U.S. Department of Defense - Missile Defense Agency

U.S. Department of Defense - Missile Defense Agency

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Frequently Asked Questions


1. When will construction of the Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR) be completed?

Military construction and radar integration were stopped in March 2020, when access to Clear AFS was limited to essential personnel in an effort to reduce the threat of spread of COVID-19. At that time, MDA assumed a caretaker status posture, a non-operating condition in which no construction took place and only sustainment of critical systems occurred. Military construction work resumed in May and radar integration resumed in July as Alaska began reopening to travelers from the lower 48 states. Despite the challenges, the Corps of Engineers in Alaska, the State of Alaska, MDA and the many contractors involved in the construction of the LRDR have been working together towards initial fielding by the end of calendar year 2021.

2. What is the expected cost of the LRDR?

The estimated cost of the LRDR is approximately $1.5 billion, which includes development and delivery of the radar and facility construction.

3. Once operational, will this radar operate all of the time?

Yes. Once the LRDR has completed performance testing, it will become a permanent operational asset of the layered Missile Defense System (MDS) and will operate in accordance with combatant commander’s requirements. The radar needs to be actively operating in order to provide effective defense, and the proposed Restricted Areas will be active on a continuous basis.

4. Is the radar safe? Does it produce radiation?

LRDR will produce radio frequency (RF) energy classified as non-ionizing radiation. This is the same type of energy produced by cell phone towers, your microwave oven, and your Bluetooth accessories. LRDR design features and RF safety keep out zones prevent people from receiving RF energy levels that exceed both military and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) safety standards. The safety keep out zones for people on the ground are wholly within the CAFS boundary and marked by fencing and signs. To protect the National Airspace System, MDA and the Department of Air Force have proposed Restricted Areas designed to protect aircraft in flight from receiving levels of RF that exceed FAA safety standards. The FAA is currently reviewing the proposed Restricted Areas, and the environmental impacts associated with potential implementation are evaluated in the LRDR Operations Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

5. Will Clear Airport be relocated?

No. At this time, there is no plan to relocate the Clear Airport. To comply with FAA regulations, the proposed Restricted Areas will exclude airspace 1,500 feet above ground level (AGL) within a three nautical mile radius of Clear Airport for the majority of the time to maximize navigable airspace around CAFS and the airport.

6. Does the restricted airspace impede medivac operations at Clear Airport?

No. In the event of a medical or inflight emergency that needs access to airports impacted by the restricted airspace, procedures would be coordinated and implemented as defined in a Letter of Procedure between the MDA, CAFS, DAF, and FAA.

7. Will pilots be able to access Healy River Airport?

Yes. Healy River Airport will only have minor departure/arrival impacts from the start of performance testing until the new procedures are established for LRDR permanent operations. New procedures for the Healy Airport may be established as soon as fall 2021. Pilots will be notified of these airspace restrictions with a notice to airmen (NOTAM) or other means of public notification.

8. How does the radar affect commercial flights traveling to and from Alaska?

Aircraft will need to remain outside of the proposed Restricted Areas to avoid encountering excessive levels of radiated fields. FAA Anchorage Air Route Traffic Control Center is developing procedures for routing air traffic around the proposed Restricted Areas. Flight paths are being examined as we move forward in conducting environmental analyses and will be taken into consideration as a part of the EA and EIS processes.

9. Why is the performance testing action not included in the LRDR Operation EIS?

To meet the Congressional mandate, performance testing of the LRDR must take place prior to permanent operations to verify the radar functions according to design requirements and meets operational needs. Due to the timeline mandated by Congress for LRDR deployment, an EA was completed to analyze the potential environmental impacts of performance testing of the LRDR capabilities and functions. [see EA on this website]

10. What is expected cost for conducting the LRDR EIS?

MDA’s current cost estimate for the EIS is approximately $4 million.

11. How will the LRDR help defend the United States from evolving threats?

As part of the MDS, the LRDR will be the lead sensor in a new class of radars optimized to identify threat objects in complex, dense target environments, and to more efficiently activate MDS weapons to intercept such threats.

12. Will the LRDR participate in flight tests?

Once LRDR completes performance testing and integration, it will be incorporated into the operational MDS and will be available to participate in ground and flight tests.

As of May 2021