Duga was an over-the-horizon radar system used as part of the Soviet anti-ballistic missile early-warning network. The system operated from July 1976 to December 1989. Two operational Duga radars were deployed, one near Chernobyl and Chernihiv in the Ukrainian SSR, the other in eastern Siberia.
Shortwave radio listeners often reported hearing a repetitive tapping noise at 10Hz, leading to it receiving the nickname of the Russian Woodpecker. The signals emitted by the Duga arrays often caused a nuisance by disrupting oceanic and aviation communications as well as radio operations. These issues became so widespread that some receivers actually had 'Woodpecker Blankers' actually built into their circuitry to filter out the tapping sound.
The signal resulted in many conspiracy theories being dreamt up such as it being a Soviet mind control or weather control expert. However, experts quickly debunked the conspiracies, theorizing that it was actually an over-the-horizon radar system. It was given the reporting name of STEEL WORK or STEEL YARD by NATO military intelligence.
Within the Soviet Union it was maintained as a top secret development, the facilities each had their own self contained military towns, the Duga-1 array having adjacent to it Chernobyl-2, a fully functioning town with it's own accommodation, school, hospital, fire station etc. The array can easily be seen from the town of Pripyat, supposedly the residents of Pripyat were told it was there for the broadcast of television signals.
The first place that we visited on our trip to the Chernobyl area was the Duga array, I had wanted to visit this place for sometime, mainly due to it being enormous. Photographs really don't give you a sense of the actual scale, it was even larger than I imagined it would be. I wasn't actually aware that the Chernobyl-2 town was a thing, so it was a nice surprise when our guide started showing us around some parts of it. I will follow up with photographs of the Duga control rooms and Chernobyl-2 in the next couple of posts.
There are two Duga receivers on this site, a larger and smaller one. The larger of the two looks to be almost intact whereas the other one has been chopped up a bit with large amounts of the components lying mangled on the ground around it. The only reason that these are still here is due to them being located within the Zone, the other array in Eastern Russia was scrapped shortly after it fell into disuse, that's obviously not possible here due to the potential contamination of the materials. We were told that the majority of the valuable copper wiring had mysteriously gone missing at some point, something that is quite relatable to the UK's derelict buildings!
We spent quite some time wandering around the base of both arrays, it would of been nice to have climbed them but that will have to wait for another potential future visit.