Air Force Stations
ADC/NORAD Radar Defenses
by Mr. Mark Morgan
(used with permission)
According to the current Air Force definition, Air Force Stations (AFSs) come under the category of "minor installation"; they are operated by active, reserve or guard units of at least squadron size but do not otherwise satisfy the criteria for a major installation (in other words, they lack property, oftentimes runways and support facilities, and they usually rely on the major installations for their existence). This rather dry description doesn`t begin to adequately convey the importance AFSs had in the United States during the 1950s and 60s, or the extent of their use.
For most people, the term "Air Force Station" was interchangeable with "Air Force Base"; they knew where the "base" was, and that there were Air Force personnel in the community. They might have noticed that there weren`t any aircraft; usually just a bunch of warehouses or some radomes off at the end of a road somewhere outside of town, and the impact on the local community, economically and socially, was considered minimal. When the AFS closed, it was felt but there wasn`t anywhere near the normal hue and cry associated with the closure of a SAC or TAC base. There was reqret; for many communities of small town America, the local Air Force Station was visible evidence of their personal contribution to the defense of the United States.
At one time AFSs were a major portion of the Air Force, in manpower alone nearly equallinq the numbers of airmen assigned to the major installations. Primarily concerned with the air defense of the country, Air Force Stations also served as supply depots and research facilities. To fulfill their mission, many were placed in remote locations and did in fact require extensive support facilities and personnel (and, in Alaska, runways). They were built up rapidly following the Korean War, and just as quickly started declining in number due to personnel and budgetary concerns.
Towards the end of the 1950s there were over 200 operational Air Force Stations. As
technology advanced, the perceived threat lessened and the Vietnam War expanded, their
missions were assumed elsewhere, consolidated or turned over to other organizations. As
of 1990, there are only nine Air Force Stations left in the United States. Those that
have been closed are now used for civilian or government purposes or are simply abandoned.