1978 through 1982 marked my years spent in the U.S. Air Force as an Air Traffic Control Radar Technician, AFSC 303x1. After nine months in technical school at Keesler AFB, MS, I moved on to my permanent duty station at Robins AFB, Georgia.
There, I was part of the 5th Combat Communication Group (5CCG), aka 5th MOB (MOB = mobile). Most of my early knowledge of electronics was learned as a result of the experience gained there. To be truthful, I was not overly thrilled with being part of a mobile communication group, because my goal was to work on an engineering degree, and the propensity for deployment was great enough to limit me to a total of about three semesters of college classes. After many years of part-time and full-time coursework after the Air Force duty, I finally completed my BSEE at the University of Vermont, of all places.•
The AN/MPN-14 was a mobile radar system that consisted primarily of an Equipment Trailer (all of the radar electronics), a Maintenance Trailer (workbench, AC/Heat, UHF/VHF radios), and a big RAPCON Trailer (ASR and PAR displays and controls). A 60-mile Airport Surveillance Radar (ASR) and a 10-mile Precision Approach Radar (PAR) provided the primary radar, and a 200-mile Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system provided the synthetic (secondary) radar. This IFF system contained a 1 kbyte magnetic core memory with the four read, write, sense and strobe lines threaded by Pygmies.
These pictures were dug out of a photo shoebox and posted for your viewing pleasure. A search on Google for the MPN-14 radar turned up no pictures at all, so maybe this is now the only one on the Internet.
Due to the huge amount of interest in the 5CCG (5th MOB) both my 5th members and by members from other Mobs, the scope of this page has been expanded to include all the MOBs, the first through the 5th. If you or someone you know was a member, please contact me with your service information and I will include it here. Photos are welcome; I can scan originals or negatives and return them to you if you do not have digital versions.
Thanks to my good buddy Don Hicks for sending this USAF cap and coffee mug from Hulburt Field! - Kirt Blattenberger
Tobyhanna Reporter article on an AN/MPN-14K transformer modification to prevent arcing.
This was the official
5th CCG "CommuniGator"
coffee mug back in
the early 1980s.
Honorable Discharge from the USAF
AFCS patch in
5CCG patch in
5CCG Crew patch in camouflage (subdued)
5CCG Certificate of Mobility Training
Click here to learn how to find patches and other paraphernalia from your military history.
Here is a friendly letter I received from the VA. The GI Bill had been suspended during my enlistment era, so I had to pay into the college fund. Turns out, the VA had it wrong, and I did not owe the $15.93.
Here is the official 5CCG Alumni Association website. Sign the guest book and have a look around.
MOB histories are quite extensive, and most have been moved around over the years. The links below take you to the most useful sites I could locate. If you know of better ones, please let me know.
• 1st MOB
: Ramstein AB
, Germany (LinkedIn
) 1st Mob/Comm Alumni Photo Gallery
• 2nd MOB
: Patrick AFB
, Florida, USA (LinkedIn
• 3rd MOB: Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, USA (LinkedIn)
• 4th MOB: Clark AFB, Philippines
• 5th MOB: Robins AFB, Georgia, USA (LinkedIn)
Air Force Communicators & Air Traffic Controllers Association Website
Formerly called "The AACS Alumni Association"
Radar System Designations & Descriptions
ITT/Gilfillan (then Exelis and now Harris) has "resurrected" the MPN-14. It appears from their brochure that they have gutted the shell and re-fitted it with modern electronics and software - very nice!. I just hope they have significantly improved the air conditioning system as well; that old design used to fail continuously. Thanks to Angelo V for the info.
Here is an identification plate form an AN/MPN-14 radar trailer. It comes from the 1st MOB website
Operations Trailer nearest in photo, Maintenance trailer inline and connected to the rear, RAPCON separate and to the right. ASR & IFF antennas toward center of trailer, PAR Elevation antenna nearest - circa 1979-82.
