Your Spidey Sense Ain't Got Nothin' on These Early Warning Systems

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Illustration for article titled Your Spidey Sense Ain't Got Nothin' on These Early Warning Systems

The days of putting your ear to the ground detect approaching cavalry are over. Now nations sport systems like the Iron Dome, THAAD radar, and these nine all-seeing early warning systems from our friends at Oobject. Really, there's no use hiding.

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If you can't see them coming a mile away already, be sure to check out these 18 radio telescopes, these incredible listening devices, and these awesome astronomical aides.

Illustration for article titled Your Spidey Sense Ain't Got Nothin' on These Early Warning Systems

WW1 concrete mirror, early warning against Zepellin attacks

In the original designs of these acoustic mirror, a curved recess in the concrete bounced sound towards a listener wearing a stethoscope.

Illustration for article titled Your Spidey Sense Ain't Got Nothin' on These Early Warning Systems

Abandoned Tropospheric Scatter Dishes, once part of NATO ACE HIGH communication system

Illustration for article titled Your Spidey Sense Ain't Got Nothin' on These Early Warning Systems
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Teufelsberg (Devils Mountain) listening station, overlooking Berlin

Illustration for article titled Your Spidey Sense Ain't Got Nothin' on These Early Warning Systems
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Duga-3 array within Chernobyl exclusion zone, responsible for the infamous Woodpecker signal

The Woodpecker signal was a mysterious repetitive short wave radio frequency emanating from the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It later turned out to be part of a long range early warning system based in Ukraine.

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Illustration for article titled Your Spidey Sense Ain't Got Nothin' on These Early Warning Systems

Infra red detecting satellite as part of DSP early warning system

One of 23 satellites in this system, which can detect the heat signature of missile launches. Shown here, being deployed from the Shuttle.

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Illustration for article titled Your Spidey Sense Ain't Got Nothin' on These Early Warning Systems

Sea Based X-Band Radar

A floating radar platform that is used, among other things, to detect North Korean missile launches, from it usual home in the Pacific.

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Illustration for article titled Your Spidey Sense Ain't Got Nothin' on These Early Warning Systems

Airborne Early Warning and Control (shown here, China's)

Abandoned Dye-2 early warning radar base, Greenland

Part of the Distant Early Warning or DEW line, against a Soviet airborne or land based attack over Canada.

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DISCUSSION

The DEW line: a reader's guide for young people.

On the principle that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend", we allied with Stalin's soviet Russia in WW-II to defeat Nazi Germany. Immediately after the war we became implacable enemies, in part because of Russia's obvious ambition to control Europe, and in part because of the McCarthy red scare here at home. As long as we had sole possession of the atom bomb things seemed ok. However, Russia tested their first in 1949; after that all bets were off. The Cold War began, with both sides expecting a nuclear strike at any moment. The threat was from manned bombers flying the great circle route from Moscow to the US over the north pole. The DEW line was the northernmost of three picket lines of radars intended to detect these incoming bombers, comprising dozens of radar stations. On detection, fighter planes from bases near the US-Canada border would be dispatched to shoot them down. Any that got through would be engaged by missile batteries around major cities. This very elaborate air defense system was rendered obsolete before it was fully implemented when the Russians orbited Sputnik in 1957; there was no defense against ballistic missiles.

An interesting side-effect of the DEW line was underground bunkers for government officials. The DEW line could give as much as eight hours of warning, enough time to round up VIPs and bus them to their bunkers. The Greenbrier in West Virginia and Mount Weather in Virginia are examples. With the advent of ballistic missiles the bunkers became much less useful, as warning time was reduced to as little as six minutes (for submarine-launched missiles on depressed trajectories).

Almost all of the DEW Line hardware is still there, abandoned in place. Large amounts of toxic waste, including PCBs, were simply dumped at the sites. Joint US/Canada cleanup activities are ongoing.