Peterson AFB Community
21st Operations Group
The 21st OG is responsible for all of the 21st SW’s 19 operations units and detachments; all but three of the 21st OG’s units are geographically separated units. Additionally, the 21st OG maintains administrative control of the 21st SW’s two expeditionary units: the 1st Expeditionary Space Control Squadron and the 17th Expeditionary Space Control Squadron.
The group is AFSPC’s largest, most weapon-system diverse, and most widespread organization. Its mission is to provide real-time space control, missile warning, attack assessment, missile defense and space situational awareness to the president, Secretary of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, combatant commands and allies. The group also establishes operational requirements and manages the training and standardization and evaluation programs for their weapon systems. This includes conducting command-directedevaluations and staff assistance visits. Additionally, the 21st OG develops and maintains operational procedures and regulations for all its field units.
The 21st Operations Group includes:
- The 21st Operations Group Standardization and Evaluation Division.
- The 21st Operations Support Squadron.
- Five missile warning squadrons.
- International partner operations at Royal Air Force Fylingdales.
- Three space surveillance detachments.
- Three operating locations.
- Two space control squadrons.
- Two expeditionary space control squadrons.
- One space surveillance squadron.
- One training detachment.
STANDARDIZATION AND EVALUATION DIVISION
The 21st OG Standardization and Evaluation Division is responsible for standardizing operations across three mission areas, 19 subordinate units at 18 locations in eight countries. The division is the focal point for group standardization, evaluation and crew force management policies, clarification requests, technical orders, and overseeing GSU participation in readiness exercises. The division regularly conducts Operations Standardization Team and Staff Assistance Visits at GSUs to ensure compliance with regulations and to provide input on how to improve processes. It also conducts Initial Operations Assessments on new or upgraded space weapon systems.
THE 21ST OPERATIONS SUPPORT SQUADRON
The 21st Operations Support Squadron provides day-to-day operations support for the 21st SW’s worldwide network of ground-based missile warning, space surveillance, and space control units and accomplishes the following:
- Provides oversight, support, and guidance for all force structure, testing and system modification actions involving 21st SW operational units.
- Provides real-world and exercise senior staff support to 21st SW leadership.
- Provides intelligence support to 19 ground-based missile warning, space surveillance and space control units.
- Provides configuration management for software and hardware changes to 21st SW operational systems.
- Manages the 21st SW’s weapons and tactics, warfighter education, and combat systems improvement and integration programs.
- Oversees, standardizes and provides guidance for all 21st SW operations training programs.
- Provides precision measurement equip lab support for 180 organizations and 6,448 pieces of test, measurement and diagnostic equipment.
- Provides integrated management data system support and maintenance data collection analysis for maintenance actions and equipment.
- Provides contract oversight of transient alert which services more than 2,500 transient aircraft each year, of that 41 percent are distinguished visitors.
- Provides environmental support, space and terrestrial, to NORAD and USNORTHCOM command centers, Cheyenne Mountain AFS, Peterson AFB units and 21st SW staff and GSUs.
4TH SPACE CONTROL SQUADRON
The 4th Space Control Squadron is a dynamic military organization that is constantly evolving, with a mission set that grows, adapts and adjusts continuously. The underpinning to this vision is that SPCS’s assigned mission is a combat mission. The squadron does not know when it will be asked to execute, so SPCS is always ready and always preparing and focusing on combat readiness. Nothing will distract from this fundamental vision. The squadron will be ready when called and will get the mission done.
6TH SPACE WARNING SQUADRON
The primary mission of the 6th Space Warning Squadron, Cape Cod AFS, Massachusetts, is to guard North America’s East Coast against submarine-launched ballistic missiles and Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles. The unit operates the AN/FPS-123 PAVE PAWS radar system. 6th SWS has the distinction of being the first PAVE PAWS installation in the United States. The original AN/FPS-115 was built in the late 1970s and became fully operational on April 4, 1980, at 6th SWS. The radar was upgraded to an AN/FPS-123 in 1989. These roughly 90-foot diameter circular-panel radars are mounted on two walls of a triangular-shaped pyramid structure. PAVE PAWS radars can detect and track targets within a range of about 3,000 nautical miles. The site provides continual space control information as part of an integrated global network of missile warning systems.
Missile warning data from 6th SWS is sent to the Missile Warning Center at Cheyenne Mountain AFS. Data is also sent to the National Military Command Center and USSTRATCOM. Being a collateral sensor in the SSN, 6th SWS has a secondary mission of space surveillance. The site detects, tracks and performs space object identification for near-Earth objects within a range of about 3,000 nautical miles, and sends its observations to the JSpOC. The site also provides Space Object Identification data.
