Charleston Air Force Station
- For the current Air Mobility Command base in South Carolina, see Charleston Air Force Base
- For the former Air Defense Command station in South Carolina, see North Charleston Air Force Station
|Part of Aerospace Defense Command|
Overview of the Station
|Type||Long Range Radar Site|
|Location code||ADC ID: P-65 NORAD ID: Z-65|
|Built by||U.S. Air Force|
|Controlled by||United States Air Force|
|Occupants||765th Air Defense Group
765th Aircraft Control and Warning (later Radar) Squadron
Charleston Air Force Station is a defunct Air Force Station that opened in 1952 and closed in 1980. It was located in Charleston, Maine and is the site of a radar station and other buildings. After closure, it was redeveloped into a jail for the state of Maine.
In late 1950, construction began on Charleston Air Force Station. Known as Bull Hill for its location in the town, the station was one of twenty-eight stations built as part of the second segment of the permanent Air Defense Command national radar network. 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 of the permanent network. Receiving the Defense Secretary’s approval on July 21, the Air Force directed the Corps of Engineers to proceed with construction.
Completed in early 1951, and fully manned and operational when the 765th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron brought Charleston AFS to life in April 19521 and assumed coverage that had been provided by a temporary Lashup Radar Network site at Dow AFB (L-l). The site initially had AN/FPS-3 and AN/FPS-5 radars, and initially the station functioned as an aircraft control and warning station.
In 1957 an AN/FPS-6 replaced the AN/FPS-5 height-finder radar. Another height-finder radar came in 1958 along with an AN/FPS-20 search radar that replaced the AN/FPS-3. During 1959 Charleston AFS joined the Semi Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) system, feeding data to DC-05 at Topsham AFS, Maine. After joining, the squadron was redesignated as the 765th Radar Squadron (SAGE) on 1 October 1959.1 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.
In 1963 the site became the first in the nation to receive an AN/FPS-27 radar and on 31 July 1963, the site was redesignated as NORAD ID Z-65. This radar subsequently was upgraded to become an AN/FPS-27A. The AN/FPS-26A was then converted into an AN/FSS-7 submarine-launched ballistic missile radar in 1966 for Detachment 6, 14th Missile Warning Squadron (MWS) to monitor for Ballistic Missile launches by submarines.
In addition to the main facility, Charleston operated two unmanned Gap Filler sites:
- Topsfield, ME (P-65A/Z-65A)
- Sedgwick, ME (Z-6BB)
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 765th Radar Sq was inactivated and replaced by the 765th Air Defense Group in March 1970.12 The upgrade to group status was done because of Charleston 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 the 765th Radar Squadron.12 as defenses against manned bombers were reduced. The group was disbanded in 1984.3 The 765th Radar Squadron was inactivated on 29 June 19791 as part of a general draw down of air defense forces by Aerospace Defense Command and the transfer of the mission to Tactical Air Command. The 14th MWS detachment was inactivated a year later.
After the base closed, the radar site was abandoned, with several radar towers still standing. The station area was transformed into the Charleston Correctional Facility, which opened in 1980. The family-housing area has been entirely demolished.
- Constituted as the 765th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron on 14 November 1950
- Activated at Dow AFB (L-1), ME on 27 November 1950
- Moved to Charleston AFS in August 1951
- Redesignated 765th Radar Squadron (SAGE) on 1 October 1959
- Inactivated on 1 March 1970
- Redesignated 765th Radar Squadron on 1 January 1974
- Activated on 17 January 1974
- Inactivated 29 June 19791
- Constituted as the 765th Air Defense Group on 13 February 1970
- Activated on 1 March 1970
- Inactivated on 17 January 1974
- Disbanded on 27 September 19842
- Organized as Detachment 6, 14th Missile Warning Squadron in 1966
- Discontinued in 1980
- Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, 765th Radar Squadron 1 July 1974 - 30 June 19754
765th Air Defense Group
- 540th Aircraft Control and Warning Group, 1 January 1951
- 32d Air Division, 6 February 1952
- 4711th Air Defense Wing, 16 February 1953
- 32d Air Division, 1 March 1956
- Bangor Air Defense Sector, 15 August 1958
- 36th Air Division, 1 April 1966
- 35th Air Division, 15 September 1969
- 21st Air Division, 19 November 1969 - 1 March 1970
- 21st Air Division, 17 January 1974 - 29 June 1979
- 21st Air Division, 1 March 1970 - 17 January 1974
- List of USAF Aerospace Defense Command General Surveillance Radar Stations
- List of United States Air Force aircraft control and warning squadrons
- 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. 166.
- Cornett, & Johnson, p.86
- Department of the Air Force/MPM Letter 575q, 27 Sep 1984, Subject: Disbandment of Units
- AF Pamphlet 900-2, Unit Decorations, Awards and Campaign Participation Credits, Vol II Department of the Air Force, Washington, DC, 30 Sep 76, p. 89
- Abstract, History of 765th Air Defense Group, Jan-Mar 1970(accessed 13 Jan 2012)
- Abstract, History of 765th Air Defense Group, Apr-Jun 1970 (accessed 13 Jan 2012)
- 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 978-1-4379-2131-1.
- Leonard, Barry (2009). History of Strategic Air and Ballistic Missile Defense. , Vol II, 1955-1972. Fort McNair, DC: Center for Military History. ISBN 978-1-4379-2131-1.
- 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 Charleston AFS, ME