HAARP Death Sentence Stayed, But Facility Being Dismantled Piece by Piece
The US Air Force has given the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) facility in Gakona, Alaska, a death row reprieve of sorts. The Secretary of the Air Force told Alaska Sen Lisa Murkowski July 2 that it is “willing to slow the closure process and defer irreversible dismantling of the transmitter site” until May of 2015. Those pushing for HAARP to remain open as a scientific research facility include several radio amateurs. HAARP proponents claim, however, that despite the delay, the Air Force has been picking the plant apart piece by piece, and that critical research instruments already have been taken off site.
University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) Professor Chris Fallen, KL3WX, who has conducted research at HAARP, told ARRL that it was his “unofficial understanding” that the Air Force has already rendered HAARP reversibly inoperable through the removal or relocation of critical diagnostic instruments, instrument shelters, office furniture, and even tubes for the multiple transmitters. HAARP’s transmitters are capable of generating more than 3 gigawatts of RF in the HF spectrum, which its 180 antennas can direct upward to the ionosphere.
Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James told Murkowski that the Air Force “will proceed with removal of government property not essential to operations and will seek to reduce maintenance costs through additional storage of equipment and winterization; however, we will retain critical hardware to maximize the potential to reactivate the site, should it be transferred to another federal government agency or a private entity next year.”
In May Murkowski raised questions in Congress about the impending HAARP closure, and she took some credit for the shutdown delay. Murkowski had questioned why the Pentagon was planning to demolish HAARP, “asking whether it was fiscally sound to destroy an approximately $300 million facility when it costs less than one percent of that amount to operate it each year,” a news release from her office said. She said she supports handing control of HAARP over to the University of Alaska or another research entity to “keep the world-class facility open and running.”
“The [news release] states that the Air Force is in the process of removing ‘non-critical’ equipment, which essentially means anything not bolted to the floor such as generators, amplifiers, antennae, and control systems,” Fallen asserted. “While I would consider the diagnostic instruments as ‘critical’ to an ionosphere modification observatory, this apparently is not a universal interpretation.” He said HAARP’s diagnostic instruments, including the riometer and ionosonde, have not been available since June 2013 and are in immediate danger of being removed. Hams in Alaska have used data from both instruments in conducting their own ionospheric investigations.
UAF has been engaged in discussions with the Air Force with an eye toward taking over HAARP, although it’s not clear that these have gained any serious traction. The Air Force, the US Navy, and the Defense Advanced research Projects Agency (DARPA) have determined they no longer need HAARP, and the military would like to get the sprawling $300 million facility off its books — if not by finding another entity to run it, then by razing it altogether.
Fallen conceded that an uphill battle lies ahead to build a case to keep HAARP open, and he doesn’t see that happening without “one or more large benefactors” coming forward to bridge the funding gap. “UAF or any organization that wants to sustain HAARP through external funding is essentially in a situation where it’s trying to sell the Brooklyn Bridge, or least passes to it,” Fallen quipped. “In a way it’s worse, since it’s like the asphalt from the bridge is being removed by the state in the process.”
Fallen believes HAARP has “unique relevance to hams” and could become a self-sustaining facility. He said that if the dismantling of HAARP can be halted and operations or ownership transferred to UAF or another agency, “I will do everything in my power to maintain and expand access of the facility to US hams.” Fallen said he will attend tonight’s (Friday, July 11) meeting of the Arctic Amateur Radio Club (AARC) in Fairbanks to drum up support for HAARP’s preservation.
Ham radio author and researcher Eric Nichols, KL7AJ, said he plans to talk about HAARP at tonight’s AARC meeting. The author of Radio Science for the Radio Amateur and articles in QST — Nichols has said the loss of HAARP would be “a great loss to interior Alaska hams and many others.”
Fallen said he’ll distribute template letters at the AARC meeting asking for preservation of the HAARP facility. He is encouraging hams to personalize the letters as needed and send copies to US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel as well as to their congressional representatives.
“The US Government at all levels is receptive to citizen input,” he said. “The letter-writing campaign from scientists organized by the UAF Geophysical Institute has succeeded in delaying irreversible demolition of HAARP.”