July 1961
- 33d Air Division, 1 April 1966
- 20th Air Division, 19 November 1969
- 23d Air Division, 1 March 1983
- Southeast Air Defense Sector, 1 July 1987-30 June 1988
- Air Force Outstanding Unit Award
- 701st Radar Squadron:
- 1 October 1962 - 31 December 1963
- 1 December 1968 - 28 February 1970
- 17 January 1974 - 31 December 1974
- 701st Air Defense Group
- 1 January 1973 - 17 January 1974
- List of USAF Aerospace Defense Command General Surveillance Radar Stations
- List of United States Air Force aircraft control and warning squadrons
- "Fort Fisher During World War II". North Carolina Office of Archives and History. Retrieved 21 January 2008.
- Mueller, Robert (1989). Air Force Bases, Vol. I, Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982. Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. p. 109. ISBN 0-912799-53-6.
- Cornett, Lloyd H; Johnson, Mildred W (1980). A Handbook of Aerospace Defense Organization, 1946–1980. Peterson AFB, CO: Office of History, Aerospace Defense Center. p. 162.
- Cornett & Johnson, p.86
- AF Pamphlet 900-2, Unit Decorations, Awards and Campaign Participation Credits, Vol II Department of the Air Force, Washington, DC, 30 Sep 76 , p. 87
- Murdock, Scott D. "Trip report - Kitty Hawk at last: Saturday, 6 May 2006". Airforcebases.net. Retrieved 21 January 2008.
- AF Pamphlet 900-2, Unit Decorations, Awards and Campaign Participation Credits Department of the Air Force, Washington, DC, 15 Jun 71, p. 449
- Grant, C.L., The Development of Continental Air Defense to 1 September 1954, (1961), USAF Historical Study No. 126
- Leonard, Barry (2009). History of Strategic Air and Ballistic Missile Defense. Vol I. 1945-1955. Fort McNair, DC: Center for Military History. ISBN 9781437921311.
- Leonard, Barry (2009). History of Strategic Air and Ballistic Missile Defense. , Vol II, 1955-1972. Fort McNair, DC: Center for Military History. ISBN 9781437921311.
- Winkler, David F.; Webster, Julie L (1997). Searching the skies: The legacy of the United States Cold War Defense Radar Program. Champaign, IL: US Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratories. LCCN 9720912.
- Information for Fort Fisher AFS, NC
- Deactivation Ceremony Program - Fort Fisher AFS, 30 June 1988
- Fort Fisher Air Force Recreation Area web site
- Information on Fort Fisher's military uses
- North Carolina's Fort Fisher Recreation Area web site