7TH SPACE WARNING SQUADRON
7th Space Warning Squadron at Beale AFB, California, a geographically separated unit assigned to the 21st OG, operates the PAVE PAWS radar and provides 24-hour coverage over the Pacific Ocean, executing its primary mission of missile warning and corollary mission of missile defense against sea-launched ballistic missiles and ICBM threats.
Raytheon built the PAVE PAWS radars, and deployed the first AN/FPS-115 model during the early 1980s, which was subsequently updated to the AN/FPS-123 model. These 90-foot diameter circular-panel radars are mounted on two walls of a structure covering 240 degrees in azimuth. The system can detect and track targets at ranges approaching 3,000 miles, and the antennas are designed to operate at a frequency of 420 to 450 MHz. The radar at Beale AFB was upgraded in 2004 with more capable software, allowing the radar to become part of the Integrated Missile Defense architecture. At that time, the system’s designator was changed to AN/FPS-132, also known as UEWR.
The site provides continual space situational awareness as part of an integrated global network of missile warning systems. Fulfilling its primary mission of missile warning, 7th SWS sends data to the MWC at Cheyenne Mountain AFS, the National Military Command Center and USSTRATCOM. The 7th SWS corollary mission of missile defense supports the GMD element of the Ballistic Missile Defense System. The objective of the BMDS is defense of the United States against a threat of a limited strategic ballistic missile attack. Mission accomplishment is made possible through the use of the UEWR, which detects, acquires, and tracks inbound missiles to provide the necessary data to classify and engage the target. This target data allows the GMD Fire Control and Communications element to generate a weapons task plan, allowing for the engagement, interception, and negation of a threat ballistic missile re-entry vehicle in the exo-atmospheric region of space.
The 7th SWS has a secondary mission of space surveillance. The site detects and tracks near-Earth objects at a range of up to 3,000 nautical miles for the JSPoC. The site also generates Space Object Identification data, which is provided to the National Air and Space Intelligence Center as a key component of space situational awareness.
10TH SPACE WARNING SQUADRON
The 10th SWS at Cavalier AFS, North Dakota, is a geographically separated unit of the 21st Space Wing situated 20 miles south of the Canada-U.S. border. The squadron provides tactical detection, warning, tracking, and characterization of intercontinental and sea-launched ballistic missile attacks and forwards that information to the Missile Warning Center at Cheyenne Mountain AFS, USSTRATCOM and the National Military Command Center. The unit also contributes to the space situational awareness mission by tracking and providing real-time metric observations on man-made Earth-orbiting objects to the JSPoC. The squadron operates and maintains the world’s most capable phased-array radar, the AN/FPQ-16, or Perimeter Acquisition Radar Attack Characterization System. PARCS is a single-faced radar covering 120 degrees in azimuth. It is more powerful than the AN/FPS-123 PAVE PAWS radar and can more effectively track and discriminate multiple objects in low-Earth orbit at a range of nearly 3,300 kilometers. The radar accounts for 25 percent of the observations taken by all U.S. ground-based radars. The site also generates Space Object Identification data, which is provided to the National Air and Space Intelligence Center as a key component of space situational awareness.
Cavalier AFS was constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the early 1970s as one component of the Stanley R. Mickelsen SAFEGUARD Complex, Antiballistic Missile System. The USAF began to operate the facility with a new USAF mission in 1977, after the ABM system was decommissioned. The USAF initially leased the property from the U.S. Army, but the property was transferred to the USAF in 2007. 10th SWS operates Cavalier AFS with support from several civilian contractor organizations and the 319th Air Base Wing at Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota.
12TH SPACE WARNING SQUADRON
The 12th Space Warning Squadron at Thule Air Base, Greenland, is the 21st Operations Group’s northern-most Geographically separated unit, located 750 miles north of the Arctic Circle, operating 24/7 to deliver unique data for three strategic missions in defense of the United States and its allies. The primary missile warning mission of 12 SWS provides tactical detection, warning and tracking of intercontinental and sea-launched ballistic missile attacks to the Missile Warning Center, United States Strategic Command and the National Military Command Center. The squadron’s corollary mission of missile defense supports the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense element of the Ballistic Missile Defense System. This program’s objective is the defense of the United States against long-range ballistic missile attack and is made possible utilizing the advanced features of the Upgraded Early Warning Radar system that detects, acquires and tracks inbound missiles to provide cueing data to classify and engage the target. This target data allows the GMD Fire Control and Communications element to generate a weapons task plan to engage, intercept and negate a threat ballistic missile re-entry vehicle in the exo-atmospheric region of space. 12 SWS also contributes to the space surveillance mission by tracking and providing metric observations on man-made Earth-orbiting objects at a range of up to 3,000 nautical miles as part of the nation’s Space Surveillance Network.
