The Pentagon is building a missile-defense radar station at a secret site in Qatar and organizing its largest minesweeping exercises in the Persian Gulf, as preparations accelerate for a possible flare-up with Iran, according to U.S. officials.
The radar site will complete the backbone of a system designed to defend U.S. interests and allies such as Israel and European nations against Iranian rockets, officials told The Wall Street Journal.
The moves are namely intended to address Tehran's arsenal of ballistic missiles and its threat to shut down the oil-shipping lanes of the Strait of Hormuz, according to the report.
The measures are also said to be an attempt to reassure Israel that the Pentagon is taking further steps to counter Iran’s nuclear program, after months of fruitless negotiations.
The Pentagon chose to place the new radar site in Qatar because it is home to the largest U.S. military air base in the region, Al Udeid Air Base, analysts say. More than 8,000 troops are stationed there and at another U.S. base in Qatar.
The radar base in Qatar is slated to house a powerful AN/TPY-2 radar, also known as an X-Band radar, and supplement two similar arrays already in place in Israel's Negev Desert and in central Turkey, officials said. Together, the three radar sites form an arc that U.S. officials say can detect missile launches from northern, western and southern Iran, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The sites will reportedly enable U.S. officials and allied military forces to track missiles launched from deep inside Iran, which has an arsenal of missiles capable of reaching Israel and parts of Europe. Intelligence agencies believe Iran could have a ballistic missile as early as 2015 that could threaten the U.S.