Tuesday, December 18, 2007

11th SWS reactivated as Buckley plays host

by Staff Sgt. Sanjay Allen, 460th Space Wing Public Affairs

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The 460th Space Wing designated a new space warning squadron Dec. 3 that will reside at Schriever AFB near Colorado Springs,Colo.

The 460th Operations Group, Detachment 1, stood down and stood up as the 11th Space Warning Squadron during the ceremony.

"It's an amazing thing to witness," said Lt. Col. Holly Weik, 11th SWS commander. "It's not that often you get to witness history."

The new 11th SWS will operate the latest Space-Based Infrared Systems satellite payload, using a new sensor in a highly elliptical orbit to provide a tremendouds increase in warning time and accuracy.

"The activation of this unit demonstrates that the Air Force is committed to bringing everything to bear to protect all warriors," said Col. Christopher Ayres, 460th Operations Group commander. "Lt. Col. Weik and her space warriors will provide national decision makers and combatant commanders timely, critical information on what we see through infrared eyes for missile warning, missile defense, technical intelligence, and battlespace awareness.

The detachment maximized the 460th Operations Group's mission readiness by training space operators and intelligence situation analysts. They developed and maintained operations plans, tactics and procedures for primary and alternate space operations center activities in support of U.S. Strategic Command's global warning network. Additionally, they produced crew schedules maintaining documentation for 200-plus space crew members and furnished mission-critical intelligence support.

The 11th SWS was originally activated in 1994 and used infrared data from the constellation of Defense Support Program satellites to warn deployed troops in theater of short-range missile launches, as well as significant other events around the globe.

The 11th SWS formerly operated and maintained the Attack and Launch Early Reporting to Theater, or ALERT, system. That system provided continuous surveillance and early warning of theater missiles and other threats in direct support of theater warfighters worldwide.

When the Mission Control Station was completed at Buckley late in 2001, the 11th SWS was deactivated as part of the transition to the DSP follow-on, SBIRS. The 11th SWS was deactivated on Dec. 31, 2002.

DSP, which is still operational, uses satellites operating in geosynchronous equatorial orbit more than 22,000 miles above the earth. The system was designed to detect intercontinental ballistic missiles, space launches and nuclear detonations in near-real time.

As the nation's newest space-based missile warning system, SBIRS will feature both geostationary and HEO satellites to create a synergy that significantly enhances both the strategic and theater warning missions. The system was designed to perform the additional missions of technical intelligence, national missile defense and battle-space characterization.

The mission of the 460th Space Wing is to provide combatant commanders with expeditionary warrior Airmen and deliver global infrared surveillance, tracking and missile warning for theater and homeland defense.

Completing the mission requires everyone working together, Colonel Weik said.

"We can't do this by ourselves," she said. "We have to count on our Reservists and civilians. It is a team effort."

The reactivation of the 11 SWS represents the latest technological leap in the Air Force's ability to protect the United States.