Air Force adds sixth satellite to Milstar

The Air Force recently launched its sixth and final Military Strategic and Tactical Relay satellite to improve communications and situational awareness for warfighters in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Milstar constellation, as it is commonly called, has played a critical role in Iraq in helping Special Operations forces transmit voice, video, data and imagery as they sought and rescued Pfc. Jessica Lynch, a prisoner of war.

Milstar is a joint satellite system that provides secure, jam-resistant, global communications for high-priority military users.

The $800 million Milstar satellite, launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on April 8 from a Titan IV-B rocket, will become fully operational in May. Lockheed Martin Corp. built all of the Milstar satellites.

'This satellite system is a critical communication asset for each branch of the military,' said Lt. Col. Tony Cotton, 3rd Space Launch Squadron commander and Air Force launch director for the Milstar mission. 'It allows our highest-level military leaders to communicate with battlefield commanders. Our secure communication capabilities on and off the battlefield are greatly improved with the use of this satellite constellation.'

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