Camp Grafton collaborating with NORAD to test long-range radar
CAMP GRAFTON TRAINING CENTER – The North Dakota National Guard is partnering with U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) and several other agencies, including the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to test a long-range radar at Camp Grafton Training Center (CGTC), according to a N.D. National Guard news release.
The radar, known as the Arctic “Over-the-Horizon Radar” (OTHR), will be constructed at CGTC which is near Devils Lake and CGTC South in Eddy County. “This is an important partnership between NORAD/NORTHCOM, AFRL, and the North Dakota National Guard,” said Maj. Gen. Al Dohrmann, adjutant general. “It paves the way for testing and research on this critical radar system, and also establishes CGTC as a premier research center for future users.”
Assembly of the antennas along Highway 20 has already begun and the assembly of the antenna array adjacent Highway 15 in Eddy County is scheduled to begin shortly. Testing is slated to begin in late June and will last about eight weeks. By mid-August the testing will be complete and the antennas will be removed by the first week of September.
“Thorough research and prudent investments in surveillance, communications and infrastructure are necessary for developing and maintaining a threat detection capability in order to deter and, if necessary, defeat potential threats along our northern approaches,” said Maj. Gen. David Lowthian, NORAD director of operations.
Twenty 100-foot antennas will be placed along Highway 20 at Camp Grafton and will serve as the transmit site, while over 160 smaller antennas will be placed at CGTC South to serve as the receive site. These antennas, part of the OTHR, could eventually be used to monitor and identify aircraft approaching North America, but as it stands, the big challenge for this OTHR test is to establish a clear radar picture in spite of atmospheric clutter.
In high-latitude regions of the earth the solar wind can disturb the ionosphere and cause challenges for OTHR operation in the Arctic region. CGTC was selected as the test site because of its geographic location in relation to aurora activity, and the available space that CGTC South can provide.
“Camp Grafton provides all the geographic features critical to a test of this type and our experience working with the North Dakota National Guard has been exceptional,” said Dr. Braham Himed, project lead from AFRL.
Canada and the U.S. are evaluating the potential of OTHR systems in the Arctic as possible replacements and/or to augment the North Warning System radars. Data from this project will inform U.S. and Canadian decision makers about potential options for recapitalization of the North Warning System radars.