ANCHORAGE - Adak, in the western end of the Aleutian Islands, was chosen for a $900 million radar system as part of the national missile defense system, military officials said Friday.
Adak was among six sites considered for the Sea-Based X-Band radar system. It was chosen because of its quality infrastructure and far western and northern location, said Rick Lehner, spokesman for the Missile Defense Agency in Arlington, Va.
The other sites were Everett, Wash.; Valdez, Alaska; Port Hueneme, Calif.; Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; and the Marshall Islands.
Only Everett expressed strong opposition to having the radar system.
Lehner said the radar system is an important piece of the national missile defense system, budgeted at $9.1 billion in fiscal 2004. Raytheon Co. is responsible for the radar part of the project. The Boeing Co. is overseeing the project.
The radar system is being built in Brownsville, Texas. Once finished, it will be placed on an oil-drilling platform that will be moved next year from Norway to Texas. The platform with the radar system is expected to arrive in Adak by summer 2005. It will be capable of moving around the ocean for tests.
Lehner said it will take 50 to 55 people on the platform and 30 to 40 people on shore to operate the radar system.
The system uses a finely focused beam to track incoming ballistic missiles while they are in space. The missiles move at 15,000 mph. Adak's far western location was desirable because it gives the system more time to look for information to distinguish real warheads from decoys, Lehner said. He said locations in Washington and California were too far east to be very effective.
Adak also was chosen because it has infrastructure that is in good shape, Lehner said. Adak has good housing, a 7,900-foot runway, a deep-water port that is ice-free year-round, two piers and a 22 million-gallon fuel storage tank.
"It was just a very good place for us geographically and operationally," Lehner said.
Army installations on Adak during World War II allowed U.S. forces to mount a successful offensive against the islands of Kiska and Attu, which were held by the Japanese. At its peak, the air station housed 6,000 naval personnel and their families, but now has about 250.
The Aleut Corp. acquired Adak's facilities under a land transfer agreement with the federal government. About 30 families relocated to Adak in September 1998, and the school was reopened.
Sen. Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican, said the decision to put the radar system on Adak will benefit the Native people who have taken over running Adak facilities.
"I think this is a good thing for the government and a good thing for the people who have taken over the management. Those are some of the best facilities we had at Adak during the Cold War days," he said.
Silos for the missile interceptors, the fighting component of the ground-based missile defense system, are under construction at Fort Greely in Alaska's Interior. Six silos are being built, and the military is planning 10 more by the end of 2005.
President Bush has said he wants the Greely site capable of limited defense against enemy intercontinental ballistic missiles by the end of 2004.