Explore Saipan’s Abandoned Pacific Barrier Radar III on Google Street View

The abandoned Pacific Barrier Radar III on Saipan, in the Northern Mariana Islands (Image: Google Earth. Abandoned Pacific Barrier Radar III aka PACBAR III)

Near Pau Pau Beach on Saipan, the largest of the Northern Mariana Islands, a narrow road winds up Mount Petosukura to a forgotten radar base that was abandoned at the end of the Cold War. Rural explorers visiting the US commonwealth islands may wish to check it out (simply drive up Middle Road from San Roque and take a left). But if the western Pacific is too far away, never fear: you can explore the ruined PACBAR III radar site from the comfort of Google Street View – just click here.

The derelict Cold War radar site PACBAR III on Mount Petosukura in Saipan, western Pacific.

As defunct Cold War early warning systems go, the abandoned Pacific Barrier Radar III (or PACBAR III) is relatively new. The monitoring station dates back to the late 1980s and was one of three similar sites sweeping the skies over the Pacific Ocean for Soviet missiles and satellites. The others were PACBAR I in the Marshall Islands and PACBAR II in the Philippines.

Ruins of a Cold War early warning base in the Northern Mariana Islands

Pacific Barrier Radar III’s useful life was, however, shortlived. The military surveillance base wasn’t completed until 1989, and its tenure was curtailed by the end of the Cold War and the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. Since then, as Atlas Obscura points out, it’s been fighting back against the jungle and heavy rust brought on by the humid climate.

Interestingly, the PACBAR III radar tower wasn’t new when it was installed in the lush, dense forest at the top of Mount Petosukura. Keen-eyed military observers may recognise the rusting structure as one that was originally fitted to the decommissioned Missile Range Instrumentation Ship USNS General H. H. Arnold (T-AGM-9), below.

The American Missile Range Instrumentation Ship USNS General H. H. Arnold (T-AGM-9) (Image: US Navy. USNS General H. H. Arnold – T-AGM-9)

Launched in April 1944 under the banner General R. E. Callan (AP-139), the former transport ship was renamed General H. H. Arnold on transfer to the US Air Force in July 1961. She continued in that role until being withdrawn from service and struck off charge in March 1982. Upon retirement, one of her radar towers was salvaged and installed on Saipan to “close a blind spot” between PACBAR I and PACBAR II, Atlas Obscura writes.

According to the website: “PACBAR III’s mission was short-lived when the Cold War came to an end in the early 1990s. The military turned out the lights, and the site has since fallen into decay with several of the original buildings already engulfed by the jungle. What remains – the radar tower itself and a few outbuildings – are covered in over twenty years of rust and graffiti.”

Those driving up the slopes of Mount Petosukura and turning off Middle Road will first encounter a ruined guard post. Beyond there, round another bend in the road, stand the derelict support buildings alongside the abandoned Pacific Barrier Radar III tower, its large parabolic dish still pointing skyward.

(All images (unless stated otherwise) via Google Earth)

Related: 10 Forgotten Early Warning Systems & Monitoring Stations



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