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Advanced Missile-Defense Radar Facility at Clear Air Force Station Nears Completion

Missile Defense Agency

Defense contractor Lockheed Martin will soon begin testing a $1.5 billion missile-defense radar facility that’s nearing completion at Clear Air Force Station.

The director of Lockheed Martin’s Missile Defense and Space Surveillance Radar Programs told reporters Monday that the company will begin testing the Long Range Discrimination Radar, or LRDR, this spring.

“Like (in) the beginning of May, we’ll start … to do some initial kind of light-off, power-up and all that to make sure everything is functioning properly,” Chandra Marshall said in a Monday teleconference. She said workers have begun installing 10 large sensors called “panels” to the LRDR’s main structure, the mission-control facility.

“We’re in the process of installing the last set of panels for that array face,” she said, referring to one of two faces of the structure where the panels will be installed.

Ten more of the 27-foot-tall panels are on their way to Alaska. Marshall says it’ll take a while to carefully transport the sensors all the way to Clear.  

“So each of the panels goes on its own tractor-trailer,” she said. “It’s considered an oversized load.”

Credit Missile Defense Agency
A recent photo of the LRDR shows most of the structural work has been completed.

The 20 panels will enable the LRDR to detect and track incoming enemy ballistic missiles much more accurately than existing radar systems. Data generated by the LRDR will provide greater situational awareness to facilities like the missile-defense base on Fort Greely than is presently available.

A Missile Defense Agency spokesperson says the LRDR will be operational by the end of the year.

The contractor for the project is Anchorage-based Haskell-Davis Joint Venture. 

Editor's note: This story was revised to update the total estimated cost of constructing the LRDR as of May 2021: $1.5 billion.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.