HAARP Fact Sheet
What Is HAARP?
The High frequency Active
Auroral Research Program (HAARP)
is a program focused on the study of upper atmospheric and solar-terrestrial physics
and Radio Science. The HAARP program operates a major Arctic ionosphere research
facility on an Air Force owned site near Gakona, Alaska. Principal instruments installed
at the HAARP Research Station include a high power, high-frequency (HF) phased array
radio transmitter (known as the Ionosphere Research Instrument (IRI), used to stimulate
small, well-defined volumes of ionosphere, and a large and diversified suite of modern
geophysical research instruments including an HF ionosonde, ELF and VLF receivers,
magnetometers, riometers, a UHF diagnostic radar and optical and infrared spectrometers
and cameras which are used to observe the complex natural variations of Alaska's
ionosphere as well as to detect artificial effects produced by the IRI. Future plans
include completion of the UHF radar to allow measurement of electron densities, electron
and ion temperatures, and Doppler velocities in the stimulated region and in the natural
ionosphere using incoherent scatter techniques.
Is HAARP Unique?
Ionosphere research facilities have been in continuous use since the 1950s to investigate
fundamental physical principles which govern the earth's ionosphere, so that present and
future transmission technologies may take into account the complexities of this highly
variable medium. In addition to HAARP, the United States has operated two other ionosphere
research sites in recent years, one in Puerto Rico, near the Arecibo Observatory, and the
other (known as HIPAS) in Alaska near Fairbanks. Both of these facilities were built with
both active and passive radio instrumentation similar to those at the HAARP facility.
Interest in the ionosphere is not limited to the US: a five-country consortium operates
the European Incoherent Scatter Radar site (EISCAT), a premier ionosphere research facility
located in northern Norway near Tromso. Facilities also are located at Jicamarca, Peru; near
Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod ("SURA") and Apatity, Russia; near Kharkov, Ukraine and in Dushanbe,
Tadzhikistan. All of these installations have as their primary purpose the study of the
ionosphere, and most employ the capability of stimulating to a varying degree small, localized
regions of the ionosphere in order to study methodically, and in a detailed manner what
nature produces randomly and regularly on a much larger scale. HAARP is unique to most
existing facilities due to the combination of a research tool which provides electronic
beam steering, wide frequency coverage and high effective radiated power collocated with a
diverse suite of scientific observational instruments.
Who is Building HAARP?
Technical expertise and procurement services as required for the management, administration
and evaluation of the program are being provided cooperatively by the Air Force (Air Force
Research Laboratory), the Navy (Office of Naval Research and Naval Research Laboratory),
and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Since the HAARP facility consists of many
individual items of scientific equipment, both large and small, there is a considerable list
of commercial, academic and government organizations that are contributing toward improving
the facility by developing scientific diagnostic instrumentation.
BAE Advanced Technologies (BAE/AT) was the prime contractor for the design and construction of
the IRI which was completed during the spring of 2007. Other organizations
that have contributed to the program include the University of Alaska, Stanford University,
Cornell University, University of Massachusetts, UCLA, MIT, Dartmouth University, Clemson
University, Penn State University, University of Tulsa, University of Maryland,
SRI International, Northwest Research Associates, Inc., and Geospace, Inc. The current
contract for Operations and Maintenance of the HAARP Research Station is with Marsh Creek, LLC,
an Alaska Native Corporation.
What is the Value of Ionosphere Research?
The ionosphere begins approximately 35 miles above the earth's surface and extends out
beyond 500 miles. In contrast to the dense atmosphere close to the earth, which is composed
almost entirely, of neutral gas, the thin ionosphere contains both neutral gas and a small
number of charged particles known as ions and electrons. This ionized medium can distort,
reflect and absorb radio signals, and thus can affect numerous civilian and military
communications, navigation, surveillance and remote sensing systems in many varied ways.
