One of the most exceptional and secret sites in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is the object named Chernobyl-2.
During the Soviet era the place was classified and unmapped. Civilians were not allowed within a few miles of the base.
Only when the Soviet Union started to collapse and the Chernobyl disaster took place, it finally came to light that there was a small town (a military community) in the woods of Polesia and that it engaged in “space espionage”.
In the 1970s, Soviet scientists managed to design unique radiolocation systems that allowed monitoring ballistic missile launches from the territory of the potential enemy (in particular, from their submarines and military bases).
The invention fell into the category of over-the-horizon radar systems (OTH radars). Since the reception antennas and radio masts of an OTH radar are colossal, a system like that requires a lot of human resources.
There were about 1000 military personnel on duty at the base. A small town was built to accommodate the troops and their families. It had only one street named after Kurchatov, a Soviet nuclear physicist.
The main object at the base was the Duga-1 OTH radar, also known as “Chernobyl-2” object or simply “Duga”. Duga (5N32) was a Soviet OTH radar system used as part of the intercontinental ballistic missile early-warning network.
The main purpose of the station was early ballistic missile launch detection, both “over-the-horizon” in the USA and in Europe. At the time, no other station in the world was on par with its technical capabilities.
1. The site had been closed for a long time, but last year it was made open to the public
2. After the disaster, the base was removed from combat duty, and the equipment was put under preservation.
The civilian and military population was urgently removed from the area that was contaminated with radiation.
3. According to the available information, the OTH radar had a power of about 10 MW. The data on construction costs for this high power radar differs from source to source, but it is certain that the costs exceeded those of putting all the four blocks at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant into operation.
4. Just look at the size of the OTH radar bearings! It is truly an incredible structure. According to some of the sources, the investments amounted to 7 billion Soviet rubles.
5. These cells are called vibrators.
6. Should the need arise, you could go up to the top of the Duga by stairs as well as an elevator.
7. It’s hard to give the exact dimensions for the OTH radar. The data found in open sources is controversial and probably inaccurate. The antennas’ structure is based on the phased antenna array principle.
For the low frequency antenna: the mast height is 135 to 150 meters (443 to 492 ft), the length is 300 to 500 m (984 to 1640 m). The high frequency antenna is about 250 long (820 ft) and up to 100 m (328 ft) high.
8. For all the fans of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. computer game universe this is a place of worship. According to the game and the books based on it, this structure acted as a “Brain Burner” – a huge antenna turning people into zombies.
There were rumors that the station was actually a military psychotropic transmitter. These rumours proved false after the disclosure of the OTH radar, but they became the base for the plot of the game.
9. Despite the fact that Chernobyl-2 was a top secret object, in Europe it was quickly figured out what caused all the radio interference. The station was nicknamed “Russian Woodpecker” for the distinctive noise it was made, and the Soviet government was confronted about the matter.
10. We didn’t have time to climb all the way to the top but we still managed a few flights of stairs. Vitalik in the photo is a conqueror of the OTH radar 🙂
11. Vitalik guesstimated that the height of the Duga is equal to that of a 40-storey high-rise building.
Images @Anton Petrus