Moscow Air Force Station (AFS) was located in the small town of Moscow, Maine and was home to the Over the Horizon Backscatter (OTH-B) radar transmitter for the east coast. Over the Horizon Radar works by bouncing signals off the ionosphere. This allows the radar to overcome the curvature of the earth. The east coast OTH-B system is so powerful that it can detect changes in ocean currents.
GE Aerospace developed and implemented the system, beginning with a small prototype in Moscow (Maine) which eventually evolved into a full fledged system. The transmitter site is located in Moscow, the receiver is in Columbia Falls, Maine and the data processing was done in Bangor at the Air National Guard base.
The east coast system was constructed and tested in the late 80's and the fully functional system was handed off to the Air Force in 1990. With the fall of Communism in 1991, the OTH-B system was basically rendered obsolete. It soldiered on in a few different capacities including tracking drug trafficking aircraft and mapping ocean currents until it was put in "warm storage" in 1997. At that point the facilities were maintained but no longer used. In 2002, the site was put into cold storage and deactivated. All wave tubes and equipment were removed.
The Russians made a few attempts at OTH Radar setups before Duga-3, which is also known as the Steel Yard or the Woodpecker. Duga-3 was powered by the Chernobyl power plant and was extremely powerful. Its Woodpecker nickname came from the tap-tap-tap interference it caused on short wave radios around the globe. Duga-3 went online in 1976 and was in service through the late 1980's. Eventually the Woodpecker's interference waned and then disappeared altogether in 1989. It's eventual shutdown was probably caused by the proliferation of satellites.
To reach the Moscow transmitter site from Bangor, take I95 south to Newport and then take Route 2 to Skowhegan (SkowVegas to the locals). From Skowhegan, take Route 201 north through Solon and Bingham to Moscow. Once in Moscow, look for the sign for Bemis St on your right at the top of a hill. You won't see the sign for the road you need to take, but the sign for Bemis sticks out. Turn right onto Donigan and then bear right at the fork on to Frith Rd. Frith Rd splits into Burns Rd and Stream Rd. Hang to the right and take Stream Rd. Just stick with the powerlines. The road will turn to dirt and start to gain elevation. Before long, you'll crest a hill and be looking at one of three transmitter arrays. This array is gated off, but you can get some decent shots of it. Continue straight down Stream Rd past the first array and you'll come to another gate. This gate blocks the other two arrays and the main complex buildings. If you have a car, you're done. That's all you're going to see.
If you have a truck, turn right at this gate on to Chase Pond Road and follow it until it tees into Dead Water Road. Turn left on to Dead Water and head north on Heald Pond Rd. Bear left and follow the powerlines up the hillside on the access road. It's rough and rocky. You'll go about half a mile and come to an earth berm with a US Government property sign on it. Park your truck, walk up the hill and you'll be looking at the main complex for the OTH-B transmitter. I know this all sounds very complicated, but it's all on Mapquest. Better yet, bring a DeLorme Gazetteer with you. I know I plug them on every page here, but they are worth their weight in gold. Seriously.
Update November 2009: I have been informed by a fellow intrepid traveller that the radar arrays have been dismantled in recent weeks. The buildings and microwave towers are still standing, but the arrays themselves have been torn down and removed. I will be planning a trip as soon as I can to visit and take updated pictures.
Update July 2010: I have yet to return to the Moscow site to view any changes, but an article published on the Bangor Daily News website says that the site is being eyed for use as a windmill farm.
Update October 2011: I can confirm that the radar arrays have been removed. The buildings, fencing and microwave towers are still intact, but the arrays are gone. A windmill farm project is still being pursued, but little [visible] progress has been made.
Update April 2012: The site has been purchased by three companies: Cianbro, Conroy Development Corp and Jay Cashman, Inc. Their plans for the site include wind power and potentially light manufacturing or off-site storage/web-hosting. More details in a Bangor Daily News article published here.
These pictures were taken over the course of three different visits during 2008 and 2009. As with the other pages on this site, some may be out of chronological order so that the "tour" makes better sense.
Thanks to Bill R for the great vintage shots of this site.