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Posted 8/16/2012 Printable Fact Sheet
13th SWS
13th Space Warning Squadron
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The 13th Space Warning Squadron, Clear Air Force Station, Alaska, provides space situation awareness and tactical warning of ballistic missile attacks against the United States and Canada as part of the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System. The squadron is a geographically separated unit of the 21st Space Wing, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. 

THE 13th SWS...

Detects sea-launched or intercontinental ballistic missiles, and determines the potential number and probable destination of missile attacks. Supports the space surveillance network by providing space surveillance data, tracking, reporting, and space object identification. Maintains and operates a Pave Phased Array Warning System radar. 


The 13th Space Warning Squadron provides early warning of sea-launched and intercontinental ballistic missiles to the North American Aerospace Defense Command's Missile Correlation Center located at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Colo. It also provides space surveillance data on orbiting objects to the United States Strategic Command's Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. 


The 13th SWS accomplishes these missions using the AN/FPS-123, Solid State Phased Array Radar System. The radar is housed in a triangular-shaped 11 story building with two radiating faces of 1,792 active elements each, and is located on Clear Air Force Station, an 11,500-acre subartic remote installation 85 miles southwest of Fairbanks, Alaska. The radar, originally located at El Dorado Air Station, Texas, was part of the Pave PAWS program and was moved to Alaska to replace the United States' last mechanical missile warning radar in 2001. 

The radar system has two faces which together form a coverage area 240 degrees wide and 3,000 miles deep into space. The coverage extends from the Arctic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and the west coast of the United States. Along with Pave PAWS radar sites at Cape Cod Air Force Station, Mass., and Beale Air Force Base, Calif., the Perimeter Acquisition Radar Characterization System radar site at Cavalier Air Force Station, N.D., and the BMEWS radar sites at Thule Air Base, Greenland, and Royal Air Force Fylingdales in the United Kingdom, the 13th SWS provides continual ground-based missile warning to defend the United States and Canada.
The remarkable capabilities of this weapon system are also useful to track near-earth satellites. The data generated ensures the United States is able to accurately catalog more than 16,000 objects in orbit. This allows manned orbital vehicles, like the Space Shuttle and International Space Station, to avoid harm and to closely monitor objects re-entering the atmosphere, which could impact populated areas. 

BMEWS operations began at Clear Air Force Station in 1961 as the 2nd Detachment of the 71st Missile Warning Wing. On Jan. 1, 1967, Det 2 became the 13th Missile Warning Squadron. In 1992, the squadron was renamed to the 13th Space Warning Squadron.

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