Cobra Dane Returns to Air Force

The Missile Defense Agency on Feb. 19 announced that it was transferring the Cobra Dane phased-array radar at Shemya, Alaska, to the Air Force. MDA has used the upgraded Cobra Dane for ballistic missile defense operations since 2004, but it still retains its intelligence data collection and space tracking capabilities. According to the MDA release, the Air Force now will maintain Cobra Dane, including the hardware that supports the missile defense mission, and operate the radar to provide intelligence, space surveillance, and missile defense. According to a 611th Air Support Group history, the base at Shemya, which became Eareckson Air Force Station in May 1993, went into caretaker status in April 1995, with contractors operating the station and radar and maintaining the emergency airfield. A fact sheet on the 16th Space Control Squadron notes that the Air Force activated the unit under Air Defense Command as the 16th Surveillance Squadron in November 1966 at Shemya AFS to operate the Cobra Dane radar to track Soviet missile launches. The unit fell under the newly established AFSPC’s 1st Space Wing in 1983 and was deactivated in 1993.