Upgrades Planned For Shemya's Cobra Dane Radar

Jan 24, 2019

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

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.