Chernobyl: Duga 3 ‘Steel Yard’ Radar – April 2015

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History (from wikipedia)
Duga 3 was was a Soviet over-the-horizon (OTH) radar system used as part of the Soviet ABM early-warning network. The system operated from July 1976 to December 1989. Two operational Duga radars were deployed, one near Chernobyl and Chernihiv in what was then called the Ukrainian SSR (present-day Ukraine), the other in eastern Siberia.

The Duga systems were extremely powerful, over 10 MW in some cases, and broadcast in the shortwave radio bands. They appeared without warning, sounding like a sharp, repetitive tapping noise at 10 Hz, which led to it being nicknamed by shortwave listeners ‘the Russian Woodpecker’. The random frequency hops disrupted legitimate broadcast, amateur radio, commercial aviation communications, utility transmissions, and resulted in thousands of complaints by many countries worldwide. The signal became such a nuisance that some receivers such as amateur radios and televisions actually began including ‘Woodpecker Blankers’ in their design.

The unclaimed signal was a source for much speculation, giving rise to theories such as Soviet mind control and weather control experiments. However, many experts and amateur radio hobbyists quickly realized it to be an over-the-horizon radar system. NATO military intelligence had already photographed the system and given it the NATO reporting name of either ‘STEEL WOR’K or ‘STEEL YARD’. This theory was publicly confirmed after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Although the reasons for the eventual shutdown of the Duga systems have not been made public, the changing strategic balance with the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s likely had a major part to play. Another factor was the success of the US-KS early-warning satellites, which entered preliminary service in the early 1980s, and by this time had grown into a complete network. The satellite system provides immediate, direct and highly secure warnings, whereas any radar-based system is subject to jamming, and the effectiveness of OTH systems is also subject to atmospheric conditions.

Our visit
I absolutely loved our 4-hour exploration of Duga, and hope to manage a revisit at some point in the next year or two. I didn’t have time to even consider making the terrifying 150m climb to the top of the rusting array (perhaps next time), but this brilliant but toe-curling video by my friend MrDan Explores his well worth a watch.

As always, click on a photo to VIEW LARGE

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I’m a sucker for these soviet-era propaganda murals…

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Given the top secret nature of the radar array the site was built as small but self-sufficient town. Firstly I explored a couple of the desolate blocks of flats which used to house the workers and their families on Kurchatova Street…

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Whilst most of the apartments have long since been stripped of their contents there were still a few bits and pieces still remaining – such as this heavy old piano on one of the higher floors.

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I then made my way towards the former sports hall, passing this old merry-go-round…

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This was one of my favourite views of the whole trip – really classic decay in the former sports hall.

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I am told that this mural (very loosely!) translates to something like:

Your father was walking
from the battlefield to fight
so let the warrior
peaceful years
burn as a memory
over you, unfading star
Victories!

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The former theatre – it was VERY dark in here!

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Outside the school for the workers’ children…

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I then made my way to the main communication centre building…

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Lenin looked over us everywhere we went during the trip!

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Already well past the arranged rendezvous time I grabbed a couple of quick external shots of the huge radar array as I ran back to bus…

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Suddenly the late afternoon sunshine burst through the clouds, bathing everything in a golden glow…

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Thanks for having me on your radar.
Adam X

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One thought on “Chernobyl: Duga 3 ‘Steel Yard’ Radar – April 2015

  1. Pingback: Chernobyl: Pripyat #4 – Swimming Pool ‘Lazurny’, Piano Shop, Post office, Police Station, Jupiter factory, Vehicle Graveyard, Apartment Block, and Cafe ‘Pripyat’. – April 2015 | Adam X

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