Ballistic Missile Early Warning Radar System (Thule BMEWR) is located at
the Thule Air Base in northwestern Greenland. Positioned between Europe
and North America, it is at a prime strategic location to monitor threats from the Near and Middle East. It detects, tracks, and provides tactical warning and attack
assessment of ballistic missiles launched against the United States,
Canada, and the United Kingdom.
The Thule BMEWR is a 2-faced phased array
radar that operates in the UHF (420-450 MHz) frequency range. It is
currently part of the larger BMEWR radar network, which dates back to
the early 1960s. The Thule radar became operational in 1953, and served
as a NATO listening post during the
In May 2004, Denmark agreed to allow
upgrade of the radar to more capable Upgraded Early Working Radar. The
trial period was completed in July 2009. The radar is designed to
intercept ballistic missiles on their trajectories over the North Pole
(Russia, China, North Korea) and is an integral part of the ballistic
missile defense architecture protecting both United States and its
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 other data.
The AN/FPS-108 Cobra Dane radar system collects and disseminates exo-atmospheric and multiple-object intelligence data.
The Cobra Dane is a large, computer-controlled, and the common 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 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
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.
Government officials have emphasized the importance of keeping Cobra
Dane a part of the BMDS sensor suite. Officials stated
Cobra Dane is also an advantageous sensor for GMD because of its unique
geographic location to detect a launch from North Korea.