By Staff Sgt. Matthew Coleman-Foster
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
SCHREVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Milstar formerly known as the Military Strategic and Tactical Relay, launched February 7, 1994, has reached twenty-five years’ of service.
Milstar is responsible for providing the president, secretary of defense and the U.S. armed forces with reliable satellite communications, ensuring minimal interception or detection.
Designed to overcome enemy jamming and nuclear effects, Milstar is a robust and reliable communication system.
Throughout the 25 years it has been in place, the Milstar program has seen a lot of changes.
John Rogers, military satellite communications programs site manager, said it is remarkable Milstar is still serving the warfighter.
“From a 4th Space Operations Squadron perspective, we are amazed at the longevity of this satellite,” Rogers said. “Milstar had a design life of ten years, the satellite has lasted two and a half times its design life — a truly impressive accomplishment.”
He went on to add that 4th SOPS is not only proud of the designers and builders of the satellite, but also of the men and women in 4th SOPS who have operated and sustained the satellite.
“This milestone speaks to the ingenuity and resiliency of AFSPC and the AF as a whole,” said 2nd Lt. Joseph Craig, 4th SOPS wideband global satellite communications engineering officer. “The ability to extend the life of any program by over a decade shows how well-managed resources can be in AFSPC and the wider AF.”
According to Rogers, the program has seen some changes in its many years.
“After the Cold War ended, the military restructured the Milstar program in 1992, removing some of the capabilities which were no longer needed and adding new capabilities that would be needed in the post-Cold War environment,” he said. “Milstar Flights three, four, five and six are all Block II Milstar satellites which incorporate these changes. The follow-on program to Milstar, the Avanced Extremely High Frequency satellite program, leveraged Milstar capabilities, lessons learned and incorporated newer technology to provide the warfighters even more capabilities.”
Today, the Milstar and AEHF programs work together as a single entity. Through the years, 4th SOPS has streamlined Milstar operations, adding automation and enhanced ground system capabilities.
In spite of this, the program has persevered thanks to the durability of the system and the diligence of the personnel who man it.
Second Lt. Andrew Sweeten, 4th SOPS orbital analyst, said Milsatcom capabilities continue to grow and strengthen. Most of the Milstar satellites have a lot of life left in them, but the AEHF is the new program to supplement Milstar.
“All Milstar vehicles have long since launched, but the successor to the program, AEHF, still has a few upcoming launches,” he said. “The fourth satellite of this new family recently launched Oct. 16th, 2018. The fifth vehicle is tentatively scheduled to launch June 27th, 2019, with the sixth launching within the following year.”
Milstar successfully helps executes todays operations around the world with 4th SOPS working communication satellites, Milstar is key to directly supporting the warfighter.