Benton Air Force Station

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Benton Air Force Station

Airdefensecommand-logo.jpg

Part of Air Defense Command (ADC)
Ricketts Glen State Park radar.jpg
The radar dome in 2010, as seen from the Hayfields in Ricketts Glen State Park
Coordinates 41°21′30″N 076°17′40″W / 41.35833°N 76.29444°W / 41.35833; -76.29444 (Benton AFS P-30)
Type Air Force Station
Code ADC ID: P-30 NORAD ID: Z-30
Site information
Controlled by United States Air Force
Site history
Built 1951
In use 1951-1975
Garrison information
Garrison 648th Radar Squadron
Benton AFS is located in Pennsylvania
Benton AFS
Benton AFS
Location of Benton AFS, Pennsylvania

Benton Air Force Station was a Cold War era Aerospace Defense Command radar facility in Colley Township, Sullivan County, Pennsylvania. The station was operational from 1951 until 1975.

The radar at Benton Air Force Station scanned skies in the United States from Massachusetts south to Virginia and east over the Atlantic Ocean.1 The station was manned by airmen from the 648th Aircraft Control Squadron at Fort Indiantown Gap.

Benton Air Force Station was converted to the Red Rock Job Corps Center in 19781 and is now part of Ricketts Glen State Park a Pennsylvania state park.2

History

Benton Air Force Station (Also known as Mud Pond) was part of the last batch of twenty-three radar stations constructed as part of the Air Defense Command permanent network. Construction on the 98-acre (40 ha) facility began in 1950 and was completed on September 21, 1951.

Earlier stationed at Mud Pond, Pennsylvania, the 648th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron began operations with AN/CPS-6B radar scanners and barracks for the airmen or "scope dopes" who operated the radar station.13 The radar operators worked around the clock and could scramble jets from Air Forces bases in New York and New Jersey.1 The facility was moved to Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania by 1 February 1952. On 1 December 1953, the Ricketts Glen facility was redesignated as Benton Air Force Station.

Upgrades to the station in 1958 made it possible for Benton AFS to join the Semi Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) system, initially feeding data to DC-02 at Stewart AFB, New York. After joining, the squadron was re-designated as the 648th Radar Squadron (SAGE) on 1 February 1959. In August 1958, the SAGE information feed was switched to DC-03 at Syracuse AFS, then in September 1963 SAGE data was sent back to DC-02.3 The system connected a series of long-range radar stations such as the one at Benton Air Force Station with control centers by sending data through the telephone system. Data collected at the control center was sent back to the stations in images on cathode ray tubes.1

Further improvements in the 1960s included the installation of an AN/FPS-35 radar atop a five-story structure that still stands. The new unit weighed 70 tons and was painted in a red/white checkerboard pattern.

In addition to the main facility, Benton operated two unmanned AN/FPS-14 (P-30E) and AN/FPS-18 (P-30F) Gap Filler sites:3

The gap fillers covered areas of mountainous Pennsylvania that could not be scanned by the facilities at Benton Air Force Station. Both building and radar towers are still extant.1

The AN/FPS-35 was one of the most powerful radar units in the world at the time. But it was not foolproof. Once the AN/FPS-35 was jammed and the men stationed at Benton could not figure out why. Officials from the U.S. government and Sperry Corporation, the manufacturer, had to be called to Colley Township to investigate the situation. Sperry thought that it was impossible to "jam" the radar, but once almost every morning for a half-hour, the "scopes would light up like light bulbs."1 The jamming of the radar made it impossible to read the radar. Investigators stopped traffic on nearby Pennsylvania Route 487 and questioned drivers. Ultimately, direction-finding equipment pointed to a malfunctioning UHF tuner on a television set in the housing area where "the lady of the house sometimes watched a soap opera on one of the local channels".1 The UHF tuner was replaced. The power to the radar facilities was separated from the power to the housing and, coupled with the new UHF, the jamming problem was solved.1

Closing and conversion

Benton Air Force station was deactivated in June 1975. The radar facilities remain and are operated by the Federal Aviation Administration as an auxiliary service for the nearby Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.13 The remaining buildings and barracks were converted to the Red Rocks Job Corps Center which is part of the Job Corps,13 a program administered by the United States Department of Labor that offers free-of-charge education and vocational training to youth ages 16 to 24.4

Air Force units and assignments

Emblem of the 648th Radar Squadron

Units:

  • 648th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron, activated on 30 Apr 1948 at Pine Camp, New York
Moved in December 1949 to Indiantown Gap AIN, Pennsylvania
Moved ca. 1 January 1951 to Mud Pond, Pennsylvania
Moved to Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania on 1 February 1952
Site redesignated Benton Air Force Station, 1 December 1953.
Redesignated 648th Radar Squadron (SAGE), 1 February 1959
Redesignated 648th Radar Squadron, 1 February 1974
Inactivated on 30 June 1975

Assignments:

See also

References

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

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Bartizek, Ron (November 13, 2005). "A Cold War outpost: Radar installation was part of North American defense system scanning for sneak attacks". The Times Leader. p. 1B. Retrieved May 20, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Ricketts Glen State Park Official map" (pdf). Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Retrieved 2010-05-20. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Air Defense Radar Stations: Information for Benton AFS, Pennsylvania". Radomes.org. Retrieved 2010-05-31. 
  4. ^ "What Is Job Corps?". Job Corps. September 25, 2009. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  • Cornett, Lloyd H. and Johnson, Mildred W., A Handbook of Aerospace Defense Organization 1946 - 1980, [1] Office of History, Aerospace Defense Center, Peterson AFB, CO (1980).
  • Winkler, David F. & Webster, Julie L., 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 Benton AFS, PA

External links








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