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Upgraded Early Warning Radars (UEWR)

Current or Pending Early Warning Radar Systems

Thule Air Force Base, Denmark (Greenland)

The Thule 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 Cold War. 
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 allies.
Sustainment Transitioned to Air Force
In fiscal year 2011, MDA transitioned Thule to the Air Force after successfully transitioning sustainment of both Beale and Fylingdales to the Air Force in 2009. According to program officials, transitioning the UEWRs is a process during which MDA gradually hands over control of the UEWRs to the Air Force. The official transfer of the UEWRs will occured in fiscal year 2012 when all software upgrades are completed. The most recent software build to add information assurance upgrades that is currently under development was deployed in fiscal year 2011. According to MDA officials, once certified for missile defense, the addition of Thule UEWR to the BMDS reduces sensor coverage gaps and provides larger defended areas for homeland defense.

Fylingdales, United Kingdom

The Fylingdales Ballistic Missile Early Warning Radar (Fylingdales BMEWS) is located at the Royal Air Force Fylingdales Air Base in the United Kingdom. It provides a key element of the U.S. defense strategy and an essential part of the U.S. missile defense architecture. Its function is to provide critical early warning, tracking, object classification and cueing data of ballistic missiles launched against the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

February of 2013, the British military allowed the United States to perform system (software and hardware) updates, without changes to the physical façade of the defense system. The U.S. radar in question is located on British territory at the Fylingdales base, and is classified as an “early-warning” system for ballistic missile headed towards the United States mainland – from the Middle/Near East. Until these updates are installed, the only missile radar capable of detecting long-range ballistic missiles is in Alaska, at a site fixed to face Asia and Russia, rendering the East coast susceptible to ballistic missiles from the aforementioned region. However, this has been the case because to date, there are no credible threats of missiles with the distance capability to reach the United States from the direction of the Near/Middle East. Though the Fylingdales missile defense site does not directly correlate to missile defense cooperation between the United States and the United Kingdom, it does keep the door open for that possibility to become a reality.

Beale Air Force Base, California

The early warning radar at Beale AFB has been a part of the United States ballistic missile early warning system since 1980, and is operated by the Air Force Space Command. Upgrades to the early warning radar included the replacement of electronic hardware and computer software. The hardware modifications included replacing existing computers, graphic displays, communication equipment, and the radar receiver/exciter in order to better identify and provide more precise tracking of a ballistic missile launched against the United States. The radar is part of an extensive network of land and sea-based radars now being developed and deployed to detect and track ballistic missiles, and to provide targeting information to interceptor missiles through the command and control system.

Shemya, Alaska
Cobra Dane  

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 systems. 
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.

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.

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