The site operates a solid-state, phased-array radar. The AN/FPS-120 model, which has two radar faces covering 240 degrees in azimuth, replaced the legacy Ballistic Missile Early Warning System mechanical radar at Thule in 1987. In 2009, the AN/FPS-120 received an upgrade to the AN/FPS-132 UEWR specification. The upgrades modernized the hardware and software to improve midcourse BMDS sensor coverage by providing critical early warning, tracking, object classification and cueing data.
13TH SPACE WARNING SQUADRON
The primary mission of the 13th SWS at Clear AFS, Alaska, is to provide early warning of ICBMs and SLBMs to USSTRATCOM’s MWC at Cheyenne Mountain AFS, the National Military Command Center and USSTRATCOM. Its secondary mission is to provide space surveillance data on Earth-orbiting objects to the JSpOC. The data they generate ensures the JSpOC is able to accurately keep track of objects in orbit. This allows them to keep manned objects, such as the International Space Station, out of harm’s way and to closely monitor objects re-entering the atmosphere, which might impact populated areas or appear as an incoming missile. The 13th SWS accomplishes these missions using a solid-state phased-array radar, the AN/FPS-123, which is housed in a triangular-shaped 11-story building on site. The antennas are designed to operate at a frequency of 420 to 450 MHz. Because of its excellent tracking capabilities, this type of radar is useful for tracking near-Earth satellites.
The AN/FPS-123 model at Clear AFS, follow-on to the AN/FPS-115 radar, was originally at Eldorado Air Station, Texas, as part of the PAVE PAWS program and was transplanted to Alaska in 2001 to replace the United States’ last mechanical missile warning radar site. The radar system has two faces which together form a coverage area 240 degrees wide and about 3,000 nautical miles into space. The coverage extends from the Arctic Ocean to the West Coast of the lower 48 states. The 213th Space Warning Squadron is an Alaska Air National Guard squadron that performs most of the operations and security functions at Clear AFS. The 213th SWS and 13th SWS work hand in hand to accomplish the missile warning and space surveillance mission for the 21st SW.
16TH SPACE CONTROL SQUADRON
16th SPCS is AFSPC’s first dedicated defensive space control unit. The unit is responsible for operating space control capabilities to rapidly achieve flexible and versatile space superiority in support of theater campaigns and USSTRATCOM’s space superiority mission.
The 380th Space Control Squadron is a Reserve Associate Unit of the 16th SPCS and performs the defensive space control mission as an equal partner with the 16th SPCS. The 380th SPCS, composed of active-reserve and traditional-reserve members, augments and supports the 21st SW defensive space control mission.
18TH SPACE CONTROL SQUADRON
The 18th Space Control Squadron at Vandenberg AFB, California, is 160 miles northwest of Los Angeles. The squadron is the newest addition to 21 SW. It is tasked with providing 24/7 support to the space sensor network, maintaining the space catalog and managing USSTRATCOM’s space situational awareness sharing program to United States, foreign government and commercial entities. The squadron also conducts advanced analysis, sensor optimization, conjunction assessment, human spaceflight support, reentry/break-up assessment, and launch analysis. In addition, 18 SPCS also oversees 18 SPCS Detachment 1, located in Dahlgren, Virginia.
The squadron is jointly located with the Joint Space Operations Center and operates Space Defense Operations Center and the Astrodynamic Support Workstation to task and receive observation data from the SSN and provide that data to DOD and non-DOD customers.
About 64 military and 25 civil service people are permanently assigned to 18 SPCS. About 30 military personnel are assigned to the operations flight, which is responsible for SPADOC and ASW operations. The remainder of the assigned military and civilian workers provide support and advanced functions in support of 18 SPCS operations.
The squadron enjoys a rich history of service. In 1966, the 18th Space Surveillance Squadron was activated at Edwards AFB, California, and operated the BakerNunn Camera satellite tracking system until the deactivation of the squadron in 1975. The 18 SPSS was then activated in 1990 to become part of the 1st Space Wing at Peterson AFB to manage the worldwide GEODSS detachments. Following its activation, 18 SPSS was relocated to Edwards AFB in 1995, renamed 18th SPCS in 2003 and deactivated in 2004. On July 22, 2016, 18 SPCS was reactivated at Vandenberg AFB to perform the SSA sensor tasking mission.
20TH SPACE CONTROL SQUADRON
The 20th SPCS, Eglin AFB, Florida, a GSU assigned to the 21st OG, operates and maintains the Air Force’s only phased-array space surveillance radar system dedicated to tracking near-Earth and deep-space objects as part of the SSN. Achieving full operational capability in January 1969, the AN/FPS-85 radar was the first phased-array radar developed to perform all-weather, day-night detection and tracking of man-made objects in space. The AN/FPS-85 covers 120 degrees in azimuth and in excess of 22,000 nautical miles in range. The squadron also supports USSTRATCOM and theater warfighter requirements through continuous detection, identification and reporting of orbital satellite positional and SOI data.
