ZGRLS "Duga” (Moscow eye)
Our program of visiting the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone has a lot of stunning locations. Abandoned houses, remnants of equipment that struggled with the consequences of the accident, desert parks, evacuated villages, power units themselves and a lot of art confederates from the past. People left here everything that they had and for 30 years not much has changed here. All these things and kinds of excite creation of unreal.
But one object is particularly impressive and at the same time all. This was once the secret over-the-horizon complex of the Duga radar systems. Few people know that the territory that now resembles a post-apocalyptic world was once a lively anthill one of the centers of Soviet intelligence.
And coming to the exclusion zone you haven`t touched only the tragedy of 1986 but also the super-secret object on whose work the security of a huge state depended. And maybe the whole world…Visiting this place you will cover mixed feelings from delight to fear.
What is this Duga?...
But let's order. In the 1970s traffic and the first buildings have started near the city of Chernobyl. Soon there will appear a closed-type military camp was named after a neighbor. Chernobyl-2. The usual practice of Soviet times classified objects and settlements received the name of a nearby neighbor. On the map of course it was not and there was a children's camp of rest between the villages of Kopachy and Dibrova.
The Duga complex which was built for the town of Chernobyl-2 was created to track the launch of ballistic missiles at a distance from 900 to 3000 km. That is using the signals that this large object sent it was possible to “detect” a rocket fired somewhere in North America.
The name is not accidental. The impulses sent by the antennas went around the Earth’s arc and really looked beyond the horizon.
When you will come here and see these unreal buildings, you realize how serious (even fanatically) the state security issue in the Soviet Union was, how awesome was the arms race and the struggle for world domination.
And you just have seen everything with your own eyes, you are convinced that everything said above is not an exaggeration. But let us tell you what this whale of Soviet intelligence was represented by itself.
When size matters ...
ZGRLS "Duga" is a whole complex of special structures and structures that explode the brain of scales and sizes. It is so huge that it can be seen from almost anywhere in the exclusion zone. Perhaps it was these dimensions that made it build here in the deep forests of Polesye.
The main role in the complex is played by two antennas the first is approximately 350-500 m in length and about 135-150 meters in height. Exact sizes of the free sources are not served but Google Maps to date indicates the length of this mast 460 meters. The second radar is slightly smaller but also impressive about 250 meters in length (the same Google Maps calls the figure of 230 meters) and up to 100 meters in height.
It is precisely such dimensions of the radar complex as well as innovative ideas and engineering engineers that arose specifically to create a complex of similar capacity and allowed the USSR to literally “cover with a cap” half-planets. In the world this complex was also called the “Moscow eye” - “the eye of Moscow” because thanks to its work Soviet intelligence could “see” the missiles on the other side of the planet in the first minutes of their launch.
But antennas SGRLS could only receive signals. The transmitting center was built in the Chernihiv region 60 km from Chernobyl-2. There the structures were of the same type but almost half as much.
Besides to antennas another element the “Circle” was part of the SGRLS complex. Initially after declassification the purpose of this object was not clear. For a simple man in the street it looks impressive: it is a round-shaped playground with a diameter of about 300 meters with a large building in the center. Obviously it was a kind of control point stuffed with electronics. Along the perimeter of the circle are built metal structures of rather impressive size.
In fact, the Circle is a track tracking system, a station for reciprocating oblique sounding of the ionosphere. It task was determine the most effective operating frequencies for the ORLS at a particular point in time. After modernization in 1985 the need for the Circle has disappeared. It died before the launch of Duga itself.
This site is surrounded by forest and now more than 30 years later the nature has practically captured it. But from a bird's eye view (or the tops of the large antenna), the outlines of the Circle are clearly visible. Such is the woodland Stonehenge ...
Myths about ZGRLS Duga-1
Of course the “enemy intelligence of decaying capitalism” also worked well and with the first trial launch of the complex the first interferences in the radio broadcast.
There were lots of options since nothing like this had ever been created. Until the end of the 80s the West did not understand the purpose and scheme of the complex. In 1988 The US Federal Communications of Commission conducted an investigation and found out why Duga was created.
And by that moment the Saami had come up with incredible versions. For example, one of the advisers to the US Department of Defense declared that they had created a new type of mass destruction weapon in the Union - “electromagnetic radiation”. Radars in his opinion transmitted a signal at the frequency that influenced the mental state of people, brainwashed the mind. And this version had quite a few supporters.
And since the station’s transmitters were set up so that the waves would focus on nine US missile bases, there was also a version that the Russians thought up a brain burner and want to destroy the military minds of America with it.
Other theories have been considered. For example, the effect of Arc's pulses on weather change.
