Overseas Woodpecker: the short history of the Chernobyl-2 facility

    Since the summer of 1976, “ether bully” began to terrorize short-wave communications around the world. A number of frequencies allocated for civilian communications and aviation have a characteristic knocking signal with a frequency of 10 pulses per second, which interferes with negotiations and broadcasts in many countries. This knock brought to white heat both radio amateurs and those for whom radio communication was a professional tool. Judge for yourself:


    Moreover, the signal was “floating” - after working for several minutes at one frequency, he switched to another. The mystery and inconvenience caused the military in several countries to try to locate the source. It turned out that it is located deep in the Soviet Union. And since the signal - by the time it received the nickname "Russian Woodpecker" - periodically invaded the frequencies reserved for aviation, the United States, Great Britain and Canada, which protested the USSR, were not slow to take advantage of this. The USSR made a surprised face and replied that it knew nothing about any signal.

    Time passed, but the situation did not change - despite the results of direction finding provided, the Soviet Union completely refused to admit that it had a signal source. It got to the point that the ham enthusiasts tried to drown it out on their own, transmitting a similar signal in antiphase. But it turned out that the Woodpecker was hammering with unimaginable power - the signal was so powerful that all the jamming attempts looked like attempts to stop the sea wave with a jet from the hose.

    The Western press and politicians put forward a variety of assumptions regarding the Woodpecker - that it is the Russian secret weapon for controlling the weather or for influencing the mind of the population. It seems to sound wild, but the funny thing is that, to a first approximation, from a scientific point of viewthat could well be true. In a number of countries, experiments have already been conducted with the effect of powerful electromagnetic radiation on the functioning of the brain and human behavior. The possible influence of Nikola Tesla’s high-energy experiments on atmospheric processes is circulated by legends to this day. So the idea that the most powerful short-wave radiation due to the Iron Curtain could be psycho-weather weapons was quickly picked up and analyzed in the most serious military and scientific organizations.

    In 1986, the signal disappeared from the ether. Most likely, foreign intelligence services using satellite intelligence even earlier managed to find out its origin, but this information is hidden in their archives. On all Soviet maps of those years, in the place where the source was located, an inactive pioneer camp was indicated.

    And only with the collapse of the Soviet Union did the general public find out why the USSR did not admit to the existence of the Russian Woodpecker in any way. To say that “yes, we are bothering you a little here, sorry” was absolutely impossible: the source of the signal was the completely classified over-the-horizon radar station “Duga” located in Ukrainian forests - a complex of objects “Chernobyl-2” and “Lyubech-1” . According to various information, the station worked in the range of 5-28 MHz. It was part of the missile attack early warning system and through the North Pole "shone through" part of the US territory.

    What for?

    Why did we need a network of powerful radar stations that can look to the other side of the planet? Let us briefly recall previous historical events.

    After August 6 and 9, 1945a new threat arose over our country, which had just won the war, which cost us more than 26 million people, to which we could not oppose anything. Disagreements between former allies in the anti-Hitler coalition turned into the Cold War and the arms race. The United States, which did not know the mass destruction and received a powerful economic impetus thanks to the war, had a big head start in the development and production of not only atomic weapons, but also their delivery vehicles — long-range bombers. Stalin was well aware of the vulnerability of our situation. Two weeks after the Americans burned Hiroshima, a Special Committee was created to coordinate all work on nuclear energy. We must pay tribute to the talent of the head of Lavrenty Pavlovich Beria - the creation of scientific and production facilities began all over the country at an accelerated pace, and already at the end of 1946 our first experimental nuclear reactor was launched, and in the summer of 1949 the sun of our own atomic bomb flared up near Semipalatinsk. And we tested the domestic thermonuclear bomb in 1953, less than a year after the Americans.

    Alas, the creation of its thermonuclear weapons was only half the battle. In 1949, a NATO bloc was created for a military confrontation with the Soviet Union. In addition to it, on one continent with us there are many other countries that could be called US allies. Thus, by the beginning of the 1960s, we were surrounded by a whole network of air bases, on which several hundred (!) Atomic bomb carrier aircraft were constantly on duty . For example, in 1961, the SAC - the United States Strategic Air Command - had about 1,700 bombers, of which about 600 strategic B-52s and about 1,000 B-47s. And this is not counting the large number of light F-100s that were supposed to take off from the airbases surrounding the USSR with Mark 28 bombs. From the sea, we were threatened by American Polaris nuclear submarines. Mine-based missiles were several dozen.

