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Covid Delays Clear Missile Defense Radar Test

Missile Defense Agency

An important test for an advanced missile-defense radar system at Clear Air Force Station has been postponed, due in part to delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Government Accountability Office says the covid-related delays will prevent the Missile Defense Agency from conducting its first operational flight test for the Long Range Discrimination Radar until the fall of next year. That’s about nine months later than the agency estimated in 2019.

Construction on the facility basically has been completed. But the test is an important milestone in the latter stages of the project.

The radar is designed to provide much greater capability for detecting an enemy missile soon after launch and tracking it and the trajectory of its warhead amid decoys and other radar-distracting objects.

A GAO report issued last month says the radar now is scheduled to become fully operational in the spring of 2023 -- about two years from now. That’s also about nine months later than the 2019 estimate.

A Missile Defense Agency spokesperson said in an email Thursday that despite the delays, the radar still is on schedule to meet an interim level of operational capability later this year.

The GAO report say the Missile Defense Agency is now negotiating with project contractor Lockheed Martin on how much the delays will drive up the cost of the project, now estimated at $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.