DOD to spend $325M on Clear missile defense radar
Another big chunk of the roughly $1 billion the Defense Department is spending to upgrade the country’s missile defense system is headed to Alaska.
Missile Defense Agency Director Vice Admiral James Syring said Feb. 23 to during a presentation to the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce that more than $325 million will be spent at Clear Air Force Station over the next six years to install a new power plant and missile detection radar.
Clear Air Force Station is a radar base located near Nenana along the Parks Highway southwest of Fairbanks.
Much of the construction spending will begin in 2017, Syring said, when $155 million of work on the mission control facility and related infrastructure is started.
In 2019, another $150 million will be spent on the station’s new power plant and fuel storage facilities. This year, the Missile Defense Agency plans to spend about $25 million building a 350-person man camp and decommissioning the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System, among other things, Syring said.
That work will be contracted through the Alaska District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Syring said he expects much of it will be done by local contractors.
Long Range Discrimination Radar, or LRDR, being developed by Lockheed Martin in New Jersey, will replace the early warning system. The LRDR will then be shipped to Alaska and installed at Clear.
Syring said the man camp will be used from 2017 to 2021, with peak occupancy in 2019.
Clear Air Force Station is on the electrical grid; however, the upgraded power plant is a backup facility that will be protected against electromagnetic pulse weapons that could be used to render electrical systems useless, Syring explained.
“Everything we are doing here in Alaska is to expand our defense against that North Korea threat,” he said.
Early in 2013 the Pentagon announced plans to add 14 interceptors to the 26 currently installed at Fort Greely near Delta Junction by 2017. Those interceptors are the country’s main defense against the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) threats primarily coming from North Korea and Iran, according to Syring.
He said the impetus for adding interceptors to Greely was a rocket launched into orbit by North Korea in 2012. A similar test several weeks ago demonstrated the temperamental country still has the capability to reach orbit and is still pursuing an ICBM feet.
Repeating nearly every Defense official who references Alaska, Syring noted the state’s global position as key to its role in the missile defense program.
“Why we are here is (Alaska’s) strategic and geographic location and there’s no two ways about it,” he said.
Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley said to Sen. Lisa Murkowski in testimony before a Senate committee Feb. 24 that he wants to delay a force reduction from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson planned for 2017 by at least a year because of increasing threats — North Korea included — in the North Pacific. Milley cited the ability of Alaska forces to reach East Asia within hours of deployment as a primary reason for keeping strong military resources in the state.
Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected].