Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies at MIPT

The Norwegian intelligence agency confirms :

Hard fight about the Vardo radar

by Inge Sellevag

This paper was published in Bergens Tidende (June 6, 2000). We thank the author for his kind permission to publish the article at the START Web site.

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Strong forces in the United States Air Force fought to use the Vardo radar technology in the US national missile defense. The fight continued also after it was announced that the radar was to move to Norway.

This confirms Tom Rykken, the project leader for the Vardo radar in the Norwegian intelligence agency, to the newspaper Bergens Tidende. The newspaper has presented him with new documentation showing that the US Air Force parallell with the negotiations with Norway worked hard to secure that the radar – in the US called Have Stare – should be the basis for the missile defense radar technology.

There were two interest groups in the US Air Force. One group wished to transfer the radar to Norway to do space surveillance. The other group wished to use the Have Stare technology in the the continuation of the plans for a national missile defense, Rykken said to Bergens Tidende.

- The last group lost, he added : - All ties to missile defense was cut when we agreed to move the radar to Norway with space surveillance as a clearly defined mission. The two groups also ran on independent tracks. Missile defense was never mentioned in the talks we had with our American partners, said Rykken.

Minuteman Option

The US Air Force decided to deploy Have Stare as a dedicated space surveillance sensor in the second quarter of 1996. By then the first talks with Norway about Vardo as deployment site had started, and while the talks went on Air Force included the Have Stare radar technology in its proposal for a national missile defense architecture, called the Minuteman Option.

Radars of the same design as Have Stare (X-band dish radar) were proposed at three forward-deploy sites to provide for precision tracking and target discrimination – at the US east and west coast and a site in the Western Pacific. Vardo was not on the map, but the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) stated that Have Stare if needed could be used to support national missile defense.

- I don’t know whether the Air Force missile defense group tried to get control over the Have Stare radar itself or if it was just interested in the radar technology. In both cases it was extremely unfortunate that the link to missile defense was promoted as a major cause while we were negotiating about a different purpose. I can understand that this has created suspicion to the US intentions with deploying the radar to Norway, Tom Rykken said.

In the United States Air Force came under attack for promoting the Minuteman Option too aggressively. Only a week after the Norwegian defense in March 1998 made public that a new space surveillance radar was to be established in Vardo, the US Air Force announced a controversial missile defense test in which Have Stare was to take part. The launch site for the test in Kodiak, Alaska was not ABM compliant and BMDO therefore did not want to become involved in the test.

Missile defense test

The Kodiak test was planned to take place during the summer of 1998, but was postphoned and did not happen until November 5, 1998. The missile launched simulated the trajectory of a missile from North Korea aimed at the US west coast.

Have Stare did not take part in the test. The final agreement with Norway about deployment to Vardo was signed in July 1998 and the radar according to Air Force in October 1998 was deinstalled for transport to Norway. Mr Rykken indicate that the fight about the radar’s future went on till shortly before the test :

- It could be said that the missile defense group did not give up until the autumn of 1998, even though an agreement between Norway and the United States had already been signed, Tom Rykken stated.

Clear agreement

Today the US Air Force has lost for good. – There is no room for radars of the Have Stare type in our present plans for a national missile defense, BMDO spokesman Rick Lehner said to Bergens Tidende.

- But will strong military interests ever give up a fight ?

We have a exceptionally good and clear agreement with the Americans. If they wish to use the radar for another purpose than space surveillance, the whole agreement concept has to renegotiated and the chances of changing it are small. Norway is not interested in missile defense neither military nor politically, Tom Rykken said.

Facts about the Vardo radar

The new radar in Vardo Globus II with the American name Have Stare is a cooperation between the Norwegian intelligence agency and the Air Force Space Command.

The radar is according to Norwegian authorities deployed to monitor, track and catalog objects in space. In addition it will strengthen the Norwegian intelligence agency’s capacity to monitor our area of national interests in the north and be available for research and development.

© Bergens Tidende, 2000

See also:

START Web Site Special Section: ABM Treaty Modification: Should Russia Agree?

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