||Histories for HQ Aerospace Defense Command, Ent AFB, Colorado
Brief History of Aerospace Defense Command
The end of World War Two brought with it new challenges and new technology. The German V-1 cruise missile and V-2
ballistic missile demonstrated the possibilities of long-range rockets for warfare and, perhaps, space travel. The frantic scramble for Nazi technology and scientists in the closing days of the war created an air of international competition that foreshadowed the coming Cold War. The western Allies, particularly the United States and United Kingdom, raced to acquire as much
German military technology as possible before the Soviets could take possession of certain areas of Germany. In the end, the cream of Germany's rocket scientists, including Wernher von Braun, fled west to escape the Soviets. Under the auspices of Operation Paperclip, the U.S. quickly "recruited" the Germans to help the fledgling U.S. rocket program. On the other side of the world, U.S. use of the atomic bomb to end the war in the Pacific Theater increased the climate of mistrust and military
competition between the West and the Soviet Union thereby helping to precipitate the Cold War with its nuclear, missile, and space races.
Early Visions of Space Operations
In January 1946, the RAND Corporation (then still part of Douglas Aircraft) published Preliminary Design of an
Experimental World-Circling Spaceship, which discussed the feasibility of launching satellites into orbit for purposes of scientific study, global communication, and observation. This study, along with extensive research using captured German rockets (Projects Bumper and Hermes), laid the early groundwork on which later programs, like Convair's Project MX-774 and von Braun's Project Orbiter, would build.
Throughout the decade after the Soviets detonated their first hydrogen bomb in 1953, U.S. military experts became increasingly concerned with the possibility of a surprise Soviet nuclear attack on the U.S. The small amount of information coming out of the U.S.S.R. seemed to indicate that the Soviets were pressing ahead with development of an intercontinental ballistic missile to deliver their new thermonuclear weapons. The U.S. Atlas and Titan ICBM development programs were proceeding on schedule, but U.S. planners wanted more detailed information on the Soviet program. Soon a number of intelligence gathering
programs (spies, U-2s, etc.) were underway to collect information on the Soviet research and development (R&D) program.
Meanwhile, a lack of firsthand information and the large amount of Soviet disinformation on the subject resulted in the fear in some quarters that the Soviets were indeed capable of delivering a massive, surprise nuclear attack on the U.S.
The Gaither Commission
In 1957, the Eisenhower Administration, created the Gaither Commission to review the state of U.S. civil defense in the event of a Soviet nuclear attack. On its own, the commission broadened its mandate to include the capability of the U.S. military, particularly Strategic Air Command's (SAC) forces, to survive a nuclear attack and still carry out their retaliatory mission. The
findings were not encouraging. According to the report, there seemed little likelihood of SAC's bombers surviving since there was no way to detect an incoming attack until the first warhead landed. This conclusion, along with the concern over the nature and scale of the Soviet development program, led the U.S. to increase its effort in ICBM development and other programs.
At the same time, the world scientific community prepared for the first International Geophysical Year (IGY), 15 July 1957 - 31 December 1958. This worldwide effort engendered a number of scientific endeavors, among them separate attempts by the U.S. and U.S.S.R. to launch the world's first earth-orbiting satellites. President Dwight Eisenhower pledged to make a satellite launch attempt during the IGY. One proposal, Project Orbiter from von Braun's development team at the Army's Redstone Arsenal, involved launching a small satellite on an Army Redstone rocket. In conjunction with this project, the Smithsonian
Institution was developing an optical tracking network to conduct its own research on satellite tracking. However, from the various satellite proposals, the Eisenhower Administration chose Vanguard, an all new, non-military program proposed by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), the U.S. Navy's scientific research agency. The new program did not use a military booster rocket or other hardware. The administration felt that the purely scientific IGY project should have no military ties. The
Soviets said only that they would surpass any U.S. attempt. No one in the West took them too seriously.
The First Space Tracking Stations
In 1957, the NRL constructed a worldwide network of simple radio tracking stations called "Minitrack" to track the new satellite. This system used satellite transmitted radio signals to track Vanguard as it passed over each station. At the same time, the Smithsonian was continuing work on its global network of Baker Nunn cameras intending to use them to track Vanguard. These large telescopic cameras, based on the Schmidt telescope, were designed specifically to provide space object tracking
information on satellites. Additionally, by the summer of 1957, the Institution had recruited hundreds of civilian volunteers for its "Moonwatch" program. These volunteers, mostly amateur astronomers, were to take visual sightings of orbiting objects and telephone in their observations to the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts. These arrangements were thought to be adequate for the task.
