Alaska News

Feds pick Clear Air Force Station for new missile defense system

A billion-dollar missile defense program could be headed to Clear Air Force Station in Anderson, the U.S. Defense Department announced Friday.

The Air Force Space Command radar station is the chosen site for a Long Range Discrimination Radar system to improve targeting for ballistic missile defense, if it can make it through an environmental review.

"The Missile Defense Agency is moving forward with the design and development of the radar and assessing U.S. industry proposals," DOD said in the announcement. The department estimates that construction would be finished in 2020.

A redesign of the missile defense system has been in the works for years after test failures have raised questions about the ability of the system to actually take down an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The Pentagon issued a request for proposals in January and expects to award a contract by the end of the year, said Rick Lehner, spokesman for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. The January request sought proposals for work at Clear Air Force Station, but said the decision to deploy the program there was not final at that time.

Alaska's congressional delegation quickly lauded the announcement on Friday, pointing to a Reuters report that said the system could include $940 million in technology, hardware and on-site construction.

Congress has already allocated $50 million for design work and now "they can begin to plan out in more detail this major Alaskan investment for our national defense," Sen. Lisa Murkowski said in a statement Friday.


"I am greatly pleased with this announcement to station the Long Range Discrimination Radar at Clear Air Force Station," said Sen. Dan Sullivan. "Not only will this project -- the very first of its kind -- greatly improve the combat effectiveness of our nation's missile defense system, but it will also bring hundreds of millions of dollars to Interior Alaska."

Sullivan touted his efforts on the Armed Services Committee to secure $137.6 million for the program -- among other Alaska-focused defense funding measures -- in a fiscal year 2016 budget bill passed by the committee last week.

Rep. Don Young said the announcement "underscores Alaska's unparalleled strategic location and helps solidify our role in strengthening America's missile defense shield." Locating the radar system in Alaska is "critical" given "growing threats from both North Korea and Iran," Young said. "Simply put, today's announcement is a big win for Alaska and the entire nation."

Alaska's location is key to providing defense against a long-range ballistic missile attack for the entire United States, according to missile defense advocates. The nation's primary ground-based, midcourse missile defense system is run by the Alaska National Guard at Fort Greely, about 110 miles east of Clear.

Erica Martinson

Erica Martinson is Alaska Dispatch News' Washington, DC reporter, and she covers the legislation, regulation and litigation that impact the Last Frontier.  Erica came to ADN after years as a reporter covering energy at POLITICO. Before that, she covered environmental policy at a DC trade publication and worked at several New York dailies.