A case was also noted when tired of listening to the “Russian woodpecker” the world community of radio amateurs tried to suppress the signals of the Arc on the air. To do this they tried to broadcast in antiphase rectangular pulses at the same frequency. However, this attempt was unsuccessful.
At that time, Duga was the most modern complex in terms of engineering, military thought, technology ...
We often hear the question - how much did this web of iron structures and the complex as a whole cost the country's budget? It's difficult to imagine. Naturally, there is no exact data.
According to various calculations, the construction cost from 600-700 million Soviet rubles to 6 billion, and this, even by the most modest estimates, is twice as much as was spent on building the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. It immediately becomes clear that the “happiest” state had the priorities.
Being close to these receiver antennas you worried strange feelings. Delight, akin to the one you experience, looking at the Egyptian pyramids. And the thought - “could the human brain and hands create IT ?!”. You admire and are proud of the minds of developers and engineers who were able to create the best at that time air defense system and who were unfairly forgotten. Fear. Disgust. Horror. Delight. Disappointment. Adrenalin.
The Irony of Fate…
The irony of Fate is that the complex did not serve. The first series of electromagnetic broadcasts from this object began on July 4, 1976 (“A gift to the Americans on Independence Day” - the engineers joked).
However, since Doug was an experimental facility where completely new, unparalleled in the world, unique technologies and devices were put into operation, the engineers had to fix many problems during construction and start-up. So, the broadcasts of the Duga violated radio communications across the globe in the range from 3 to 30 MHz. Imagine the power of this machines?
In the world this sound was called “Russian woodpecker” because it was heard from all radio receivers with an interval of one-tenth of a second and it really looked like the monotonous sound of a woodpecker.
In 1985 after a trial run it became clear that the complex needs upgrading and troubleshooting. Part of the operating frequency range of the Arc still coincided with the frequency of operation of civil aviation systems. Europe was indignant that this could cause serious problems in the airspace which would damage civilian airlines. In the Union they did not recognize the existence of Duga at all.
The military believed that this indignation was not caused by concern for mine men but by the fear that now Europe was covered by a Soviet cap. And more actively continued development.
Anyway the object was upgraded and the problem was solved. But already in 1986 the complex was suspended due to the Chernobyl accident. Some of the structures and equipment were dismantled and removed to Komsomolsk-On-Amur where another such station was located the Duga-2. Finally, Duga was stopped its operation almost a year later in 1987, as it was not possible to work in the zone of increased radiation. In total more than a hundred rocket launches were tracked during the Duga operation.
It is possible several times Duga saved humanity from world war. So, in 1983 the information has appeared about the massive launch of combat missiles. The USSR missile defense system was ready for reciprocal launch. And only due to the fact that the information was checked through the Chernobyl and Komsomol over-the-horizon units, this was avoided. The signal turned out to be false and was caused by the banal failure of the satellite observation system.
What about the people?
Although there was not settlement with the name Chernobyl-2 on the map in reality it was a closed military town that was usual for that time. On the only street there was a house of culture, a school, a shop, buildings of a military unit, a garrison stadium ... More than 1000 people lived and served there.
All these buildings still stand today, and as part of a two-day tour we visit this town, we pass along Kurchatova St. And if you want, you do not want it, a question arises in your head - did the inhabitants of this town know what exactly they were guarding? What do machine serve? After the tragedy at the Chernobyl NPP they were all moved out and have never returned. Their apartments, looted by marauders, are being destroyed, buildings are absorbing plants. Probably even faster than Pripyat. Go to the houses in the summer is almost impossible. But the lenses of the cameras of our tourists have symbols of the Soviet era stars, signs, surviving signs with slogans.
Why do we include Duga in our outings?
Until recently, Chernobyl-2 was a closed object, inaccessible to prying eyes. But from 2013 everyone can visit this place.
Today it is the only opportunity to contemplate one of the most powerful objects of the Soviet military system and the only one that has survived to this day. Two other similar complexes (near Nikolaev and Komsomolsk), as well as the transmitting center in the Chernihiv region, were destroyed. It's one thing to read about them in books, and quite another is to see with your own eyes, touch, feel. There is not much time left to do this. Every year the nature delays buildings, antennas, it is becoming more and more difficult to walk through the town.
It is quite difficult to get illegally into Chernobyl-2 and to SGRLS. Since this is a regime object and it is constantly protected. But from time to time, photos, videos and messages about how stalkers, basejampers, penetrating into the zone illegally, climb to the very tops of the antennas and make jumps, appear on the Net. Entertainment is not for the faint of heart, and quite risky from the point of view of the law.
We definitely recommend visiting the complex Duga, but you do it officially, legally and with experienced guides, which will ensure you safety and equally vivid impressions.