Jodrell Bank telescope was modified to track Soviet missiles during Cold War

November 22nd, 2008 - 5:27 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Nov 22 (ANI): The creator of the giant space telescope at the Jodrell Bank Observatory in the UK has disclosed after 50 years that the telescope was secretly modified to track incoming Soviet nuclear missiles during the Cold War.

According to a report in Telegraph, the Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank was set up to provide a four-minute warning of missile attacks during the Cold War, its creator, Sir Bernard Lovell, has disclosed.

Sir Bernard Lovell, who founded the renowned Cheshire observatory at the end of the Second World War, has told how the facility was adapted on the orders of military chiefs to provide a four-minute warning of an impending attack by Soviet Russia.

Now, Sir Bernard has also disclosed for the first time how Russian spymasters sought to persuade him to defect during a scientific visit to the USSR in 1963.

The 250 feet Lovell Telescope was lampooned by the press and politicians as a costly experiment during its construction in the mid 1950s.

But, unknown to the public, part of the reason for the over-run was because changes had to be made to design to track intercontinental missiles.

Scientists at the site were also unwittingly working alongside plain clothed defence officials, with only Lovell Sir Bernard and his superiors aware of their true identity.

According to the celebrated astronomer and physicist, he was approached by the Chief of the Air Staff while the telescope was being constructed.

He told me we had the only instrument in the world that could detect a Soviet missile. I simply wanted to come back and to do research, but events wouldnt allow me to, recalled Sir Bernard.

During the building of the telescope I made two vital changes in the design, one of which was to make it possible to detect missiles. Against my wishes, I had been pulled back to the defence network of the country, he added.

During the Cuban Missile crisis of 1962, the telescopes dish was turned toward the USSR on the orders of the Cabinet to provide an early warning of attack.

The observatorys secret military role finally came to an end in 1963 with the creation of the dedicated RAF Fylingdales warning system in Yorkshire. (ANI)

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