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Air Force Updates Missile Defense Radar

The U.S. Air Force yesterday announced it has augmented the hardware of a missile defense radar facility in Greenland, enabling the system to spot smaller enemy weapons from a greater distance (see GSN, Oct. 21, 2010).

The maintenance work at the Thule radar facility was carried out on schedule and at a somewhat lower cost than expected, according to an Air Force press release.

"The benefit of this is to increase the missile defense battle space for the protection of the United States," said Pat Lipka of contractor MITRE Corp. "In addition, we also improved the performance our legacy mission of missile warning and detecting and tracking satellites for the space surveillance mission."

The radar system had to continue operating during the project, so the effort was meticulously outlined in advance, said upgrade program chief Capt. Jason Ludwig.

"There wasn't a minute of wasted time" as the upgrade components were put together, Ludwig said. "Everything was very carefully scheduled and choreographed."

"It's like trying to upgrade a plane while it's flying," missile defense official Geoff Lum added.

The Air Force has already upgraded early warning radar sites at Beale Air Force Base in California and at Fylingdales Royal Air Force Station in the United Kingdom. The military intends to update two more of the sites (U.S. Air Force release, Jan. 18).

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