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701st Air Defense Group

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Title: 701st Air Defense Group  
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Subject: 20th Air Division
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

701st Air Defense Group

Fort Fisher AFS
Fort Fisher AFS
Location of Fort Fisher AFS, North Carolina

Fort Fisher Air Force Station was a US Air Force installation located on the Atlantic coast 08 miles (13 km) southwest of Kure Beach, North Carolina. Its primary mission was as a radar complex. It was closed on 30 June 1988 by the Air Force, and turned over to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Today the site is part of the Joint Surveillance System (JSS), designated by NORAD as Eastern Air Defense Sector (EADS) Ground Equipment Facility.


During the Civil War, Fort Fisher was a Confederate stronghold. It fell to Union forces on January 15, 1865.

In late December 1940, a new military facility was built as an Army anti-aircraft artillery training facility. It was named Camp Davis, and was manned by about 20,000 officers and men. Camp Davis was attached to the First Army, Fourth Corps Area. It was an expansive facility consisting of more than 3,000 buildings on 45,538 acres (184.3 km2) with access provided by newly built railroad spurs leading into the camp.

Camp Davis was different from most military installations by having its firing ranges outside of the boundaries of the main post. In total five ranges were set up outside of Camp Davis for conducting live anti-aircraft training. These ranges were spread out along the southern coast of North Carolina at Sears Point, New Topsail Inlet, Maple Hill, Holly Shelter, and Fort Fisher.

Fort Fisher Army Air Field

The Fort Fisher range ultimately became the main range for Camp Davis and the installation was given the name Fort Fisher Army Air Field (AAF). Because of the new range's prominence, it was deemed necessary to make the range a self-sustaining post. This called for the construction of 48 frame buildings, 316 tent frames, showers and latrines, mess halls, warehouses, radio and meteorological stations, a post exchange, photo lab, recreation hall, outdoor theater, guardhouse, infirmary, and an administration building. In addition to these facilities, the site featured a 10,000-gallon water storage tank, a motor pool, a large parade ground, and three steel observation towers along the beach.

One of the more prominent features of the range was a 2,500 ft (760 m). unpaved runway. From a historical standpoint this is unfortunate as a section of the earthworks for the fort's land face, known as Shepard's Battery, were leveled to make the runway. The Army was well aware of the historical significance of the old fort, but the necessities of the war outweighed historic preservation.[1] Today, the parking lot and visitor center for Fort Fisher sit on the remains of the runway.

In 1944 the anti-aircraft training facility was transferred to another base and Camp Davis was closed. At the time of its closure, Fort Fisher AAF had grown to include an 80-seat cafeteria, a 350-bed hospital and dental clinic, and covered an area of several hundred acres.

Fort Fisher Air Force Station

In 1955, the United States Air Force retained part of Fort Fisher AAF and renamed it Fort Fisher Air Force Station. It was assigned to Air Defense Command (ADC) as part of a planned deployment of forty-four Mobile radar stations. Fort Fisher AFS was designed as site M-115 and the 701st Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron was assigned on 1 August 1955.[2][3] ADC initially installed AN/MPS-7 and AN/MPS-8 radars at the site, 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 squadron's radar scopes. By 1958 the AN/MPS-8 had been converted into an AN/GPS-3 and an AN/MPS-14 had been added.

In 1962 an AN/FPS-7C and AN/FPS-26 were placed in operation along with the AN/MPS-14 radars. During 1962 Fort Fisher AFS joined the Semi Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) system, initially feeding data to DC-04 at Fort Lee AFS, Virginia. After joining, the squadron was redesignated as the 701st Radar Squadron (SAGE) on 1 July 1962.[3] 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.

On 31 July 1963, the site was redesignated as NORAD ID Z-115. The station was supported logistically by nearby Myrtle Beach Air Force Base South Carolina. In addition, an AN/FSS-7 radar was operated by 4783d Surveillance Squadron, 14th Aerospace Force to monitor for Ballistic Missile launches by submarines.

In addition to the main facility, Fort Fisher AFS operated several unmanned Gap Filler sites:

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