Radar Sites near Cedar Gate


There are several new radar sites in the valleys and hills south and west of Cedar Gate Road, as well as mobile radar sites around the gate itself. Most of the sites were installed as recently as 1999, and two of them are unusually large, considering that there is no regular air traffic anywhere around. At least none that we know about...
We think that these radar sites are part of a testing ground for new stealth developments that operate out of Groom or in a later stage out of TTR. The location, between Area 51 and TTR, and almost in a straight line with the north end of the Groom runways, in an uninhabited valley, makes this an almost ideal spot for such tests. There are similar mobile sites near the Area 51 North Gate (see link below), and on several occasions we have observed tests at night, involving both radar locations. The sites are also used as threat simulators during Red Flag exercises.


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Update 4/2006: This one is a fairly new addition. A Russian Fan Song radar site, for Fire Control and Target Tracking. It can track up to six targets simultaneously at a range of 60-120km. Its typical use is in connection with an SA-2 SAM site and a SPOON REST target acquisition radar. Photo by Hank Shaw, with friendly permission.


This one is a Russian "PRV-11 SIDE NET" height finding radar, similar to the one at the North Gate. It was designed for use with the Russian "S-200 SA-5 GAMMON", which is a medium to high altitude surface-to-air missile system. It is also used with the SA-2/3 SAM. It has a range of 28 km and a max. altitude of 32 km. The radar operates in the E-band.
The red and blue warning lights on top of the ramp indicate when the site is active. Thanks to our reader Bryan Coish for identifying the system.


A new addition to the Cedar Gate radar collection, seen in February 2004. Looks like a AN/TPQ-37 Firefinder or similar model.

More radar sites in the vicinity of Cedar Gate, photographed in September 2001. Both are located in the northern Kawich Valley, southeast of Cedar Gate.
A Soviet 36D6 "Tin Shield" (ST-68) 3D S-band target search and acquisition radar. According to FAS the range is 200km. The system was used in former East Germany, which is a possible source for this particular unit. Thanks to our reader Per Nyström for identifying the system.
A Soviet "SA-6 GAINFUL" SAM site with a "STRAIGHT FLUSH" radar. The site provides medium-range air defense against low- and medium- altitude aircraft. The radar has a detection range of 60-90 km at an altitude of up to 10 km. It operates in the G and H bands.

Click to zoom in
The site above is located on Ragged Ridge, about 4 miles southeast of Cedar Pipeline Ranch just inside the perimeter. Click in the photo to zoom in.
The most interesting feature is the circular antenna on the tower on the left. More on that below. The building next to it features all sorts of antennas, including two dishes, one pointed west towards Cedar Gate and TTR, and the other one pointing southwest towards Kawich Valley. Not sure about the large box in the center, possibly a storage trailer. The smaller box on the right can rotate, and appears to be some sort of targeting radar. We have seen similar boxes in various elevated locations around TTR, including peaks near Warm Springs (see under Basecamp) and near Tonopah (see below).

The radar to the left and below is very similar to the one above, but located north of Tonopah. The site there is on public land, but marked: "US Government Property. No Trespassing". The dish there is pointed southeast, again towards TTR.
The close-up below shows what looks like a ring of individual sensors or small antennas, each one individually connected to the box in the center, from where thicker cables lead down to an electronics shack at the foot of the antenna. It would appear that the box in the center is some sort of multiplexer, that condenses the signal from the individual antennas. We have seen several of these antennas on peaks around TTR.

This is of course an interesting design: Imagine a ring of antennas, each one directional, facing away from the center of the circle. If you poll them with the electronics box in the center doing a time multiplex, you essentially have a very fast rotating 360 degree radar without any moving parts, and with a high resolution and fault tolerance due to overlap of the segments.

This design appears to be a Doppler Direction Finder. A Doppler Direction Finder works by quickly switching between receiving elements, thus virtually rotating an antenna. By doing this, and measuring the shift in the received frequency, it is possible to calculate the direction of an incoming signal. By linking several of these systems in different locations it is possible to calculate a positon fix for a transmission. Most likely the units are tuned to UHF transmissions of military aircraft. They may be used to test the susceptibility of (test-)aircraft to passive radiolocation techniques.

Any further input on these systems is greatly appreciated. All photos taken in September 2001.


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