While technical problems, politics, and contractor delays pushed the launch date for Vanguard back to December 1957, the Soviets stunned the world on 4 October 1957 with the launch of Sputnik aboard one of their new SS-6 ICBMs. The
unexpected launch seemed to confirm all the worst fears about the nature and progress of the Soviet ICBM program. These concerns contributed to the perception of a Missile Gap between the U.S. and Soviet Union.
The First Satellite
Sputnik immediately demonstrated the woeful inadequacy of Minitrack. Since Sputnik did not transmit on a known radio
frequency, Minitrack could not track it without considerable effort, and once the satellite stopped transmitting, the system could not track it at all. The lack of published orbital parameters severely handicapped the civilian observers of Moonwatch. The Baker Nunn camera network was not yet completed, and the Moonwatch teams became the mainstay of the Sputnik tracking effort. Within a few months, the Baker Nunns came on-line and formed the backbone of the early U.S. spacetrack effort. Nunn camera network was not yet completed, and the Moonwatch teams became the mainstay of the Sputnik tracking effort. Within
a few months, the Baker Nunns came on-line and formed the backbone of the early U.S. spacetrack effort.
In December 1957, the long-awaited Vanguard launch exploded on the pad. The bureaucratic confusion and national embarrassment that surrounded its failure led directly to the formulation of the first unified national space policy and the creation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in July 1958.
In December 1958, DoD's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) set out to correct the tracking difficulties made
obvious by Sputnik. ARPA established a spacetrack network under Project Shepherd, and the Air Research and Development Command (ARDC) assumed the spacetrack mission for the Air Force.
In 1959, the Air Force redefined its overall mission to include the space arena and coined the word aerospace to describe its new mission. At the same time, Air Defense Command (ADC) the primary air defense provider for the CONUS assumed the ballistic missile warning mission. (In January 1968 the name was changed to Aerospace Defense Command (ADC) to reflect the change of mission.) In September 1959, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Arleigh Burke suggested to the JCS the creation of a unified space command to control all DoD space assets and missions. The Army agreed, but the Air Force was
unenthusiastic. Interservice rivalry would continue to keep military space systems under divided command for another twenty-six years.
In late 1959, ARPA opened the 474L System Program Office (SPO), which it tasked to develop techniques and equipment
for tracking space objects and detecting incoming Soviet ICBMs. By the mid-1960s, the 474L SPO had activated three
Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS) radars located at Thule AB, Greenland (1960); Clear AFS, Alaska (1961); and RAF Fylingdales Moor, England (1963). These radars provided the capability to detect an incoming ICBM attack and provide 15 minutes warning. They also provided tracking data on most orbiting satellites. ARDC set up the Interim National Space Surveillance Control Center at Hanscom AFB in January 1960. The Air Force designated ADC the primary user of spacetrack data.
Back in September 1957, the U.S. and Canada had created the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), the first
binational, joint-service military command on the North American continent. This new defense partnership, headquartered at Ent AFB Colorado, was responsible for air defense of the combined airspace of the U.S. and Canada. Air Defense Command was the Air Force component of Continental Air Command (CONAD), the U.S. component of NORAD. In October 1960, NORAD's mission changed with the assumption of operational control of all space defense responsibilities with the formation of the Space Detection and Tracking System (SPADATS). CONAD maintained administrative control of SPADATS.
In 1963, the Air Force began work on the world's first phased array radar, the AN/FPS-85, at Eglin AFB FL. Expected to enter service in 1965, this powerful spacetrack system was designed to provide tracking data on thousands of space objects per day. However, a fire, which destroyed the entire system, and technical problems delayed the system's final acceptance until 1967. The system achieved initial operational capability (IOC) in 1969.
Technological advancement in the late 1950s and early 1960s enabled the U.S. and Soviet Union to develop
submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). To provide timely warning against Soviet SLBMs, the Air Force began work on an interim SLBM detection network consisting of several AN/FSS-7 radars located on the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts.
The network, eventually controlled by the 4783rd Surveillance Squadron of the 14th Aerospace Force, was fully operational by May 1972. By July 1975, the AN/FPS-85 radar at Eglin AFB had been reprogrammed to provide additional SLBM detection and warning capability along with its original spacetrack mission. Seeking to improve and enlarge its SLBM detection capability, the Air Force began the development of a new phased array radar system called AN/FPS-115 PAVE PAWS in August 1973. The first PAVE PAWS at Otis ANGB, MA became operational in April 1980.
