by Steve Brady
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
4/5/2013 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The
21st Operations Group assumed the Cobra Dane radar mission at Eareckson
Air Station, Shemya Island, Alaska, April 1, and takes responsibility
for contract and program management Oct. 1.
Eareckson Air Station is located on the western tip of Alaska's Aleutian
Islands near the larger island of Attu, and is approximately 1,500
miles southwest of Anchorage. The airport lies on the south side of the
two-mile by four-mile island.
The radar is about 120 feet tall, the face is about 95 feet in diameter,
and with its ability to detect objects about 2,000 miles away, it
provides data for the Space Surveillance Network and the Ballistic
Missile Defense System.
"The Cobra Dane radar will support the 21st Space Wing missile defense
and space situational awareness missions," said Lt. Col. Paul Tombarge,
21st Operations Group commander. The radar will fall under the oversight
of the 13th Space Warning Squadron at Clear AFS, Alaska, and will be
designated as 13th SWS, Operating Location-Cobra Dane, he said.
The Cobra Dane radar began operations in 1977. Its space surveillance
mission was suspended by the Air Force in 1994 due to budget
constraints, but was reinstated as a limited duty contractor operation
in 1999 with renewed emphasis on the radar's unique space tracking
capabilities for protection of the International Space Station and
shuttle orbiter flights, Tombarge said. The radar resumed full-duty
operation in 2002 to support increased spacetrack demands. The radar
began its missile defense mission as a result of the Cobra Dane Upgrade
program in 2004.
In 2012, the deputy secretary of defense directed the Air Force to
assume responsibility for Cobra Dane. Given the similarities between
Cobra Dane and the wing's upgraded early warning radars, Air Force Space
Command directed the 21st SW to assume the Cobra Dane mission, Tombarge
Cobra Dane will continue to be operated by a contract workforce, and no
military personnel will be assigned to the unit at Eareckson AS.