The Duga 3, nicknamed the Russian Woodpecker due to the loud “pecking noises” emitted worldwide from the radar. It is located within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, designated after the catastrophic nuclear meltdown in 1986. This colossal radar system could detect a Nuclear Missile launch from the United States within 4 seconds. After the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster in 1986, it was slowly decommissioned up until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Today it is an Urbex (urban exploration) paradise. While tours are guided, it’s generally accepted that you can explore wherever you want. There are occasion security patrols, but these are rare. Don’t forget that there are random doses of radiation about, so be careful and ask your tour guide before venturing into unknown areas.
The radar, at almost 150 metres in height and 660 metres in length, was built in the late 1970’s as part of the Soviet Union’s “Over-The-Horizon” project. This was a widespread system developed to detect American Nuclear Missiles launched towards the USSR. Built near the city of Pripyat, the zone around the Radar was entirely off limits and was completely unknown to outsiders. All staff and their families lived in a sealed off small town next to the radar, such was the extreme secrecy of the complex.
See the Abandoned Chernobyl city of Pripyat here.
Duga 3 was the last of a trio of similar radars dotted around Ukraine. The Western world was unaware of its construction, and for years mystery clicks and pecking noises caused chaos with Air Traffic Control, military radio and even TV signals around the world. Hence, the nickname “Woodpecker”. Considering its immense size, it’s quite amazing that it wasn’t until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990 that the source of this mystery frequency was revealed.
The Duga Radar Complex was also a training centre for new military recruits, and fascinating anti-American and anti-Capitalist propaganda can be found in abandoned classrooms. Full sized radar control training rooms can also be found, as can the real deal – which look like something straight out of a retro James Bond movie (Or Austin Powers!)
You can listen to how the Duga 3 radar sounded, many recordings are available on Youtube – any questions or comments, please let us know!
My visit to the Duga 3 Radar was part of a two day tour of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone with Ukrainian Web. To read more about my visit, with tour information, prices and what to see, please visit my Ultimate Chernobyl Guide .
I travelled to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone with Ukrainian Web. The owner, Yuri, was extremely helpful and managed to find me space on my preferred days of travel. Payment is in stages, with roughly half via Paypal beforehand and the rest on the day of the tour. Don’t worry, it’s fully legit!
A 2 day tour, including transport from Kiev, food and accommodation costs between €275 – €360 (depending on tour size and external factors). There is also a small visa-type charge upon entry to the exclusion zone. The tour features the ghost city of Pripyat, the Power Station itself, a visit to an elderly couple who returned to live in the zone and of course Duga-3.
Accommodation and food are basic, however the tour guides are brilliant and their English is perfect. Our guides parents actually lived in the city so you receive plenty of insider knowledge and they are happy to answer any questions.
Have you travelled to Chernobyl? Or do you wish to explore this haunted region someday in the future? We’d love to hear your thoughts!