AN/FPS-17 located at Laredo AFS, TX
FPS-17 radar installation at Diyarbakir, Turkey. Photo ca 1970s-80s.
With the Soviet Union apparently making rapid progress in its rocket program, in 1954 the United States began a program to develop a tracking radar. General Electric was the contractor and Lincoln Laboratory was the subcontractor. This tracking radar, the AN/FPS-17, was conceived, designed, built, and installed for operation in less than two years. Installed at Laredo AFB in Texas, the first AN/FPS-17 was used to track rockets launched from White Sands, New Mexico. The radar was unique; it featured a fixed-fence antenna that stood 175 feet high and 110 feet wide. The transmitter sent out a VHF pulse at a frequency between 180 to 220 MHz. Units were installed in the late 1950s at Shemya Island in the Aleutians and in Turkey. The unit at Shemya subsequently was replaced by the Cobra Dane (AN/FPS-108) radar.