The next two operational PAVE PAWS sites were established at Beale AFB, CA and Robins AFB, GA. The fourth site at
Eldorado AFS, TX became operational in May 1987.
Anti-Ballistic Missile Programs
Since the late 1950s, the U.S. military had sought to create an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system to guard against the Soviet missile attack which seemingly loomed on the horizon. Although many systems were designed, only Safeguard ABM reached operational status. The Army closed their only operational Safeguard ABM site near Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota in February 1976 after Congress objected to its high cost and questionable effectiveness. The following year the Air Force acquired the unused advanced phased array radar at the site near Concrete, ND for use in SLBM and ICBM warning. This new radar, the AN/FPQ-16 Perimeter Acquisition Radar Characterization System (PARCS), provided SLBM warning over the Hudson Bay and additional coverage of the central BMEWS area as well as extremely accurate space surveillance data.
Strategic Air Command's Era
In 1979, during a major restructuring effort, administrative control of all space surveillance and missile warning assets were transferred from Air Defense Command to Strategic Air Command. NORAD retained operational control of the missile warning and space surveillance sites. Within a short time, this arrangement, which still left most other space systems scattered
among many different agencies, was found to be unsatisfactory. Studies and proposals during the late 1970s acknowledged the need for a change in organizational perspective. On 11 September 1978, Air Force Secretary John Stetson, at the urging of Under Secretary Hans Mark, had authorized a "Space Missions Organizational Planning Study" to explore options for the future. When published in February 1979, the study had offered five alternatives ranging from continuation of the status quo to creation of an Air Force command for space. In August 1981, Gen. James V. Hartinger, commander in chief of Aerospace Defense Command, met with General Robert T. Marsh, commander of Air Force Systems Command. The two agreed to use the February 1982 "Corona" meeting of senior Air Force leaders to raise the issue of how the Air Force should organize for space operations. As a result of their presentation, Chief of Staff General Lew Allen directed Generals Hartinger and Marsh to prepare a detailed proposal on how to transition toward a command for space operations. The briefing to General Allen and senior Air Staff officials took place on 17 April 1982. General Hartinger presented a plan showing how the Air Force might immediately create a major command for management of space resources on a par with the Strategic Air Command, Tactical Air Command, and Military Airlift Command. That was the turning point. General Hartinger's proposal quickly won General Allen's blessing and, subsequently, went to Air Staff's Space Operations Steering Committee for further refinement. On 21 June, the Air Force officially announced its decision to form Space Command effective 1 September.
A New Command is Born
During activation ceremonies for Space Command on 1 September 1982, General James V. Hartinger declared his pride at having been selected as its first commander. Labeling its establishment "a crucial milestone in the evolution of military space operations," he predicted the new command would "provide the operational pull to go with the technology push which has been the dominant factor in the space world since its inception." The events of 1 September 1982 marked the culmination of a long effort to create a separate military command for space operations. As early as 20 November 1957, Air Force Chief of Staff
General Thomas D. White, had declared that the Air Force "must win the capability to control space." That goal had been realized.
In the years following Air Force Space Command's activation, the command grew quickly. During 1983, Strategic Air Command (SAC) passed to Space Command operational responsibility for a worldwide network of more than twenty-five space surveillance and missile warning sensors. In the early 1980s, the Air Force added a number of space tracking radars to the SPADATS network with the intention of enhancing the tracking capabilities of the system. New radars, comprising the Pacific Barrier (PACBAR) System, were installed at Kwajalein Atoll, the Philippine Islands, and Saipan.
In May 1982, the first three of four Ground-based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System (GEODSS) sites opened at Socorro New Mexico; Maui, Hawaii; and Choe Jong-San, Republic of Korea. The site on the island of Diego Garcia, British India Ocean Territory opened in the late 1980s. These advanced electro-optical telescopic cameras replaced the Baker Nunn cameras in the space tracking mission and provided for deep space tracking and space object identification.
