U.S. spends $50 million on Vardø radar upgrade

The Globus-II radar in Vardø is a Norwegian, American cooperation. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Aims at prolonging the fatigue life of the radar operated by the Norwegian Intelligence in Vardø, near the coastal border to Russia’s Kola Peninsula.


The $50 million (€38 million) investment will come in 2015 and 2016 reports NRK with reference to unclassified budget details from the U.S. Air Force. The description of the investments to be made in Vardø reads “Extends the operational life of the Globus II Radar, located in Vardø, Norway. Replaces again and unsustainable hardware groups including the transmitter, mission critical computing resources and receiver-exciter subsystems.”

The short budget item justification description following the document says Globus II is part of the Space Situational Awareness that encompasses intelligence and adversary space operations; surveillance of all space objects and activities; detailed reconnaissance of specific space assets; monitoring space environmental conditions; monitoring cooperative space assets; and conducting integrated command, control, communications, processing, analysis, dissemination, and archiving activities.

Barents journalist Bård Wormdal from the nearby town of Vadsø published a book in 2011 claiming the Globus II radar in Norway’s north easternmost corner is essential for a U.S. missile defense system in Europe.

The book quotes MIT Professor Theodor Postol saying “It is very difficult to understand how the Vardø radar not will be used as part of the U.S. missile defence. The reason for this is because it is the only radar that has the capability to tell the difference between a real warhead and a dummy. It is the only radar with a resolution and a range that can provide information about the difference between a warhead and a dummy in an attempt to track an intercontinental nuclear missile from Iran to central parts or the east coast of the United States.”

The Norwegian Ministry of Defense confirms the U.S. investments in an e-mail to NRK and writes that the radar system is a Norwegian, American cooperation that was initiated in the late 90ties. “Prologing the fatigue life does not cause any changes in the radar system’s tasks,” the e-mail reads.

In 2007, Norway’s then-Ambassador to Russia, Øyvind Nordsletten, confirmed that one of the tasks of the Globus II radar is to monitor developments in Norway’s neighboring area. 

Speaking at Oslo Militære Samfund, Nordsletten told the audience about certain Russian critics regarding some Norwegian dispositions. “This applies especially to the Globus II radar in Vardø and military excersises in Finnmark. We respond to this that the radar is under Norwegian control, and, yes - it also has the task to monitor the development in our neighboring area, which is important to avoid uncertainty.”

Russia’s Northern fleet ballistic missile submarines have their homeport less than 100 kilometers east of Vardø and sails frequently in the Barents Sea.