The Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR) is based at Clear Space Force Station in Alaska. (Photo: Missile Defense Agency)

WASHINGTON — The Missile Defense Agency’s long-awaited Long-Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR) will soon begin its transition to full operational status with the US Space Force — a year-long process expected to wrap up in the early 2025, according to an MDA spokesperson.

“MDA has a well-established weapon system fielding process,” the spokesperson told Breaking Defense, that focuses on “operations and maintenance checkouts.” The LRDR’s final “Operations Acceptance” by the Space Force is planned for the second quarter of fiscal 2025, the spokesperson added.

The S-band radar system, designed to distinguish between enemy ICMBs and decoys, is at least two years behind schedule — and has been impatiently awaited by US Northern Command leaders who consider it a critical capability for defense of the homeland. MDA asked for $105 million for the radar in its FY25 budget request, slightly more than the $103.5 million it requested in FY24. MDA in 2021 put the total cost for LRDR development at about $1.5 billion.

Prime contractor Lockheed Martin on Monday announced that the radar, based at Clear Space Force Station in Alaska, has been officially turned over to MDA “in preparation for an Operational Capability Baseline (OCB) decision.”

OCB “is the point where MDA has declared the radar is ready for the warfighter acceptance as an operational element of the Missile Defense System. When the radar is added to MDA’s Operational Capability Baseline (OCB) in December 2024, LRDR will support the GMD capability against long-range missile threats,” the MDA spokesperson explained.

MDA Director Lt. Gen. Heath Collins stated in written testimony [PDF] before the House Armed Services Committee Strategic Forces subcommittee on April 12 that the next step in the process will be a joint certification by the agency and the Space Force that LRDR is ready for initial use.

“The LRDR completed a Space Domain Awareness (SDA) data collect event in January 2024 that proved the SDA capability, and the U.S. Space Force and MDA are in the process of formally declaring LRDR ready for SDA early use in April 2024,” he wrote.