California State Military Department
The California State Military Museum
Preserving California's Military Heritage
Historic California Posts, Stations and Airfields
Pillar Point Air Force Station
(Pillar Point Military Reservation, Pillar Point Air Station)
Point Pillar AFS (Image courtesy of the California Coastal Records Project)


The Pillar Point AN/FPQ-6 and AN/MPS-36 radars are highly accurate G-band radars owned by the VAFB's Western Range (WR). These radars can be used for tracking objects off the coast of central California. Data from the Point Mugu and VAFB metric radars are exchanged over 16 multiplexed channels for TSPI track and sensor positioning.

The AN/FPQ-6 is a Missile Precision Instrumentation Radar (MIPIR) class monopulse tracking radar used to provide position data on aircraft, missiles, space boosters, and orbiting bodies. The site can track in either skin mode or in conjunction with vehicle-borne transponders. The radar's large antenna and high power coherent transmitter make the site's data quality very high. The sensor can also provide Doppler-derived range rate data on skin or coherent transponder tracks. Non-owners may utilize the services of the radar, but site operations and maintenance is limited to the Western Range contractor.

The Sea Range metric radars provide precise, accurate tracking of range operation participants using four radars at Point Mugu and four on SNI. Additional metric tracking support is available from six Western Range radars located at Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB), Tranquillon Peak and Pillar Point. The WR radars provide high altitude tracking over the Sea Range and extend operational support to areas west of VAFB.

The California Coast has few protective points. Pillar Point is one of them. The Point at night with its string of lights looks like the largest battleship in the American fleet. On top of the point is the Pillar Point Air Force Station. Beneath the tracking station is the harbor. It is the only harbor between San Francisco and Santa Cruz. This natural harbor has been used by coastal fishermen for centuries, but the harbor, with its tracings of rip-rap breakwaters, was first constructed in 1961. The inner breakwater was added in 1982.

Source globalsecurity.org. Used with permission

Corps of Engineers History

On 10 October 1940, the U.S. Army purchased 12.68 acres and leased 36.28 acres. The total acreage acquired for the subject site was 48.96 acres.

The site was known as Pillar Point Military Reservation (Harbor Defense of San Francisco), California. The site was situated in San Mateo County, 15 miles south of the City of San Francisco. The site was used as a harbor defense facility and primary artillery site for the City of San Francisco. The improvements constructed at Pillar Point consisted of barracks, concrete bunkers, cyclone fences, and an overhead and underground electric system.

On 30 November 1949, the lease on 34.17 acres terminated. On 30 June 1953, the lease on 1.06 acres terminated. On 04 September 1959, the lease on 1.05 acres terminated, the 12.68 acres originally purchased by the U.S. Army were transferred to the Department of the Navy. The 36.28 acres were again leased in 1959 by the U.S. Navy for use as a radar facility. In the early 1960s the 12.68 purchased acres were transferred to the U.S. Air Force and a missile tracking installation was established on the site. The property owned by the U.S. Air Force continues to be used as part of the missile tracking installation. Four of the remaining seven acres are currently owned by the San Mateo Harbor District and are being developed into a wetlands habitat. The remaining three acres are privately owned and undeveloped.

Source: US Army Corps of Engineers


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