AF prepares global missile detection system for launch

AF prepares global missile detection system for launch

BY JOHN BUSH | SPECIAL TO GCN

The Defense Department will maximize its efforts to protect warfighters in the field with the computing and display capabilities of the Space-Based Infrared System Mobile Ground Stations.

Designed specifically to safeguard U.S. and allies' ground forces, the new system will provide real-time graphical displays of incoming short-range missiles.

The first launch of SBIRS satellites is scheduled for next year.

SGI was selected to provide data processing and information display engines for the mobile units. SGI already supplies the computing and graphical display capability for the legacy Joint Tactical Ground Stations (JTAGS), which are the mobile ground units for the Air Force Defense Support Program (DSP), said Daryoush Tehranchi, SGI executive manager for Defense Advanced Programs.

The SBIRS contract includes about $520 million worth of SGI equipment and has a total value of $13.6 billion, Tehranchi said.

The new system's mobile units will consist of upgraded JTAGS; during the transition to SBIRS, the legacy JTAGS will be gradually upgraded to new mobile units that will accept satellite data.

The system's enhanced mobile units will perform data processing online and give real-time displays of missile threats, he said.

Big improvement

The mobile units will be configured with two SGI Origin 3000 servers, one for redundant backup, and three SGI Onyx 3000 graphical data display stations to provide the online processing and real-time visual displays.

The data- and image-processing systems will provide computing and graphics capabilities roughly three to four times that of the the program's current system, Tehranchi said.

For example, the Origin 3000 processors will give the Onyx 3000 visualization systems at least three real-time trajectory points for any detected missile to simplify the task of determining the entry points, Tehranchi said.

The Onyx 3000 and Origin 3000 satisfy the system's global computing requirements of flexibility, modularity, scalability and open-system compatibility.


Col. Michael W. Booen became SBIRS program director last year. Previously he directed the Airborne Laser System program at Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, N.M.
Designed to fit within an 8-by-8-by- 20-foot trailer, the mobile units will also include three 8-foot satellite antennae, as well as enhanced computing and graphical visualization systems. The devices can be easily airlifted anywhere in the world and hauled overland via Humvee, Air Force officials said.

According to the system's mission requirements, the ability to detect missile threats must include both short-range missile conditions as well as a defense capability for suborbital intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The added capabilities of the servers and visualization systems satisfy one of the mission's chief objectives: providing theater command with enough real-time data to detect and track missile launches, as well as provide theater-based interceptor missile systems with the on-time targeting data needed to destroy incoming missile threats, whether ICBM or low- altitude theater-based missiles, SGI officials said.

Similarly, proposed reconnaissance satellite configurations will fulfill the sensing requirements to detect and protect against a dual missile threat.

The system's space-based detection component will be made up of a warning system configured with a variety of infrared satellites in several Earth orbits of different altitudes.

Col. Michael W. Booen is the SBIRS program director at the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base. The program office develops, deploys and maintains satellite surveillance systems for missile defense.

The process of upgrading and implementing the new system will be divided into two programs: SBIRS High and SBIRS Low, said Capt. Colleen Lehnee, Air Force spokeswoman.

SBIRS High, the first to be developed, is scheduled to begin satellite launch in 2002, Air Force officials said.

Half a world in sight

When fully deployed, SBIRS High will include four geostationary satellites and two satellites in highly elliptical orbits.

SBIRS High satellites can scan nearly an entire hemisphere at once, Air Force officials said. The primary focus for SBIRS High is to detect suborbital ICBM missiles and provide an additional detection capability for short-range theater-based missiles.

When finished, the SBIRS Low program will consist of 20 satellites in low Earth orbits. SBIRS Low satellites will track missiles from launch to re-entry, then hand off trajectory tracking data to the upcoming LEO as it passes over the horizon.

LEOs will also relay the required targeting data to missile interceptors such as the Patriot System, which destroyed SCUD missiles in Operation Desert Storm.

Initial launches of SBIRS Low satellites will begin in late 2004, Lehnee said.

The SBIRS High contract represents the largest customer-installed base of Onyx Visual Display systems to date. Once completed, SBIRS High will include 314 Onyx systems and cost $120 million, with a projection of $40 million to $50 million more in future contract expansion, Tehranchi said.

The SBIRS High contract value is to be about $1.8 billion. The SBIRS Low contract will pay for $350 million worth of SGI equipment, with a SBIRS Low contract value of $11.8 billion, he said.

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