With the Indo-Pacific region emerging as a hotspot for conflict with China and North Korea, the U.S. has begun planning the installation of a secret new long-range, over-the-horizon radar system for the Air Force on the Pacific island of Palau.
With the Pentagon’s recent emphasis on maintaining a consistent U.S. military presence in the Indo-Pacific and in an effort to close the surveillance gaps, the Department of Defense on Dec. 28, announced a contract award of $118.4 million to build the structural foundation for a new U.S. Air Force radar station.
Knowns as the Tactical Mobile Over-the-Horizon Radar, or TACMOR, the sensor station will be installed on the strategic island of Palau, which lies about 800 miles southwest of Guam and about 1,000 miles southeast of Manila.
The department’s announcement only mentions the construction of reinforced concrete pads and foundations in support of the installation of the Tactical Mobile Over-the-Horizon Radar equipment in the Republic of Palau. However, the work is expected to be completed by June 2026.
Although not much information about the radar system is available in the public domain, a report in Popular Science cites a February 2018 budget document that outlines the objective of TACMOR as a system that, “will support air domain awareness and maritime domain awareness requirements over the Western Pacific region. The project will demonstrate a sub-scaled over-the-horizon radar (OTHR) that is one-quarter the size of traditional [Over The Horizon] systems.”
The radar installation will be spread over two sites, the Popular Science report says. One site will be on Babeldaob Island, the largest island in Palau, and the other will be on Angaur Island, about 60 miles south.
It is suggested that the complex could be one linked sensor array, with site schematics indicating that the Babeldaob location will be the transmit site and Angaur the receiver site, the Popular Science report adds.
While, Guam, which lies 800 miles away from Palau is a territorial possession of the U.S. and routinely houses long-range strategic bombers, the vast expanse of the Pacific poses a major surveillance challenge for Washington.
Amid growing fears of a confrontation with China over Taiwan, and with North Korea, the U.S. has been ramping up security arrangements in the region with plans to deploy B-52 bombers to Australia along with a major surveillance base located in central Australia.