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Upgrades Planned For Shemya's Cobra Dane Radar

Zoë Sobel

The U.S. Air Force and Missile Defense Agency plan to spend $68.6 million on modernizing the Cobra Dane Radar site on the Aleutian island of Shemya over the next five years.

The Government Accountability Office released a report in December saying the 43-year-old site “faces growing sustainment challenges.” But the Department of Defense (DOD) will resolve them by replacing and redesigning parts.

The military uses the Cobra Dane to track objects in space, like satellites and debris; defend against incoming missiles; and gather intelligence.

Because of its far-west location on Shemya, Air Force officials say the radar is capable of tracking North Korean missile threats sooner than other stations in Alaska.

While the military expects to operate Cobra Dane through at least 2030, the DOD is also investing in new ground-based radars in the Marshall Islands that may reduce its reliance on the Shemya site in the future.

Zoë Sobel reported for KUCB from 2016 until 2019. She returned to KUCB after a year living in Nepal and Malaysia as a Luce Scholar. She then returned to KUCB as a ProPublica reporter August of 2020 through August of 2021.
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