For example, the performance of a satellite-to-ground communication link is affected by the
ionosphere through which the signals pass. AM broadcast programs, which in the daytime can
be heard only within a few tens of miles from the station, at night sometimes can be heard
hundreds of miles away, due to the change from poor daytime to good nighttime reflection from
the ionosphere. A long-range HF communication link which uses multiple hops or reflections
from the ionosphere and ground, often experiences amplitude fading caused by interference
between signals which have traveled from the transmitter to the receiver by two (or more)
different ionosphere paths.
Since the sun's radiation creates and maintains the ionosphere, sudden variations in this
radiation such as those caused by solar flares can affect the performance of radio systems.
Sometimes these natural changes are sufficient to induce large transient currents in electric
power transmission grids, causing widespread power outages. Lightning is known to cause
substantial heating and ionization density enhancement in the lower ionosphere, and there are
indications that ground-based HF transmitters, including radars and strong radio stations, also
modify the ionosphere and influence the performance of systems whose radio paths traverse the
modified region. Perhaps the most famous example of the latter is the "Luxembourg" effect,
first observed in 1933. In this case a weak Swiss radio station appeared to be modulated with
signals from the powerful Luxembourg station, which was transmitting at a completely different
frequency. Music from the Luxembourg station was picked up at the frequency of the Swiss station.
The continual growth in the number of civilian and military satellite systems whose performances
can be affected by changes in ionosphere conditions stimulates research on characterizing and
understanding those effects, whether they be natural (solar related) or the result of controlled
local modification of the ionosphere, using ground HF transmitters. The HAARP facility is capable
of supporting research in both these areas of interest, by utilizing its flexible HF transmitting
array and its suite of radio and optical diagnostic instruments for active experimental research.
Effectively, the diagnostic instruments alone constitute a space-weather observatory (on the
ground), which provides real-time data on the state of the dynamic ionosphere over much of Alaska.
Why is the DoD Involved?
The Department of Defense (DoD) conducts Arctic research to ensure the development of the knowledge,
understanding and capability to meet national defense needs in the Arctic. Interest in ionosphere
research at HAARP stems both from the large number of communication, surveillance and navigation
systems that have radio paths which pass through the ionosphere, and from the unexplored potential
of technological innovations which suggest applications such as detecting underground objects,
communicating to great depths in the sea or earth, and generating infrared and optical emissions.
Expanding our knowledge about the interactions of signals passing through or reflecting from the
ionosphere can help to solve future problems in the development of DoD systems, and could as well
enhance the utilization of commercial systems which rely on the expedient transfer of real-time
Why Gakona, Alaska?
During HAARP's environmental impact study, Gakona was identified as one of two DoD-owned, Alaskan
locations which satisfied the site selection criteria of being within the auroral zone, near a
major highway for year-round access, away from densely settled areas and their electrical noise
and lights that could interfere with sensitive research measurements, on relatively flat terrain,
of realistic and reasonable construction and operation costs, as well as minimal environmental
impacts. On October 18, 1993 following the July 15, 1993 issuance of the Air Force's Environmental
Impact Statement which evaluated potential environmental effects of constructing and operating the
HAARP facility, a Record of Decision (ROD) signed by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air
Force for Installations selected Gakona as the location for the HAARP facility.
Location of the HAARP Facility
The access road is located at Milepost 11.3 on the Tok highway. The geographic coordinates of
the HF antenna array are approximately 62.39 degrees (North) latitude, 145.15 degrees (West)
longitude. The geomagnetic coordinates for the facility are 63.09 degrees (North) latitude and
92.44 degrees (West) longitude.
What is the IRI and what does it transmit?
