Cobra Dane Transferred

By John Liang / February 20, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Cobra Dane early warning radar has been officially transferred from the Missile Defense Agency to the Air Force, MDA announced today.

As Inside Missile Defense reported last December:

The transfer of the Shemya, AK-based L-band, phased-array Cobra Dane radar was originally scheduled to take place in fiscal year 2008, but was delayed as service and agency officials were unable to complete discussions on the specifics of the transfer before the end of the fiscal year.

The other upgraded radars that provide the early warning function of the Ballistic Missile Defense System include systems based at Beale Air Force Base, CA, Thule Air Base in Greenland and Royal Air Force Station Fylingdales in the United Kingdom. As for those, “MDA and Air Force ((are)) still working transfer issues, nothing has been transferred formally yet, but we are working towards that objective,” Lehner told IMD in a December e-mail. “The upgrades to the radars (Beale, Fylingdales, and Thule) have been very successful. As you know, the modifications allow for missile defense missions to be supported without impacting the legacy missions of missile warning and space situational awareness. The software update makes improvements to the tracking capability of the radar, among other improvements, that support missile defense for the nation.

“The Thule radar upgrade was completed in record time and the radar at Beale AFB and RAF Fylindales are also performing extremely well,” Lehner’s e-mail continued. “As with any extensive hardware and software upgrade program, there will always be a few issues to work through; but, as demonstrated . . . during MDA’s ((Dec. 5)) missile intercept test, the radar at Beale AFB was on-line and performed flawlessly.”

According to today's MDA statement:

The upgraded COBRA DANE became available for ballistic missile defense operations in 2004, and is the first missile defense capability MDA has transferred to the Air Force. For decades COBRA DANE has supported intelligence data collection for purposes of treaty verification and tracking of Earth orbiting satellites. The radar continues to perform these missions in addition to its integration into the nation's missile defense system. The radar provides missile target tracking, object acquisition and classification and transmits target data to the missile defense command and control network.

In 2005, COBRA DANE participated in a special missile flight test involving a threat-representative missile dropped from a U.S. Air Force transport aircraft, and has also took part in numerous "ground" tests in which missile flight data is injected into the radar data processor to stimulate the software. COBRA DANE also supports missile defense system integration laboratory tests in Huntsville, Ala. using replicated COBRA DANE site data processing and missile defense communications hardware.

The Air Force Space Command will maintain COBRA DANE, including the hardware that supports the missile defense mission, and will operate the COBRA DANE in support of intelligence, space surveillance, and missile defense.

An August 2008 report to Congress from the Institute for Defense Analyses called on MDA to put “renewed emphasis” on BMDS research and development while transferring the responsibility for operating and maintaining key programs to the services as quickly as possible, IMD reported last October.

MDA “should remain a defense agency whose principal focus is ((research, development, test and engineering)) to develop, field, and integrate ballistic missile defense capabilities, including follow-on RDT&E,” the report states.