Aerial view of a radar installation at Clear Air Force Station in central Alaska. Credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

WASHINGTON — Clear Air Force Station in central Alaska is the U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s preferred site for a long-range discrimination radar (LRDR) that would identify threats from the Pacific region, the agency said in a May 22 press release.

Vice Adm. James D. Syring, Director, Missile Defense Agency
Vice Adm. James D. Syring, Director, Missile Defense Agency. Credit: DoD/Glenn Fawcett

The radar is one of the pillars of the effort by the MDA’s director, U.S. Navy Vice Adm. James Syring, to dramatically improve the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, which serves as the primary U.S. territorial missile shield. The radar would improve discrimination capabilities against threats from North Korea.

“The Missile Defense Agency is moving forward with the design and development of the radar and assessing U.S. industry proposals to meet the required technical performance to counter the emerging threat and support future [Ballistic Missile Defense System] architecture needs,” the release said.

Previously, MDA officials had said a location for the radar has not been determined, but the agency had told contractors pursuing LRDR work to use Clear Air Force Station — which has provided missile warning since the early 1960s —  as a point of reference.

A final decision will be made after an environmental impact study, the release said.

MDA officials have said they hope to have the radar operational in Alaska by 2020. The agency expects to award a contract on the program before the end of 2015.

Mike Gruss covers military space issues, including the U.S. Air Force and Missile Defense Agency, for SpaceNews. He is a graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.