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Work completed on advanced radar facility at Clear Space Force Base

Missile Defense Agency
The Long Range Discrimination Radar's sensors will be able to detect and identify missiles and other objects in space more quickly and precisely, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency says.

$1.5 billion LRDR will improve military’s ability to track missiles and other objects in space, Pentagon says

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency on next week will commemorate completion of construction of an advanced radar system at Clear Space Force Station. The $1.5 billion Long Range Discrimination Radar will improve the military’s ability to track ballistic missiles and other objects in space.

Missile Defense Agency
The LRDR and other sensors, like the Updated Early Warning Radar (UEWR), are at Clear Space Force Station, formerly known as Clear Air Force Station, located about 75 miles south of Fairbanks off the Parks Highway.

After months of delays caused mainly by the pandemic, the Missile Defense Agency will officially unveil the Long Range Discrimination Radar, or LRDR, in a Monday morning event at the former Air Force station at Clear.

Space Force Lt. Col. Bill Hassey is the installation commander, and he said in an interview last summer that the LRDR will greatly improve Clear’s ability carry out its three main missions: “Missile warning, missile defense and space domain awareness.”

Space domain awareness includes tracking junk that’s floating around in near-Earth orbit, says Maj. David Kim, the operations director for the 13th Space Warning Squadron at Clear. That would include the 1,500 or so chunks of debris left over from a Russian satellite that that nation destroyed last month in a test of its anti-satellite system.

“We are keeping track of objects in space, as well as the missile defense missions,” he said in a June interview.

The Missile Defense Agency says once the LRDR is fully operational, it’ll be able to search, track and discriminate many types and sizes of objects in space. The agency says that’ll include dummy warheads and other decoys that incoming enemy missiles may deploy to distract radars and enable real warheads to escape detection.

A news release release issued by the agency last Monday says the LRDR will be able to detect all types of ballistic missiles from farther away – including, in its later iterations, new-generation hypersonic missiles. The radar’s data will better enable interceptor missiles, like those at the base at Fort Greely, to knock down warheads.

Monday’s event at Clear marks the beginning of the initial-fielding phase of the LRDR that’ll include more testing and fine-tuning of the system and training for its operators. That phase is expected to be completed in the fall of 2023, according to a report issued last year by the Government Accountability Office.

The Missile Defense Agency will then transfer the LRDR to the Space Force, which will operate and maintain the facility.

Tim Ellis has been working as a KUAC reporter/producer since 2010. He has more than 30 years experience in broadcast, print and online journalism.