Basically, the IRI is what is known as a phased array transmitter. It is designed to transmit a
narrow beam of high power radio signals in the 2.8 to 10 MHz frequency range. Its antenna is built
on a gravel pad having dimensions of 1000' x 1200' (about 33 acres). There are 180 towers, 72' in
height mounted on thermopiles spaced 80' apart in a 12 x 15 rectangular grid. Each tower supports
near its top, two pairs of crossed dipole antennas, one for the low band (2.8 to 8.3 MHz), the
other for the high band (7 to 10 MHz). The antenna system is surrounded by an exclusion fence to
prevent possible damage to the antenna towers or harm to large animals. An elevated ground screen,
attached to the towers at the 15' level, acts as a reflector for the antenna array while allowing
vehicular access underneath to 30 environmentally-controlled transmitter shelters spaced throughout
the array. Each shelter contains 6 pairs of 10 kW transmitters, for a total of
6 x 30 x 2 x 10 kW = 3600 kW available for transmission. The transmitters can be switched to drive
either the low or high band antennas. Electric prime power is provided from an on-site power plant
housing five, 2500 kW generators, each driven by a 3600 hp diesel engine. Four generators are
required for operation of the IRI and the fifth is held as a spare. From a control room within the
Operations Center, the transmission from each of the 180 crossed-dipole antennas is adjusted in a
precise manner under computer control. In this manner, the complete array of antennas forms a
narrow antenna pattern pointed upward toward the ionosphere. The transmitted signal diverges
(spreads out) as it travels upward and is partially absorbed, at an altitude which depends on the
transmitted HF frequency, in a small volume several tens of miles in diameter and a few hundred
meters thick directly over the facility. The remainder of the transmitted signal either reflects back
toward the earth or passes through the ionosphere into space, continuing to diverge as it does
so. By the time it reaches the ionosphere, the intensity of the HF signal is less than 3 microwatts
(0.000003 watt) per cm2, thousands of times less than the Sun's natural electromagnetic radiation
reaching the earth and hundreds of times less, even, than the variations in intensity of the
Sun's natural ultraviolet (UV) energy which creates the ionosphere.
How safe are these transmissions?
Because the antenna pattern of the IRI array has been tailored to transmit its signal upward
rather than toward the horizon, radio field strengths at ground level, including areas directly
under the antenna array, are calculated to be smaller than Radio Frequency Radiation (RFR) standards
allow for human exposure. This is possible because the individual transmitters are spaced apart
over 33 acres so that the concentration of radio fields never exceeds these nationally recognized
safety standards. Electromagnetic field strength measurements have been made throughout the
development of the facility, beginning in 1994 and regularly thereafter. Measurements on the ground,
directly under and around the array and at multiple points on-site and off-site have verified
compliance with RFR standards as well as with all requirements for safety mandated in the EIS
Record of Decision. At the point of closest public access on the Tok Highway, for example, the
measured fields are ten-thousand times smaller than permitted by the RFR standards and hundreds
of times smaller than typically found near AM broadcast station antennas in many urban areas.
The strength of these fields continues to decrease in a rapid manner at greater distances from
What about aircraft?
While the signals along the ground are well-below adopted safety levels, the signals transmitted
above the antenna array may have sufficient strength to interfere with electronic equipment
in aircraft flying nearby. Therefore, to ensure the safety of all flight operations in the
vicinity of HAARP, the facility employs an aircraft alert radar (AAR) to
automatically shut off appropriate transmissions when aircraft are detected either within or
approaching a defined safety zone around the facility. Flight tests are conducted regularly to
demonstrate the capability of the HAARP radar to detect even very small targets. Research
operations are not conducted unless the AAR is operating satisfactorily.
What is the potential for Radio Frequency Interference (RFI)?
