780th Radar Squadron

Fortuna Air Force Station, North Dakota

FPS-35 Search Radar/FPS-26 Height-Finder

Downtown Fortuna, North Dakota

Downtown Fortuna, North Dakota

One Street Light, No Parking Meters

Squadron Patch This radar site was located up on the Northwest corner of the state, and was part of the Air Defense Command's 24th Air Division, Headquartered at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana. I was assigned here from the September 1976 to September of 1978. The radar tower is 5 stories tall, and the sail is about 3 stories wide. The radar operated in the UHF frequency band at about 430 MHz. The range was about 200 miles. The main features of the radar, was its frequency diversity and Electronic Counter Counter Measures (ECCM) capabilities. You could not jam this radar with a puny little jammer that the Ruskies had to fly over the pole with. FPS-35 Search Radar You can judge the scale of this tower by the Rambler station wagon at the base of the tower. This radar site could be seen for miles, as it was the highest point of land. The radar waveguide was large enough for a human to enter. The most difficult engineering feat, was getting the sail to rotate in the North Dakota wind. Typically the site voltage would dip way down going up-wind, and rise way up going down-wind. This created havoc with the rest of the site, as the Height Finder (AN/FPS-26) and appliances seemed to fail about 10 times faster than any other radar site. The FPS-26 was a real joy to work on, after my experience with the low-tech FPS-6 and FPS-90 at Keno AFS, Oregon. The FPS-26 used a Klystron instead of a Magnetron, and was Dual-Chain operating at about 5 GHz. That is, it had two complete transmitter chains on the second floor. The waveguide was pressurized with SF-6 gas, which was new for me, as the old FPS-6 used compressed air. A nice feature was that you could add the two chains together to double the power. The Antenna was hydraulic, and the scope operators could put the thing in search-light mode and burn through the jamming. When they did this, the whole tower rocked. We usually bought a crate of Kotex(tm) to lay around the antenna base, as no one could keep the hydraulic fluid from leaking after a month or so after a rebuild PMI (Preventative Maintenance Inspection). The Klystrons could also be tuned by the scope operators by turning a pot. This pot actually controlled a set of servo motors which tuned the mechanical shafts of the Klystron cavities. It was a real piece of crap, and the calibration accuracy was measured in hours after a PMI. The first floor was the receiver group and cooling equipment. I was mostly a shift worker, but I did volunteer to run the GPA-98 ECM simulator, and that kept me pretty busy. FPS-26 Height-Finder Radar

The water in this area is filled with alkalyne and after one wash, all your white stuff was a light brown. If you added Clorox(tm) it got darker. My favorite memories are of my road trips to Regina and Calgary. In the winter we went to Crosby, North Dakota and watched and rooted for the High School basketball team. That's also where we got our hair cut. A couple hours south was Williston, North Dakota. I made a monthly trip down there to get a big bag of day-old chicken from the Kentucky Fried store, and maybe a root beer from the A&W. A funny story was that I once drove down to get some root beer and they told me they were out of it! What a drag... There's nothing better than day-old cold chicken with the famous 11 herb recipe, and a big-ole root beer.

The most famous character here, was Sylvester the cat (Black with White patches). Sylvester had a terrible life. It seems everyone chased him, or treated him bad. He lived in the cable troughs. It wasn't until spring when I learned why Sylvester was treated bad. That lazy damn cat would poop in the cable troughs instead of outside. But really, it was so cold up there that even I would choose a cable trough over the snow.

Recent Photos!

Photo's Public Domain (p) 1978, S. R. Sampson, No Rights Reserved
Squadron Patch Courtesy of Richard Grimm (Sep 66 - Dec 67)
Recent Photos Courtesy of Ralph McConahy

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