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Laredo Air Force Station (FUDS Site No. K06TX021600)[1] was a Cold War radar station which had a AN/FPS-17, an AN/FPS-78 (used during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis' Falling Leaves radar network), and the last Avco AN/FSS-7 SLBM Detection Radar. Northeast of Laredo, Texas, located at 27°37′08″N 099°23′12″W / 27.61889°N 99.38667°W / 27.61889; -99.38667[2] and supported by the city's Laredo Air Force Base, Laredo AFS tracked White Sands Missile Range tests, provided satellite tracks such as for the 1958 Sputnik III to Project Harvest Moon,[3] and sent missile warning data to Cheyenne Mountain Complex's CCPDS computers.[4]

Laredo test site

On July 22, 1955, the military site was acquired (Air Training Command constructed the site)[1] and in 1955, "an operations building for a high-power longrange radar facility was completed."[3] Funding for the site was "from a special Air Force appropriation" and Rome Air Development Center was responsible for installation and operation of the site, which became operational in 1956.[3]

By 1958, the XW-2 model of an AN/FPS-17 was at the station and on the October 11, 1958 mission 164 to track the satellite of the Sputnik III launch,[5] tracked at 64 nmi (119 km; 74 mi) height an unidentified "radar target was picked up on a ground radar at the Laredo Test Site at at [sic] a range of 454 nautical miles and at 462 nautical miles at a height of 64 nautical miles. The targets [sic] lasted for a total of 28 seconds" (the target was "observed in three of four beams being energized".)[6]

After a January 1959 plan included the "ARDC Laredo test site radars" as sensors for the "interim National Space Surveillance and Control Center",[7] in 1960 the "Laredo test site assumed the function of tracking artificial satellites and reporting the data to Project "Harvest Moon".[3] In July 1961 Air Defense Command acquired the site[1] and by the end of 1961, the station had been developed with structures like ADC Permanent System radar stations[8] (numerous planned Aircraft Control and Warning radars for NORAD monitoring over Mexico were cancelled.) Buildings included barracks, an orderly room building,[8] etc.

1961 test sites at Trinidad and Laredo transferred from RADC on July 1.[3]

By 1962, an AN/FPS-78 was at the Laredo Test Site, and it was used during the Cuban missile crisis to sweep over the trajectory area from Cuba after the sweep by an Alabama radar and before a New Jersey radar.

Laredo sensor site

The Laredo Sensor Site was the station's name by August 30, 1961;[9] and operations included projecting "an enlarged image of radar scope film [onto] a finely graduated scale on [a] screen" for tracking precision.[10]

"The Laredo sensor was deactivated on 15 July 1964"[11] and the "Air Force...reactivated it on 1 April 1966"[1] (the 4783rd Surveillance Squadron was the station's 2nd unit, and the 665th Radar Squadron[2] was also at the station.) Detachment 8 of the 14th Missile Warning Squadron was established in the late 1960s at Laredo AFS.[2]

The AN/FSS-7 mission of detecting SLBM launches from Texas was taken over by a PAVE PAWS at Eldorado Air Force Station in 1987.

Army Reserve and civilian prison

On May 22, 1974, the station transferred to the Army and was used "for weekend training by local Army Reserve components" until deactivated in 1980.[1]

The station including "firing range, small theater, library, cafeteria, officers club, NCO club, airman's club" etc.[12] (totl of 13 buildings)--except for a small area of licensed land—transferred to the Webb County government on October 16, 1980; which by May 1992 had "converted the site into a prison" and storage area for vehicles seized by the U.S. Marshal Service.

External images
Laredo AN/FPS-17
1972? NORAD "Sea-Lanes Sentinel" Neg #72–299


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 ( document image) Site Survey Summary Sheet for DERP-FUDS SITE No. K06TX021600 (Report). May 1992. Retrieved 2014-04-21. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2,+TX
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Smith; Byrd. Forty Years of Research and Development at Griffis Air Force Base: June 1951 – June 1991 (Report). Rome Laboratory. Retrieved 2014-03-10. 
  4. (ADA095409) Modernization of the WWMCCS Information System (WIS) (Report). United States House Committee on Armed Services. January 19, 1981. Retrieved 2014-04-21. 
  5. (Interim Letter Report Contact No: AF30(602)-1741) Unidentified Target of AN/FPS-17(XW-2) Radar Mission 164 (Report). declassified 27 Jan 69. Retrieved 2014-04-21. 
  6. "Unidentified Taget During Radar Mission 164" (anecdotal info mixed with historical technical data). Retrieved 2014-04-21. 
  7. North American Air Defense Command Historical Summary (Report).…4665.10015.0.10346.…0.0…1c.1.11.psy-ab.PtW1PnDduyg&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_qf.&fp=94c1fca23fa8c111&biw=1600&bih=793. [specify]
  8. 8.0 8.1 Sheehan, John (date not transcribed). "Laredo AFS, TX" (webpage transcript of email). Retrieved 2014-04-21. "[at Laredo AFS] in 61. It was like walking onto a ghose AC&W site. All the building [sic] were just like a standard P-site (just like North Truro) AC&W radar tower." 
  9. Davis, H. Denny (August 30, 1961). "Laredo Sensor Site To Track Satellies". p. 1. Retrieved 2014-04-21. "[photo caption] How Near, How Far? A giant radar antenna sweeps the sky to locate earth satellites as they pass within range. This is part of the installation at the Laredo Sensor Site, formerly called Laredo Test Site." 
  10. "Pinpoint Accuracy" ( transcript). September 5, 1961. p. 12. Retrieved 2014-04-21. "Technician Richard Lilly at Laredo Sensor Site, formerly Laredo Test Site, holds finely graduated scale on the screen where an enlarged image of radar scope film Is projected. Rangt and position of satellites can be computed from scope data obtained from the Laredo facility." 
  11. Cite NORAD Historical Summary 1964B (July–December) p. 63

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