The Cobra Dane radar is a U.S. Air Force radar located in Shemya, Alaska that has been upgraded and integrated into the BMDS to provide missile acquisition, tracking, object classification, and cueing data
The AN/FPS-108 Cobra Dane radar system collects and disseminates exoatmospheric, multiple-object intelligence data.
The Cobra Dane is a large L-band, computer-controlled, phased-array radar system with local, wide- and narrow-band communication systems and an operations and test complex. The system provides 120-degree coverage of a 2,000-mile corridor that spans the eastern Russian peninsula and northern Pacific Ocean. Its digital data and voice communication systems interface with the National Air Intelligence Center (NAIC) and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
The Cobra Dane collects exoatmospheric, multiple-object intelligence data on Russian reentry vehicles and can extract and reduce the data on site. The system also provides early-warning and attack assessment for missiles that would impact the continental United States and detects and catalogs satellites for the U.S. Air Force’s Spacetrack systems.
Department of Defense (DOD) has not yet made a decision to upgrade Cobra Dane, an important part of the BMDS Sensor Suite.
MDA and the Office of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) of the Secretary of Defense indicate that both Clear and Cobra Dane are vital sensors for Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD). Both radars provide data to GMD to enable ballistic missile intercepts. However, Cobra Dane will soon be in need of large-scale hardware upgrades to continue to operate, according to program officials.
Although MDA has upgraded UEWRs in the past for BMDS functions, those upgrades involved small hardware and software processing additions to the radars. MDA currently plans to upgrade Clear to bring it up to the current configuration of the other UEWRs in order to efficiently manage all the UEWRs. According to an official in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics , a decision to upgrade Cobra Dane will be a departmental decision, which will be made after consultation with interagency partners.
DOT&E officials have emphasized the importance of keeping Cobra Dane a part of the BMDS sensor suite. According to DOT&E officials, Clear will not provide all necessary sensor coverage to take the place of Cobra Dane. For GMD to have the necessary sensor coverage, it must rely on both Clear and SBX to be available. However, since SBX may be unavailable for missile tracking at times, GMD would also need Cobra Dane in order to have robust sensor coverage. DOT&E officials stated Cobra Dane is also an advantageous sensor for GMD because of its unique geographic location to detect a launch from North Korea.