By Robb Lingley
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — The 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, has seven missile warning radars located strategically around the world that are constantly looking for ballistic missiles inbound to the North American continent. Their mission is to execute combined global capabilities, to defend the homeland, and enable space combat operations.
The Strategic Warning and Surveillance Systems Division, or Sentinels, at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, provides maintenance for the radars to help the 21st SW by developing and sustaining missile warning, missile defense, space situational awareness, and command and control capabilities as promised to the warfighter, all while being effective stewards of resources.
“We continue to team with the 21st SW and look for ways that we can help them improve their operations,” said Col. Todd Wiest, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Senior Materiel Leader for the SW&SS division. “Our main focus now is taking the long view by being innovative in providing capabilities faster and while also looking at what we can do to improve these systems.”
Wiest said SW&SS also has the responsibility to maintain missile warning and command and control. Our missile warning leaves Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station and goes to the president of the United States, geographical combat commanders, and our partner nations
21st SW radars include the Perimeter Acquisition Radar Attack Characterization at Cavalier Air Force Station, two PAVE PAWS radars at Cape Cod AFS, Massachusetts and Clear Air Force Station, Alaska, and three Upgraded Early Warning Radars at Beale Air Force Base, California, Thule Air Force Base, Greenland, and Royal Air Force Fylingdales Air Force Station, England.
“I help to make sure that the managers for all those sustainment programs are maintaining a broader look so we keep an integrated system available for our country,” Wiest said. “I also help them deliver these updates to ensure the systems will operate today, tomorrow, and start looking towards the future.”
The 21st SW also has a COBRA DANE missile defense radar at Eareckson Air Station on the island of Shemya, Aleutian Islands, Alaska, that provides missile tracking data to the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense Fire Control Center.
“We make sure they’re available 24/7, 365 days a year.” Wiest said “The radars are really good work horses. We are poised to advance one of the radars with a missile defense mission we worked closely on with the Missile Defense Agency.”
SW&SS is continually looking at what to do with changing threats. Wiest said one of the Division’s big pushes right now is a need to operate differently in space and missile warning and defense. He helps the program managers break down barriers ahead of them and provide integrated capabilities.
“If something goes wrong at a site we have teams with our industry partners who will drop everything and rush to fix that problem,” Wiest said.
In the event of a missile launch, one of the radars will track the missile and send information to Cheyenne Mountain AFS.
“We have the capabilities at Cheyenne Mountain AFS to categorize a missile launch and provide information to decision makers,” Wiest said. “We then wait for an assessment on what to do next.”
Wiest said his sustainment teams have a responsibility to look at improving these systems for the future.
“We’re working hard internally, with the 21st SW, and with the Air Force Space Command to prepare for the future,” Wiest said.