Every radio transmitting facility has the potential to interfere with other radio spectrum
users. To determine the potential for HAARP's transmissions to interfere inadvertently with
other spectrum users such as Alaskan TV, AM/FM radio, ham radio, or even with HAARP's own
sensitive radio receiving equipment, a comprehensive RFI study was conducted during the
environmental impact study phase. Theory predicted that in several worst-case scenarios,
interference may be encountered by some nearby users sharing the RF spectrum. On the other
hand, the real world experiences of similar ionosphere research instruments and radar diagnostics
employed elsewhere in the world have shown that compatible operations are practical. Included
in HAARP's Spectrum Certification from the National Telecommunications and Information
Administration (NTIA) are commitments to a mitigation program that includes the use of
state-of-the-art transmitters with stringent requirements for minimizing out-of-band transmissions;
proper orientation of the HF antenna array and adoption of operating procedures, including beam
steering, to minimize array side-lobes; employing special techniques such as waveform shaping,
filtering and antenna null placement; and working with affected spectrum users, if any, to reach
mutually agreeable solutions. A local phone number (907) 822-5497 permits anyone believing they
have interference from HAARP to contact the Gakona site operations center. In addition, an
automated spectrum monitor is installed to allow the HAARP control operator to monitor nearby
spectrum usage to assist in frequency selection for avoiding potential interference.
What is the RFI Resolution Advisory Committee?
The Record of Decision stipulated than an RFI Resolution Committee ("Committee") would be formed
with local representation, to help mitigate potential RFI issues. The local community-appointed
resident would serve as an ombudsman to ensure community satisfaction with the RFI mitigation
approaches undertaken by HAARP. The purpose of the Committee is to provide a forum for the thorough
review of confirmed RFI reports. This Committee has met at least yearly since December 6, 1994.
Committee members are from the following organizations (one from each): Community-appointed
resident, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), ALASCOM, Alaska Department of Environmental
Conservation, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., American Radio Relay League (ARRL), Coast Guard,
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Fish & Wildlife (Federal), Fish & Game (State), National
Park Service, HAARP Environmental Liaison Officer, HAARP operational staff (site supervisor or
delegate), HAARP Program-appointed chairperson, National Park Service, Naval Research Laboratory
(NRL), and the combined Alaska military command (ALCOM) frequency coordinator.
To ensure that all concerns, including aircraft safety as well as radio frequency interference
issues, are addressed completely, a Developmental Prototype (DP) was completed in 1994. The DP
consisted of a 6 x 8 (48 antenna element) array of crossed dipole antennas. A 3 x 6 (18 antenna
elements) subset of these antennas was energized by 18 pairs of 10 kW transmitters contained
in three separate shelters, thus supplying up to a maximum of 360 kW. Prime power for this initial
array was obtained from three portable 350 kW diesel generators.
During 1998, the DP was upgraded to include transmitters for all 48 of the antenna elements that
were originally installed. This Filled Developmental Prototype (FDP) was capable of producing
960 kW of total transmitter power. Measurements of the HF fields in the vicinity of the FDP
antenna array showed that field intensities everywhere, including within the FDP beam, were below
recommended international safety limits for fly-by-wire aircraft. Nonetheless, the FDP was only
operated in conjunction with the aircraft alert radar, to insure that no high power transmissions
occurred when there was local flight traffic. Operation and test of the FDP verified the system
engineering design and helped develop interference mitigation procedures that are now integrated
into all research operations involving the completed IRI.
HAARP has developed an extensive set of diagnostic instrumentation to support ionosphere research
at auroral latitudes, to characterize the processes produced in the upper atmosphere and ionosphere
by high power radio waves and to assess the potential of emerging ionosphere/radio technology
for DoD applications. While some of these scientific instruments are collocated with the IRI at
the research facility, others, due to geometrical considerations, are located off-site at various
distances from the facility. One of the primary active on-site instruments is the HF ionosonde,
which transmits in the 1-30 MHz band and is used to provide scientists with information about
the electron density profile in the ionosphere. Another is the UHF ionosphere radar which transmits
radio wave signals in the 430 - 450 MHz band and which will eventually be expanded to provide
incoherent scatter capability.
