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Othello Air Force Station

Othello Air Force Station
Part of Air Defense Command (ADC)
Type Air Force Station
Site information
Controlled by  United States Air Force
Site history
Built 1951
In use 1951-1975
Garrison information
Garrison 637th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron (later 637th Radar Squadron); 637th Air Defense Group
Othello AFS is located in Washington (state)
Othello AFS
Othello AFS
Location of Othello AFS, Washington

Othello Air Force Station (ADC ID: P-40, NORAD ID: Z-40) is a closed United States Air Force General Surveillance Radar station. It is located 7.2 miles (11.6 km) south of Othello, Washington. It was the home station of the 637th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron (AC&W Sq) (later the 637th Radar Squadron) and the 637th Air Defense Group, closing in 1975.


  • History 1
    • Units 1.1
      • Awards 1.1.1
    • Assignments 1.2
  • See also 2
  • Notes and references 3
    • Notes 3.1
    • Bibliography 3.2
  • External links 4


Othello Air Force Station was one of twenty-eight stations built as part of the second segment of the Air Defense Command permanent radar 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 permanent network. Receiving the Defense Secretary’s approval on July 21, the Air Force directed the Corps of Engineers to proceed with construction. This site took over coverage once provided by the temporary "Lashup" site L-28, Spokane, Washington, which operated between 1950-1952.

The 637th AC&W Sq had moved to Saddle Mountain, Washington by 1 January 1951.[1] The squadron began operating an AN/FPS-3 long-range search radar and an AN/FPS-5 height-finder radar in January 1952, assuming coverage from the temporary "lashup" sites L-29 at Larson AFB and L-30 at Richland, Washington. 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. The site was renamed Othello Air Force Station on 1 December 1953.

In 1956 ADC replaced the height-finder radar with an AN/FPS-6. In 1958 the 637th AC&W Sq operated an AN/FPS-20 search radar and added an AN/FPS-6A height-finder radar. In July 1960 the joined the regional Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) center, the squadron being redesignated as the 637th Radar Squadron (SAGE) on 1 September.[1] 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-40.

In 1963 the AN/FPS-20 radar was replaced by an AN/FPS-7C set featuring an ECCM capability (the AN/FPS-7C was later modified to the AN/FPS-107 version). Also in 1963 the AN/FPS-6 was retired as an AN/FPS-26A height-finder radar was being installed, completed in 1964.

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

  • Wenatchee, WA (P-40B)
  • Okanogan, WA (P-40C)

The 637th Radar Sq was inactivated[1] and replaced by the 637th Air Defense Group in March 1970.[2] The upgrade to group status was done because of Othello AFS' status as a Backup Interceptor Control (BUIC) site. BUIC sites were alternate control sites in the event that SAGE Direction Centers became disabled and unable to control interceptor aircraft. The group was awarded the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for the period from 1 March 1970 through 31 May 1971 for exceptionally meritorious service[3] The group was inactivated[2] and replaced by the 637th Radar Squadron.[1] as defenses against manned bombers were reduced. The group was disbanded in 1984.[4]

The squadron was inactivated on March 31, 1975[1] due to a draw-down of ADC and budget constraints. Today, the site is abandoned and deteriorating, and has the look of a ghost town. The site and housing area are deteriorating, with tall weeds, grasses, and shrubs growing everywhere.


  • Constituted as 637th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron
Activated 21 May 1947 at Long Beach Municipal Airport, CA
Moved to McChord Air Force Base, WA on 16 Apr 1948
Moved to Larson Air Force Base, WA on 28 January 1949
Moved to Saddle Mountain (later Othello AFS), WA ca. 1 January 1951
Redesignated 637th Radar Squadron (SAGE) on 1 September 1960
Inactivated on 1 March 1970
Redesignated 637th Radar Squadron on 1 January 1974
Activated on 17 January 1974
Inactivated on 31 March 1975[1]
  • Constituted as 637th Air Defense Group on 13 February 1970
Activated on 1 March 1970
Inactivated on 17 January 1974[2]
Disbanded on 27 September 1984[4]



See also

Notes and references


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Cornett & Johnson, p. 155
  2. ^ a b c d Cornett, & Johnson, p.86
  3. ^ a b Air Force Pamphlet 900-2, Vol. II, p. 86
  4. ^ a b Department of the Air Force/MPM Letter 575q, 27 Sep 1984, Subject: Disbandment of Units


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  • Cornett, Lloyd H; Johnson, Mildred W (1980). A Handbook of Aerospace Defense Organization, 1946 - 1980. Peterson AFB, CO: Office of History, Aerospace Defense Center. 
  • AF Pamphlet 900-2, Unit Decorations, Awards and Campaign Participation Credits, Vol II Department of the Air Force, Washington, DC, 30 Sep 1976

Further reading

  • Grant, C.L., (1961) The Development of Continental Air Defense to 1 September 1954, USAF Historical Study No. 126
  • Leonard, Barry (2009). History of Strategic Air and Ballistic Missile Defense. Vol I. 1945-1955. Fort McNair, DC: Center for Military History.  
  • Leonard, Barry (2009). History of Strategic Air and Ballistic Missile Defense. , Vol II, 1955-1972. Fort McNair, DC: Center for Military History.  
  • Winkler, David F.; Webster, Julie L (1997). Searching the skies: The legacy of the United States Cold War Defense Radar Program. Champaign, IL: US Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratories.  
  • Information for Othello AFS, WA

External links

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