The U.S. Space Force has awarded a $341 million contract to Northrop Grumman to build the first Advanced Deep Space Radar System (DARC).
A coined abbreviation, either by accident or intentionally, sounds exactly the same as the word dark - “dark”. This similarity is reminiscent of Star Wars, the dark lord, the dark side of the force, and other fantasy that Washington reveled in under President Ronald Reagan. The DARC system is part of the once conceived and all the past years created the US space strike potential.
The new radar complex will have to monitor and recognize potential targets, even the size of a soccer ball, at a distance of up to 36 thousand kilometers from the Earth, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, regardless of weather conditions.
The DARC radar system, the first complex of which will be built by Northrop Grumman, will consist of 10-15 tracking radars and four more antennas for transmitting received data. Completion of the contract is scheduled for 2025.
Until recently, the Pentagon could not decide on the location of the first complex. The command of the US Space Forces considered options for deployment in the UK and on the continental United States. Today we have decided on the region of prime necessity - the Indo-Pacific, closer to China. However, the exact location in this region, according to the representative of the command of the Space Forces Lina Satele, is still in question.
A significant part of the research work required for the construction of DARC has already been done. The Space Forces began to carry out the program a long time ago, and in 2017 they built the Space Fence radar (“Space Fence”) on the Kwajalein Atoll (Marshall Islands). It became a rough idea before the creation of the DARC system. The Kwajalein radar is designed to track objects in low Earth orbit. The US Air Force spent $1.5 billion on it and related research.
Prior to the fence, which began operating in 2020, the US military relied on the Space Surveillance Network. It includes space and ground systems for detecting various objects in near-Earth space. This network provides support for about 26 thousand different objects.
But the capacities of the Space Fence and the Network, according to Washington, will soon be insufficient. The pace of development of near-Earth orbits is too high. Last year alone, more than a thousand satellites were launched into space.
To emphasize the “weakness” of the American position in space, some media outlets mentioned that among this thousand there were only ten American military satellites, leaving out hundreds of commercial vehicles that are also used by the Pentagon.
The situation in the eyes of Washington is further complicated by the fact that Russia and China are allegedly placing weapons in orbit capable of destroying American satellites. As usual, no evidence is given, pretending that they sincerely believe in their fiction. In reality, information preparation is being carried out before the deployment of our own strike systems in space.
In 2024, the US Space Force plans to begin development of the second object of the DARC system, and a year later - the third. The three DARC sites are projected to cost around $1 billion. The new system will be able to simultaneously accompany about 200 thousand space objects, processing data on 1.5 million detected targets per day. In addition to the Indo-Pacific region, DARC complexes are planned to be deployed in Australia and Texas (USA).
DARC will be more advanced than all existing radar and optical sensors and will "fill critical gaps and greatly enhance current space awareness capabilities," said Space Force Command program manager Lieutenant Colonel Kelly Grainer. And Pablo Pezzimenti, Northrop Grumman vice president of integrated national systems, added: "DARC will provide an all-weather, 24/7 capability to monitor the highly dynamic and rapidly changing orbital environment".
All three complexes will not replace, but will join the already existing architecture of orbital and ground-based sensors and radars, which are designed to provide the United States with a complete picture of the space environment. The system being created will allow delivering accurate strikes against enemy satellites, and will also complete the formation of a unified system for coordinating the actions of the US armed forces around the planet.