Situated on the North York Moors in the United Kingdom, RAF Fylingdales is a joint enterprise of the U.K. and U.S. governments. RAF Fylingdales’ mission is to provide uninterrupted Ballistic Missile Early Warning and Space Surveillance service to the U.K. and U.S. governments. These missions have been performed by the unit since 1963. After an agreement by the U.K. to support U.S. BMD, the 2007 UEWR upgrade added the capability to support the U.S. BMD mission. The unit is unique for a number of reasons. It is the only three-faced phased array radar in the network that provides 360 degrees of azimuth coverage. Operations are performed by RAF personnel who have been trained and assured to meet both U.K. and U.S. criteria. All BMEWS and Space Surveillance events are simultaneously reported to both U.K. and U.S. chains of command. Engineering and spacetrack analysis support is provided by British contractors; resulting in the only BMEWS unit that has spacetrack analysts on shift with every crew.
The U.S. Air Force presence at Fylingdales is a liaison officer who reports through the 21st OG. The liaison officer is a bridge to U.S. operations, maintaining mission ready status and advising the RAF station commander on U.S. Air Force operational issues. The U.S. Air Force liaison officer also serves as a resource advisor and the contracting officer’s representative for the communications contractor.
1 REMOTE SENSOR UNIT
Located on Royal Australian Air Force Base Edinburgh near Adelaide, South Australia, Number 1 Remote Sensor Unit jointly operates Australian and U.S. surveillance and space weapons systems. 1 RSU’s mission is to conduct effective operations in the air, surface and space domains in support of the war fighter and the National Surveillance effort. 1 RSU delivers space situational awareness, regional monitoring for significant infrared events, and surveillance of air and surface threats to the Australian mainland. 1 RSU is operates the AN/FPS-134 C-Band radar, the Jindalee Operational Radar Network, the Space-Based Infrared System Australian Mission Processor, the Space Surveillance Telescope and future radar site #2 of the S-Band Space Fence program. The 1 RSU has performed the over-the-horizon radar surveillance mission since 1992 and has performed space operations missions since 2015. The 1RSU is the only operational unit charged with enhancing the Australian Defence Force’s space presence and performing the space situational awareness mission. The AN/FPS-134 C-Band radar is located at Naval Communications Station Harold E. Holt north of Exmouth, Western Australia, but was originally located 200 miles south at Carnarvon, Western Australia, where it was used as a NASA tracking station for the Gemini Human Space Flight Program in the mid-1960s.
The U.S. Air Force presence at 1 RSU is a liaison officer who reports through the 21st OG. The liaison officer is a bridge to U.S. operations, maintaining mission ready status and advising the 1 RSU commanding officer on U.S. Air Force operational issues. The U.S. Air Force liaison officer also integrates USAF air, space and cyberspace capabilities into current and future 1 RSU operations and serves as the 21st Space Wing’s representative to the Pacific Air Forces Director of Space Forces and the Australian Air and Space Operations Centre.
21ST OPERATIONS GROUP DETACHMENTS
The 21st OG also controls and operates three dedicated optical space tracking sites in the SSN. Three of the sites are part of GEODSS: Det. 1, Socorro, New Mexico; Det. 2, Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territories; and Det. 3 at Maui, Hawaii. Like the other sensors in the SSN, GEODSS provides metric data to JSpOC, and photometric SOI data.
GEODSS is an optical system that uses low-light-level, electro-optical cameras, high-speed computers and powerful telescopes. GEODSS tracks objects in deep space, or from about 2,000 miles out, to beyond geosynchronous altitudes, more than 22,500 miles out. GEODSS requires nighttime and clear weather tracking because of the inherent limitations of an optical system. Each site has three telescopes. The telescopes have a 1-meter aperture and a 1.68 degree field ofview.
The telescopes are able to “see” objects 10,000 times dimmer than the human eye can detect. This sensitivity, and the fact that the daytime sky background masks satellites’ reflected light, dictates that the system operate at night. As with any ground-based optical system, cloud cover and local weather conditions directly influence its effectiveness. GEODSS employs “sidereal” and “rate” track to perform its space surveillance mission. In sidereal track the telescopes scan the sky at the same rate as the stars appear to move. In rate track, telescopes follow the path of the satellite as it passes overhead.
GEODSS is also capable of robust area and object searches resulting in an enhanced battlespace picture through detection of uncorrelated targets and normally difficult-to-track cataloged objects.