ALASKAN CHAINContributed by James E. Bollinger, SSgt, 353CTS/QAE
The Alaskan radar network consists of eighteen Long-Range Radar Sites (LRRS). These radars provide surveillance information to the Alaskan NORAD Region (A-NR) at Elmendorf, which can forward the data to HQ NORAD and to the SOCC in Canada, The FAA also has access to the data at their ARTCC at Anchorage under the Joint Surveillance System (JSS) program.
The seventeen Air Force owned LRR-S, which are located throughout the state, have the AN/AN/FPS-117 Minimally Attended Radar (MAR), These radars provide range, azimuth, and elevation data via satellite to the ROCC at Elmendorf AFB, AK. Installed in the early eighties, thirteen of these AN/AN/FPS-117’s were purchased under the Seek Igloo program to replace older radars, which were becoming unsupportable. The other four systems were bought under the North Warning System (NWS) program. The eighteenth radar is owned and operated by the FAA. This radar is an Air Route Surveillance Radar (APSR-3) located at Kenai. It provides range and azimuth information to the ARTCC and to the ROCC.
Contractors perform the maintenance for sixteen of the AN/FPS-117’s with contract oversight accomplished by USAF Quality Assurance Evaluators (QAE). The maintenance contract calls for two levels of in-theater maintenance. The level one technicians are skilled radar technicians who perform routine maintenance at the site. The level two technicians are highly skilled technicians who perform the more complex maintenance tasks. The level two technicians work at the Maintenance Control System (MCS) at Elmendorf and travel to the sites for quarterly PMI’s or when necessary. The FAA maintains the AN/FPS-117 at Murphy Dome.
As with most other air defense programs, the Alaska Chain system is currently in the process of being upgraded. The ROMS and RAMMS upgrades being performed on the North Warning System, are also being done on the Alaska Chain equipment, and an additional three FPS-124 UARs are being installed as gap filler radars at Wainwright, Lonely and Bullen Point.