    And all this armada was aimed at our cities. Daniel Ellsberg, a former employee of the RAND corporation with a very high level of clearance, in his book Doomsday Machine claims that since the time of President Eisenhower (or even Truman), the Pentagon had a Joint Strategic Forces Plan - JSCP. He implied only one scenario of a war with the USSR: universal thermonuclear war . No limited conflicts for you. No random shootings were “shot and hushed up," battles on a company or battalion scale. According to JSCP, any use by the parties of weaponslaunched from the American side the procedure for the total destruction of the USSR with the obligatory execution of Appendix C, containing the SAC action plan to launch nuclear strikes in all cities of the USSR with a population of 25 thousand or more. Cancellation of a strike after issuing an order, or delivering a limited strike - was not meant. Well, and if this is interesting to you, according to the same plan, China, which at that time was our ally , would automatically undergo nuclear bombing . Without any exceptions.

    As they say, all or nothing.

    And this approach was explained extremely pragmatically: Eisenhower simply believed that the United States would not economically pull out a non-nuclear war with the USSR.

    In 1961, the Joint Chiefs of Staff gave President Kennedy an estimate of the enemy’s losses in the event JSCP was executed: in the USSR and China, 275 million people were supposed to die in the first hours after the bombing, and another 50 million due to the fallout in six months. As a result of attacks on targets in Eastern Europe — air defense positions and radars to “lay corridors” for strategic bombers — another 100 million would die in the first six months. Due to precipitation, in particular, after attacks on the protected submarine parking lots in the area Leningrad and the Kola Peninsula, it was assumed the complete extinction of Finland and partially Sweden. In total, in countries outside NATO and the Warsaw Pact, losses of another 100 million people were expected.more than half a billion people . And no intermediate options were provided. Moreover, Americans estimated their own losses only in a few tens of millions of people if a couple of our missile-carrying boats break through to them.

    The theories of "nuclear winter" and " nuclear autumn " did not exist then. Like supercomputers capable of performing calculations of the transport of radioactive fallout between continents and the impact on the atmosphere of a gigantic amount of dust, smoke and soot from burning forests and cities.

    Geography is inexorable: unlike the United States, which many countries helpfully provide their territories for the deployment of ground forces, aircraft, missiles and radars, we do not possess such luxury. To the borders of the United States of America, as Anatoly Wasserman likes to put it, we can only approach from the sea or fly by air from another continent. And in the 1940-50s it was much more difficult for us to do this because of imperfect technology. There were no satellites, radio reconnaissance capabilities are extremely limited - how do you know if the armada of bombers are already flying to us? So the idea of ​​ultra-long-range trans-horizon radar arose.

    Look beyond the horizon

    Radio waves travel in a straight line. And since the Earth is round, a ray emitted parallel to the surface will go tangentially into the sky. However, our planet has an ionosphere - a highly ionized layer of the atmosphere that starts at about 60 km. The beauty of the ionosphere is that it is able to reflect short waves in the range of 3-30 MHz. This property formed the basis of over-the-horizon radar: the wave radiates at a slight angle upward, a small part of it ricochets from the ionosphere, like a ball from a wall, “falls” to the surface and is reflected by the way back. This idea was first put forward in the world in 1947 by engineer Nikolai Ivanovich Kabanov, who proposed thus tracking high-flying planes, that is, strategic bombers.

    If a signal is reflected from the ionosphere once, this is called a single-hop radar, and sometimes it is multi-hop when the signal is reflected two to three times. One “leap” is approximately 3000 km.

    The main difficulty was that the signal reflected from the target was much weaker than the signal reflected from the surface of the planet. In addition, the ionosphere is not monolithic and is not nailed to the sky: the height of its lower boundary fluctuates, as does the degree of ionization. Only by the 1960s did the scientific and production base allow the creation of the first prototypes of over-the-horizon radars. With their help, it was possible to track not only bombers, but also the launch of ballistic missiles, which left behind an ionized trail. It was extremely important for us to learn about this as soon as possible in order to manage to raise our own strategic forces on the alert and deliver a retaliatory strike.

