Calumet AFS

Category Exploration Date Status Province / State Country
Military October 9, 2011 Abandoned Michigan United States

Posted on: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 15:15 By: Mike


Calumet Air Force Station began operations in 1953 as part of the second wave of construction of such sites. It opened with AN/FPS-3 and AN/FPS-5 radars. In 1956, an AN/FPS-6 height-finder radar was installed, and 1958 saw further improvement with the installation of the AN/FPS-20 search radar.

In 1960, the station became part of the SAGE system, automating various tasks, and networking the stations together. In 1961, the AN/FPS-20 was upgraded to the AN/FPS-64, and two years after was replaced completely by the AN/FPS-27 search radar, the AN/FPS-26A height-finder, and the AN/FPS-90 (an upgraded version of the AN/FPS-6) height-finder.

The station was slated to be closed in 1979, and the AN/FPS-26A and AN/FPS-90 were removed from the site. Instead of closing, however, the station continued operations as part of the Joint Surveillance System, initially with the AN/FPS-27, but was soon that would be replaced by an AN/FPS-91A, and the addition of an AN/FPS-116 height-finder.

All operations finally ceased on September 30, 1988.

Later, the buildings would be used by the reform school, Keweenaw Academy, but that too would end. Currently, the former search radar tower is home to an AT&T cellular tower and equipment, but the rest of the site is mostly unused.

Personal Commentary: 

When I arrived here, I couldn't believe my eyes. This site possibly the most intact, pristine radar site I had yet visited. While there was evidence of changes made by the reform school that operated there, apparently briefly, not a great deal had actually changed.

There was some damage, of course, such as broken windows, some holes in walls, some mold, etc. All the kind of things neglect will do to any buildings over time. For the length of time they've been left unattended, however, I was greatly surprised.

I spent a little over two hours exploring and could easily have spent more time, but my travel schedule required otherwise.

While researching the history of this location, I ran across a number of interesting things. Since I couldn't find any confirmation, I left them out of the history. For example, one person notes a radiation contamination issue from the AN/FPS-64 that affected some of the crew. Someone else mentioned a drug bust in the married quarters that resulted in the arrest of several airmen, and two wives.

Also of note, Calumet AFS is part of a UFO story, as so many of these sites seem to be. Allegedly, a fighter was scrambled to intercept a target over Lake Superior that was unidentified by Calumet. During the tracking of the target and the fighter, the two blips merged and the fighter never returned.

The writer of this story contends that there were discrepancies in the stories issued by the US Air Force, and that the entire thing is suspicious. The authorities, however, claim that after a successful identification of a Canadian airliner, the aircraft was lost due to pilot error.


After some e-mail traffic with Mike he suggested I post some reminisces about Calumet on this site. As there are too many and somewhat unrelated, will do a little at a time. By way of intro, I was part of a relatively new AF program in the 80's that created a cadre of reserve officers to augment the base Disaster Prep officers who were usually GS-11's and above and couldn't be deployed militarily. It was a great job, I had an 0-5 slot and lived near K.I.Sawyer so it was a natural, but there wasn't enough action for me at first so they had me doing just about everything in the shop and I readily volunteered to do Staff Assistance Visits at outlying units one of which was Calumet.

My first one up there was in the summer, and it was beautiful. But I couldn't quite understand why all those big silvery pipes were running all over base and elevated 8 or so feet off the ground on supports. Learned later that those were the heating pipes running from the central plant to the working buildings on base and had to be elevated because they couldn't economically bury them because the who base sat on top of the solid rock Cambrian shield. And they had to be that high because, as I learned my next visit, it snowed even more up there than at K.I. which I hitherto had thought wasn't possible this side of the Yukon. More later.

We were there in 1970-1972. My husband, E Ray Mobley Jr, was supply officer during that time. When we arrived there, we thought Good Grief; those pipes above ground, how small it was and all those "chutes" to get to the doors...all beyond the imagination of 2 Louisiana transplants! contact me for more...I have had trouble with communication sites defunked. I just found this while looking up weather for Eagle River, where we lived while waiting for a base house.

I arrived on base in May 69. It was snowing but I loved it there. I had been a student at Mich. Tech before my military service so I was amazed when Uncle Sam stationed me 34 miles from there. Lived in the dorm next to the motor pool and worked shift wok in the 26A tower( we were also responsible for the 6 tower maint.). The height finders were largely tube sets but were starting to be converted to transisters. Took Mich. Tech night school classes in the base cafeteria. In off time we skied at the Porkies in Ontonagon and at Swedetown in Calumet. There was no cable on base in 69. Someone got the base a grant of some kind and we volunteered to help install the first cable system on base. The antennas for the system were located on the abandoned tower bases. The cable system got 5-6 stations. Hung out at the base NCO club/bowling alley. Both summers were beautiful and the winters brutal. Started snowing in late Sept and we still had snow on the ground in May. It would be below zero for weeks on end. One of the side benefits of being stationed there was that I got to know some of the locals. My family has remained friends with them since.
I got transferred to Sault Ste. Marie in Feb 71 and eventually discharged in 3/72. Went right back to Mich Tech and graduated in 1975. My whole family eventually graduated from there. We go back 2-3 times per year

Found your video of the Radar Station and I have fond memories of the folks there that gave me so much help and so much hardware as I was putting together ham radio repeaters. I was going to MTU and there was a fellow up there, Dennis Finkeldye, that was a ham and gave me so much help. Got to tour all the facilities and actually operate some of the gear that was still active in the late 1970's. Great memories. Have lost touch with Dennis but have never forgotten the generosity of the servicemen working up there.

All the best,

Toivo Mykkanen

I was there April 1962 to January 1963. Was in the Diesel Power House that produced electricity for the base and radar. Had 2 civilans all the time. Had a Red and White 1956 Chevy. Another airman had a Blue 1957 Chevy. We had fun in the winter months. Also go to town the Twin Cities. Email

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