by Justin Oakes
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs
7/9/2015 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- The
Battle Management program executive officer at Hanscom AFB recently
approved a strategy for the sustainment of one of the largest radars in
the Air Force's arsenal.
The COBRA DANE radar located on Shemya Island, Alaska, stands 120 feet
tall, has a 95-foot diameter, detects objects 2,000 miles away and was
built in the 1970s to serve as an early warning system during the Cold
Control of the radar's operation and maintenance contracts transferred
to the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center's Battle Management
Directorate from Air Force Space Command in May 2015.
With a short amount of time until the current contract expires, the
COBRA DANE program team finalized a sustainment plan to award a new
sole-source contract before the existing agreement runs out in December
of this year.
A panel of acquisition specialists was able to identify key aspects and
challenges associated with maintaining the aging radar system.
"For most of the radar, options for long-term supportability are
diminishing and becoming more expensive, as significant portions of the
system and its facilities infrastructure are well past the system's
original design lifespan," said Capt. Daniel Barker, COBRA DANE deputy
program manager. "Many of the original 1970s equipment manufacturers no
longer exist. As a result, most spare procurements require
identification of alternate industry sources to perform expensive and
Part of the sustainment process requires the program team to identify
which components have available commercial-off-the-shelf replacements
and which parts are in need of re-engineering.
COBRA DANE is a ground-based, L-band, phased-array radar that provides
midcourse coverage for U.S. Strategic Command's Ballistic Missile
Defense System. The radar can detect sea-launched and intercontinental
ballistic missiles, classify re-entry vehicles and other missile objects
and track threats with enough accuracy to commit to launching
interceptors and update in-flight targeting data.
"Certainly the missions have changed since the end of the Cold War, but
the utility of the COBRA DANE radar has actually increased over time,"
Barker said. "The radar's small object detectability performance is
better than any of the other Space Surveillance Network phased-array
sensors currently available."
Within the past three years, COBRA DANE expanded its role to include
tracking deep space satellites. It operates as part of the larger Space
Surveillance Network and provides observation data to agency command and
Additionally, COBRA DANE supports STRATCOM's Space Object Identification
mission by providing narrowband radar data of man-made resident space
objects in low-earth orbit. The collected data is analyzed to determine
satellite characteristics such as size, shape, motion and orientation.
SOI information is used to ascertain the mission and operational status
of various payloads and aids in forecasting maneuvers or deorbits.
"COBRA DANE is the only large L-band phased-array radar in the Air
Force's inventory that can accomplish the small object tracking and
discrimination necessary for the missile defense and space situational
awareness missions," Barker said.
In order to meet the program's aggressive timeline, officials expect to
release a request for proposal in August; the result will be a two-year
estimated $77 million contract with a subsequent competitive follow-on
option for five years valued at $150 million.
"Nearly 40 years after construction, COBRA DANE continues to exhibit a
respectable reliability record with outstanding performance over
multiple missions that have evolved over time," Barker said. "With a
concrete strategy in place, we move forward to the next phase of