Among the passive on-site instruments are two magnetometers for the measurement of the earth's
magnetic field and its variations, and two riometers (relative ionosphere opacity meter) to sense
ionosphere absorption of the celestial background electromagnetic radiation. The radio spectrum
from 100 kHz to 1 GHz is being recorded to determine frequency of usage and to monitor HAARP
transmissions to ensure adherence to FCC and NTIA requirements. Other passive on-site instruments
include sensitive optical imagers and photometers, ELF/VLF receivers, and Total Electron Content
receivers. Data obtained from these scientific instruments are
readily accessible on the internet
in near real time, allowing scientists to observe and participate in the investigations directly
from their laboratories. In addition to the instruments specifically developed by HAARP, a number
of diagnostics potentially are available through other federal agencies and the University of
Alaska's Geophysical Institute.
Use of Local Resources
The Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) has played a major role
in the development of diagnostics and coordination of Arctic programs with the US scientific
community. UAF led a consortium of universities and industries which provided support in the
design and development of the Gakona facility and its associated scientific instruments. BAE
Advanced Technologies, the prime contractor for the IRI, utilized Eric Goozen for initial site
survey work. Ahtna Construction, Inc., a Glennallen based contractor, has contributed very
extensively to the development of the facility. Ahtna currently provides housekeeping and security
services. Anchorage-based engineering firms Duane Miller & Associates and USKH prepared the civil
and pad design work and conducted the on-site testing and evaluation. Arctic Foundation of
Anchorage designed and manufactured, and Kiewit Pacific Company installed thermopiles in the
pad, using Amtec, Inc. to survey the thermopile locations and Tester Drilling and EBA Engineering
to provide drilling support. Acme Fence Company installed fencing, using the services of Mark Lappi
to survey the fence lines and B&B Plumbing to steam thaw the ground for drilling. City Electric,
Inc. erected the towers, antennas, and ground screen. Pacific Detroit Diesel and Valley Diesel
refurbished and installed the 2.5 MW diesel generators which are used to power the HF transmitters.
Service Oil provides fuel oil. Copper Valley Telephone installed the telephone lines, and Copper
Valley Electric supplies commercial housekeeping power. Bishop & Sons Enterprises supplies water,
while CBS Service provides trash removal and sewage disposal. Harley McMahon flew sorties to test
the capabilities of the aircraft alert radar and provide the opportunity for aerial photography.
Current/Future Operations at the HAARP Research Facility
Construction of the full IRI was completed in early 2007. During its first year of operation, the
completed IRI was extensively tested to validate its performance against its technical specifications
and to verify compliance with all requirements for interference mitigation and safety of operations.
The facility is now conducting a reqular program of scientific research operations.
Both on- and off-site scientific, observational instruments are now providing data on the
natural high latitude ionosphere. A complete listing of these scientific
instruments is available.
In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), an environmental impact
statement (EIS) evaluated the consequences of constructing and operating the HAARP research
facility in Alaska. The EIS discusses impacts on such diverse topics as electromagnetic and radio
frequency interference, vegetation, wetlands, wildlife, air quality, subsistence, cultural
resources, atmosphere and others.
State and federal environmental regulatory agencies were consulted to identify issues, and
additional input was solicited from the public during scoping meetings held in Anchorage and
Glennallen, Alaska in August 1992. A draft of the EIS was prepared and distributed to the
public and to specific organizations on March 12, 1993. Public hearings were held in Glennallen
and Anderson, municipalities close to the sites under consideration. The final EIS was released
to the public on July 15, 1993 and the Record of Decision selecting Gakona, Alaska as the site
for the HAARP Ionosphere Research Facility was signed on October 18, 1993.
In addition to the NEPA process described above, the HAARP facility complies with all applicable
state and federal regulations that are appropriate for its construction and operation.
An updated version of this fact sheet will be issued as often as program changes warrant to
keep interested parties appraised of significant developments in regard to HAARP. Any individual
seeking additional information about HAARP, or wishing to provide comments regarding HAARP,
- Office of Public Affairs
Air Force Research Laboratory
3550 Aberdeen Ave S.E.
Kirtland AFB NM 87117-5776
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