    Our civilization is still alive only because of the inevitability of nuclear retaliation.

    In 1972, as part of the concept of an integrated missile attack warning system, it was decided to begin construction of several different types of radars at once, including two Project 5N32 Duga stations (the most monstrous) - one near Chernobyl, the second near Komsomolsk-on-Amur. In the same year, the construction of the Chernobyl station began, and in 1976 it came into operation.

    "Russian Woodpecker" appeared on the air and began to peck.


    Radars were built near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant: due to the large losses during the passage of the signal over 3000 km and vice versa, it was necessary to provide a huge pulse power, so the station was a VERY gluttonous energy consumer. The receiving complex of antennas - Chernobyl-2 - consumed about 10 MW, and estimates of the transmitter consumption - Lyubech-1 in the Chernihiv region - vary greatly, from 8 MW to 160 MW per pulse.

    Both Duga stations - in Ukraine and the Far East - blocked the entire US territory through the North Pole (on the diagram, the experimental Duga-N near Nikolayev "shines" to China, confirming the effectiveness of the project by tracking launches in Baikonur). The viewing angle of each station was 50-75 degrees, depending on the current state of the ionosphere along the signal path.

    The Far Eastern station has not been preserved to this day, as well as the Lubech-1 antenna complex. Transmitting antennas were built on the principle of a phased array (PAR). They represented an openwork "wall" of steel structures with a height of 85 m. But then, for the most part, the Chernobyl-2 receiving antenna complex has survived, which they did not have time to saw into metal. The scope of the facility is more than impressive.

    The station worked in the range 3.26-17.54 MHz. A “wall” lower (90 m high and about 250 m long) received a higher frequency signal, the second (140 m high and about 450 m long) received a lower frequency signal.

    Receiving antennas are also giant phased arrays.

    PAR segment - emitter:

    Saw, Shura, saw:

    Also nearby was built antenna complex VNZ "Circle" (station for reciprocating sensing), which is a 300-meter ring of 240 antennas 12 m high.

    It was an auxiliary object, designed to continuously determine the radio frequency at which the waves are currently passing through the least attenuated in the atmosphere. This made it possible to correct the current parameters of the main arcs of the Arc, so that they only receive their reflected signal. According to its purpose, the "Circle" was not used; experiments were occasionally conducted on it.

    Unfortunately, the insidiousness of the North was not taken into account in the design and construction of both stations: the ionosphere at high latitudes is very unstable, and the loss and distortion of the signal on the two-hop route were extremely large. As a result, none of the “Doug” could stably detect individual planes and missiles, only mass launches.

    After long trials of the military with developers and manufacturers, they began to look for ways to increase the efficiency of stations when working across the pole of the planet. In 1983, the modernization of Chernobyl-2 began, which they were planning to complete at the end of 1986. By the beginning of the year, the Arc near Chernobyl began to confidently detect the launches of Shuttles and intercontinental missiles at a range of 7-9 thousand km. In particular, they even managed to register the Challenger explosion in January 1986. However, they did not have time to complete the modernization - on April 26, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded, which is located only 9 km north of the radar.

    The station was stopped, the garrison and civilian personnel were evacuated. The next year, after several unsuccessful attempts to decontaminate the territory, the most valuable equipment was dismantled and taken to the second “Arc”. But despite the good results in detecting aircraft at a distance of 3,000 km, the Ministry of Defense has already lost interest in ultra-long-range over-the-horizon radar — satellite systems were considered a more promising means. In 1989, the Far Eastern station was removed from combat duty, and in the late 1990s sawed into scrap metal.

    Thus ended the story of the world's first ultra-long-range over-the-horizon radar. Today it is considered that the cause of the project’s failure was a very bold idea, which was difficult to implement on the technologies of those years. Perhaps, by the beginning of the 1990s, Doug would have been able to bring it to mind, especially since the modernization work was very intense. The total costs of the program amounted to about 600 million rubles, of which about 150 million was spent on the construction of Chernobyl-2. For comparison, in the mid-1980s, the cost of one atomic shock submarine of Project 949A (on which the Kursk was built) amounted to 226 million rubles.

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