Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Military Shows Off Azeri Radar

ReutersMilitary officers looking at the station, located 230 kilometers from Baku.
GABALA RADAR STATION, Azerbaijan -- The military is primed to upgrade its anti-missile radar in Azerbaijan as part of a joint security measure with the United States proposed by President Vladimir Putin, an army official said over the weekend.

The Space Forces took foreign reporters on a tour of its top-secret radar system Saturday, a day before Putin met U.S. President George W. Bush for talks that were expected to focus on Moscow's surprise offer to share the missile defense system, which it rents from Azerbaijan.

"In the event of the relevant military and political decision being taken, the station can be modernized any time," said Major-General Alexander Yakushin, first deputy head of the Space Forces.

"Its personnel is sure to cope with any task," he told the first foreign reporters to visit the station, where huge Soviet-era computers process radar data.

Gabala, among the world's biggest radar systems, has a 6,000-kilometer range and scans the Indian Ocean, the Middle East and most of North Africa. The 120-meter high installation is surrounded by electrified barbed wire and concrete bunkers.

Gabala, made of reinforced concrete, stands on a hill overlooking orchards 230 kilometers northwest of Azerbaijan's capital, Baku. It employs 1,000 servicemen and runs on enough electricity to power a small town.

"We are ready, using this superstructure, to detect a rocket launch, the country where the launch took place and the point where the rocket will land," Yakushin said, standing on the roof of the radar station, only 200 kilometers from Iran.

Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters
A radio technician standing in the station, which scans the Indian Ocean, the Middle East and most of North Africa.

He said the radar detected the launch of 150 Scud missiles during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

"It was in January 2007 that we detected the test launch of a Shihab-3 in Iran," he said, referring to an Iranian missile with a 1,500-kilometer range.

Inside the station's dimly lit command center, three Army officers manned old-fashioned telephones and printers rattled out reams of data.

Asked what advantages the United States could expect from site, Yakushin replied: "Due to its specific design, the station can detect not only intercontinental ballistic missiles, but also traditional missiles with smaller ranges.

"From my point of view, the station has no technical drawbacks."

Minders barked instructions at reporters, who were closely guarded as they moved around. On a wall outside the station, Yakushin pointed to a roll-of-honor of Russian servicemen who had excelled in their jobs at the station.

"Who knows, maybe some day you will see American faces in our hall of fame," he said.