Backing up the tractor to hitch up the MPN-14 RAPCON for a deployment - circa 1979-82.
"Healthy Strike" deployment cantonment area, Herbert Smart Airfield, Macon, GA. - circa 1979-82.
Inside the Operations Trailer. ASR display nearest door with IFF control box next to it. PAR display near the arm protruding by door - circa 1979-82.
5CCG Radar Shop - circa 1979-82. (Kirt B photo)
5CCG Radar Shop - circa 1980-82. (Don Hicks photo)
Red Worthington (Don Hicks photo, right)
Sgt. Chuck Powell - circa 1981. (Don Hicks photo, above)
Joe Hoover assembles Lights atop the MPN-14 - circa 1987. (Don Hicks photo, right)
- New page added just for the TPN-19 radar
- Read e-mails from radar shop members
- Photos of RF Cafe service members
USAF radar tech Elbert Cook has completed his scale model of the MPN-13 GCA (Ground Control Approach) mobile radar system that he worked on. It has an incredible amount of detail, including the ASR (airport surveillance radar) and PAR (precision approach radar) antennas, the VHF and UHF radio antennas, navigation hazard light, and even the gin poles that stabilize the trailers against wind forces. Elbert's modeling skills are impressive indeed! Hopefully, this model will someday end up in a USAF museum - maybe at Wright-Patterson AFB.
For lack of a better place to post it for, here is a photo I took of a Lockheed C-130 Hercules "Hurricane Hunter" on August 29, 1979, while stationed at Keesler AFB, MS for technical school. It was part of the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron (WRS) and was on its way into the eye of Hurricane Frederic (CAT4), came ashore on September 15th on the state line between Mississippi and Alabama. I processed out out of Keesler AFB the day before it hit. It passed tore up Biloxi almost exactly 10 years from when Hurricane Camille (CAT5) devastated the base and surrounding areas.
"Old radar troops never die, they just 'Phase Array'" - Ronald L. Fate
B&W photo of ASR display (PPI, top right) - circa 1979-82. AN/GPA-131 Analog Video Mapper overlay display can barely be seen on the monitor.
B&W photo of PAR display (bottom right) showing Elevation display at top and Azimuth display on bottom. Yes, it is in dire need of alignment - circa 1979-82.
Members of our radar shop assembling the MPN-14 (one of two we maintained, left). In the picture are Chuck Powell, Ron Dames, Don Hicks, Linda(?), Ed Nugent, Allen Coker, Scott Breen(?) and Supreme Commander TSgt. "Red" Worthington. I welcome feedback from anyone that wants to correct my identifications - circa 1979-82.
Yours truly and Sgt. Ed Nugent (right) inside the RAPCON performing a display alignment - or at least pretending to - circa 1979-82.
Joe Hoover (my OJT trainer) - circa 1979-81. (Don Hicks photo, left)
John Rackley - circa 1981. (Don Hicks photo, right)
Comments from Radar Troops (see other notes):
Gary Thomas <service> - I was inducted in the Air Force March 1968, after Lackland (now merged with Randolph AFB into Joint Base San Antonio) I was sent to Keesler for for 303x1 training and then assigned to the 1926 Comms Sq. at Robins in Dec 1969 and stayed there for the rest of my term of service 1971. We had a FPN/16 on a turntable and worked out the FAA Rapcon bldg. The TSgt. was Victor Sharp, SSgt. Calvin Oberg, Sgt. Ronald Vaughn. Soon we were joined by Nathan Lemmon, and Larry Gulley. Not long after I arrived Gilfillan came and did a complete rebuild of the unit including turntable. We then had a very light work load for the remainder of my time there, due to all new equipment.
Thanks to Don Hicks and other former Radar Techs for many of these names. The list originally reported only 5CCG Radar Shop members, but has been expanded to include any AFSC 303x1 Radar Techs who care to send in their information for a listing. Send me an e-mail to have your name removed, or to add others to the ever-growing list.