The Duga Radar in the Chernobyl Exclusion zone was one of two Soviet ‘over-the-horizon’ radar systems, built in the 1970s to allow the Soviet authorities to detect missile launches in the west as soon as they occurred. The second Duga Radar was located in eastern Siberia, and together the two radars granted the Soviets the capacity to detect missiles launches from anywhere in the world.

The Duga Radar transmitted a 10 Hz signal at 10 MW, producing a tapping noise on shortwave radio bands all across the world and earning itself the nickname ‘the Russian Woodpecker’ as a result. To NATO, who knew early on about the existence of the radar system, it was known as the ‘steel yard’ or ‘steel work’, a named derived from the receiver’s appearance.

In 1989, the Duga Radar stopped transmitting, the reasons for which have never been disclosed. The barracks are today abandoned and guarded by soldiers of the Ukrainian army, while the receiver – at over 100 meters tall and 750 metres long – casts an imposing over the forest of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

Duga Radar Barracks & Murals

The Duga Radar was a huge military instalation and required round the clock administration. Hundreds of soldiers of the Red Army were based at the barracks on site. As was typical for military bases in the Soviet Union, the walls of the builldings were decorated with Soviet Realist murals.

Duga Radar