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Opheim Air Force Station

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Opheim Air Force Station

Opheim Air Force Station
Part of Air Defense Command (ADC)
Main Gate
Opheim AFS is located in Montana
Opheim AFS
Opheim AFS
Location of Opheim AFS, Montana
Coordinates
Type Air Force Station
Site information
Controlled by  United States Air Force
Site history
Built 1951
In use 1951-1979
Garrison information
Garrison 779th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron
Emblem of the 779th Radar Squadron

Opheim Air Force Station (ADC ID: P-26, NORAD ID: Z-26) is a closed United States Air Force General Surveillance Radar station. It is located 3.3 miles (5.3 km) west of Opheim, Montana. It was closed in 1979.

History

In late 1951 Air Defense Command selected Opheim, Montana as one of twenty-eight radar stations built as part of the second segment of the permanent radar surveillance 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.

On 1 March 1951 the 779th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron was activated at Opheim AFS with AN/FPS-3 and AN/FPS-4 radars, 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 unit's radar scopes. An AN/GPS-3 radar operated between 1957 and 1961. In 1958 and 1959 AN/FPS-6 and AN/FPS-6A radars replaced the AN/FPS-4 height-finder radar. The AN/FPS-3 left service in 1960, and was replaced by an AN/FPS-7C search radar.

During 1961 Opheim AFS joined the Semi Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) system, initially feeding data to DC-20 at Malmstrom AFB, Montana. After joining, the squadron was re-designated as the 779th Radar Squadron (SAGE) on 15 July 1961. The radar squadron provided information 24/7 to the SAGE Direction Center where it was analyzed to determine range, direction, altitude, speed, and whether aircraft were friendly or hostile.

In 1963 the squadron operated the AN/FPS-7C search radar along with AN/FPS-26A and AN/FPS-90 height-finder radars. On 31 July 1963, the site was redesignated as NORAD ID Z-26. The AN/FPS-90 was damaged by a fire in 1966, but was repaired; it was removed some time in the early 1970s.

In addition to the main facility, Opheim operated two AN/FPS-14 Gap Filler sites:

  • Whitewater, MT (P-26A)
  • Whitetail, MT (P-26D)

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. Opheim AFS ceased operations on 1 June 1979 as part of the inactivation of Aerospace Defense Command. The 779th Radar Squadron (SAGE) was inactivated on 29 September 1979.

Today, the former Opheim Air Force Station is abandoned and largely obliterated. Most of the Air Force buildings have been razed, their foundations remain. A few buildings still stand derelict.

Air Force units and assignments

Units

  • Constituted as the 779th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron
Activated on 1 March 1951
Redesignated as 779th Radar Squadron (SAGE) on 15 July 1961
Redesignated as 779th Radar Squadron on 1 February 1974
Inactivated on 29 September 1979

Assignments

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