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Monday, Oct. 8, 2012

'Elephant Cage' antennas to be axed

Kyodo

AOMORI — A huge antenna array at the U.S. air base in Misawa, Aomori Prefecture, that was set up in 1965 to intercept Soviet and Chinese radio transmissions during the Cold War will be shut down by year's end.

Dozens of 37-meter-high antennas arrayed in a circle 440 meters in diameter and nicknamed the "Elephant Cage" due to its size will be scrapped once it ceases operations, according to the 35th Fighter Wing of the U.S. Air Force.

The U.S. military set up two such antenna arrays in Japan after World War II. The other was at a communications facility in Yomitan, Okinawa Prefecture, that was demolished in 2007 after the site was returned to Japan.

The antenna array at Misawa began operations in March 1965 and is able to intercept radio transmissions from any angle. About 2,000 people worked at the complex in its heyday, but the number has since fallen to about 500.

"Its primary purpose during the Cold War was to receive and locate high frequency radio transmissions," the 35th Fighter Wing said in a document given to Kyodo News.

"While it has performed its mission well for the last 46 years, worldwide communications have changed immensely during this time," the 35th Fighter Wing said, pointing out that the need for high frequency antennas has decreased while maintenance costs for the "large structure built with 1960s technology" have increased. The U.S. military since the 1980s has built domed antennas at the Misawa base that will reportedly function as the Elephant Cage's successor, intercepting data transmitted from communication satellites. Nineteen of the large, golf ball-shaped antennas had been erected as of September.



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