The United States Air Force (USAF) has named the first location for its forthcoming replacement Air Force Space Surveillance System (AFSS), more popularly known as the ‘Space Fence’ cosmic debris tracking capability.
The new AFSS replaces the legacy architecture. It will use a network of radars to monitor objects which could pose a hazard to space navigation. On 28th September the USAF revealed that the first radar will be constructed on Kwajalein Island, part of the Republic of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean.
As reported in the May edition of ChainHomeHigh, the new AFSS architecture will utilise S-band radars to provide a sharper resolution to the current AFSS network of radars. Presently the AFSS uses three VHF transmitting systems based in Texas, Arizona and Alabama. Receiving elements are based in California, New Mexico, Arkansas, Mississippi and Georgia.
Crucially, the new radars will be able to see small-size debris which escapes the gaze of the legacy system. As a means of comparison, the legacy AFSS is said to be capable of tracking around 20,000 objects, whereas the new system will track up to 200,000. It will detect objects the size of a tennis ball at a range of 1,930km (1,042nm).
Currently, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon are completing an 18-month Space Fence Preliminary Design contract each worth €83 million ($107 million) awarded to the firms in January 2011. This award eliminated Northrop Grumman which had been nominated, along with the two companies mentioned above, in June 2009 to provide the ‘Phase A’ AFSS development in June 2009 under the terms of a contract worth €23 million ($30 million) to each firm.
Either Raytheon or Lockheed Martin will be selected by the end of the year to develop the full AFSS replacement architecture. This is expected to be declared operational by 2017. The full value of the forthcoming Space Fence contract is earmarked at €2.7 billion ($3.5 billion).
Lockheed Martin announced on 13th September that it had performed a successful test of a MIM-104F PAC-3 (Patriot Advanced Capability-3) surface-to-air missile.
During the test, two PAC-3 rounds were launched, during which one intercepted the target, with the second performing a planned self-destruct.
The test took place at the US Army’s White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.
Raytheon has netted a contract worth €96 million ($125 million) to upgrade the United States’ Air Force AN/FPS-115 PAVE PAWS ground-based early warning radar located at Clear Air Force Station, Alaska which is operated by the 13th Space Warning Squadron.
The low-frequency AN/FPS-115 radar provides space surveillance to detect incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles heading for Canada and the Continental United States. It provides track assessments to this end to US Strategic Command (US STRATCOM) Headquarters at Offut Air Force Base, Nebraska. The AN/FPS-115 based at Clear is one of two other similar radars located at Cape Cod Air Force Station, Massachusetts, operated by the 6th Space Warning Squadron; and the 7th Space Warning Squadron-operated radar at Beale Air Force Station, California. Both these radars also send data to US STRATCOM.
The site at Alaska provides coverage over the Arctic and north Pacific Oceans. The Beale site provides coverage over the Pacific coast while the site at Cape Cod covers the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.
The upgrade will allow the radar at Clear to send targeting information to ground-based missile defence systems. Raytheon will upgrade this radar with new software and electronics, with the upgrade scheduled for completion in 2017.
ChainHomeHigh reported in February that the USAF was expected to launch the upgrade of the AN/FPS-115 system, together with the service’s Perimeter Acquisition Radar Attack Characterisation System and the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System.
Raytheon has commenced deliveries of its ADM-160J Miniature Air-Launched Decoy-Jamming (MALD-J) radar jamming system to the United States Air Force and United States Navy, following the declaration of its initial operating capability in late July.
So far, 48 ADM-160Js have been constructed with another 96 due to complete production by the end of the year.
The baseline ADM-160B MALD is launched around 920km (496nm) miles ahead of a strike package of aircraft and loiters over the area where the attack will take place for around 50 minutes.
When loitering, the MALD emits a radar signature that can mimic either a small, medium or large aircraft, the goal being to fool ground-based air defences into targeting the decoy, rather individual aircraft.
Raytheon commenced production of the ‘vanilla’ ADM-160B MALD in 2003, and since 2009 has delivered around 500 examples. Low rate initial production of the ADM-160J MALD-J commenced in November 2011; with a €3.9 million ($5 million) contract option to procure the last lot of MALD decoys as MALD-J systems being exercised to this end.
Raytheon has since been awarded a contract worth €64 million ($82 million) to produce 200 ADM-160J MALD-J examples.
The crucial difference between the ADM-160B and ADM-160J is that, while the MALD mimics the radar signature of a particular-sized aircraft, the MALD-J includes a jamming function for hostile radars.