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Peterson Space Observer

AFSPC Milestone: First Ballistic Missile Early Warning System site is operational

The Ballistic Missile Early Warning System site at Thule, Greenland, became operational on Jan 1, 1961. The BMEWS was the first operational ballistic missile detection radar and was built during the decade of the 1950s in response to the Cold War with the former Soviet Union.

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — As Air Force Space Command approaches its 30th Anniversary on 1 Sep, here is a significant milestone which led to the creation of a new command responsible for the space domain…

On 1 January 1961, the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System site at Thule, Greenland, became operational. The BMEWS was the first operational ballistic missile detection radar and was built during the decade of the 1950s in response to the Cold War with the former Soviet Union. It provided long-range warning of a ballistic missile attack over the polar region of the Northern Hemisphere. The radar also provided satellite tracking data.

The BNEWS site at Thule AB was one of three radars of this type operated by the Air Force. All three facilities operated their original 1950s vintage radars for more than four decades until they received upgrades to the more modern phased array radars.

Even today, ballistic missile warning is critically important to U.S. military forces. At least 20 nations currently have nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, and the technology to deliver them over long distances.

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