Consolidation of Space Missions
From the outset, most Air Force launch systems and satellites had been controlled by Air Force Systems Command (AFSC) or its predecessor ARDC. (The Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) weather satellites were originally controlled by SAC.) With a primary emphasis on R&D, AFSC was not sufficiently operations oriented to meet the needs of space systems users, the warfighters. After the formation of AFSPC, the new command immediately began to work toward the eventual assumption of the satellite telemetry, tracking, and commanding (TT&C) mission with the start of construction of the
Consolidated Space Operations Center (CSOC) at Falcon AFS Colorado in May 1983. This facility was designed to provide operations centers for all DoD satellite and manned space missions. After opening in September 1985, CSOC's operations facilities gradually took over command and control responsibilities for most Air Force satellites including the NAVSTAR Global Positioning System (GPS), the Defense Satellite Communication System (DSCS), DMSP, the Defense Support Program (DSP), and Milstar. Additionally, AFSPC assumed control of Onizuka AFB California and the numerous worldwide remote tracking stations (RTS) of the Air Force Satellite Control Network (AFSCN). In June 1992, Air Force Satellite Communications (AFSATCOM) was transferred to AFSPC from SAC. In September 1994, the management and engineering function for AFSATCOM moved from Offutt AFB, Nebraska to Headquarters AFSPC.
Although space systems had contributed measurably to U.S. military operations as early as the Vietnam War (via DMSP and various communications satellites), it was not until the 1991 Persian Gulf War that these systems had a major impact on the conduct of the war. AFSPC communications satellites (DSCS II, AFSATCOM, etc.) provided vital intra- and inter-theater communications for U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM), while NAVSTAR GPS satellites provided precise positional information directly to attacking Air Force and Navy aircraft as well as Army and Marine Corps artillery crews allowing pinpoint accuracy in munitions delivery. U.S. ground forces used GPS satellite data to easily navigate the nearly featureless desert landscape -- even at night. AFSPC DMSP weather satellites provided vital data on sand storms, surface winds, and other conditions which affected our troops and air operations. DSP early warning satellites provided the essential first warning
of Iraqi Scud missile attacks on Coalition bases and Saudi and Israeli cities. This vital "heads up" assisted Army Patriot missile batteries in engaging many incoming Scuds. This was truly the "first space war!"
Air Force launch systems had also been under the control of R&D organizations for their entire existence. Like the satellite systems, the space lift systems were less responsive to operational considerations than to other concerns. In its attempt to operationalize the space launch mission, the Air Force transferred control of all operational space lift systems to AFSPC on 1 October 1990. Over the next four years, AFSPC assumed launch responsibility for ATLAS E, Atlas II, Delta II, Titan II, and Titan IV missions from Cape Canaveral AS, Florida and Vandenberg AFB, California. On 1 July 1991, Space Command
gained administrative responsibility for all Air Force astronauts. Air Force Space Command gained Air Force Satellite Communications (AFSATCOM) system management responsibility from SAC on 1 June 1992 and assumed management responsibility for the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization's National Test Facility (NTF) on 10 December 1992.
In the force restructuring that followed the end of the Cold War, the Air Force planners realized that the terms "tactical" and "strategic" had less distinct meanings than ever before. As a result of rethinking the roles of many systems, the Air Force created a new command, Air Combat Command (ACC) in 1992. It assumed control of all combat aircraft from TAC and SAC. SAC's Minuteman and Peacekeeper ICBMs, the only remaining purely strategic Air Force systems, were transferred to AFSPC on 1 July 1993, thus aligning these vital assets with the rest of the Air Force space mission. AFSPC took over the 20th Air Force, six missile wings, and one test and training wing from ACC. All missile warning, space surveillance, and satellite
control units were organized under the 14th Air Force.
In the next few years, the command increasingly focused its attention on operational support to the warfighter, applying lessons learned in the Persian Gulf War and developing new concepts and methods for applying its diverse space assets to battlefield situations. To accomplish this, the command introduced Air Force Space Support Teams (AFSST) which deployed into the theater of operations to work directly with the warfighters to integrate space into real-world operations such as the Bosnian peacekeeping effort of 1995-1996.
Air Force Space Command, however, was not immune to the overall "downsizing" of the U.S. military. While the Milstar satellite communication system entered the command's systems inventory in 1995, force structure cuts led the command to close several space sites including the PAVE PAWS missile sites at Robins AFB and Eldorado AFS and space surveillance assets at Saipan and Choe Jong-San, ROK. The post-Cold War drawdown of the strategic missile force similarly resulted in the inactivation of the 44th and 351st Strategic Missile Wings.
Oct 02 2000 12:09:56:000AM