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News > Total Force 'RAIDRS' keep high frontier secure
Total Force 'RAIDRS' keep high frontier secure

Posted 1/29/2008   Updated 1/29/2008 Email story   Print story


by Capt. Roy Chandler
16th Space Control Squadron

1/29/2008 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The Air Force's newest, defensive counterspace weapons system, assigned to the 16th Space Control Squadron here, will be in the hands of a 'Total Force' Reserve unit later this year.

The 380th SPCS, a reserve associate unit based at Peterson AFB, Colo., is expected to maintain and operate America's Rapid Attack, Identification, Detection and Reporting System, or 'RAIDRS,' under the direction of the 16th SPCS. In the meantime, an initial cadre of RAIDRS Reservists has been assigned to the 310th Space Group, Detachment 1. This system, in use since July 2005, is designed to detect and locate sources of interference for thousands of warfighter satellite communication links.

According to RAIDRS officials here, the establishment of the 380th SPCS will mark a major milestone in reserve units working side-by-side with their active duty counterparts. The last associate unit in the 21st Space Wing here, the 8th Space Warning Squadron, was transferred in August 2004. The 380th SPCS will be the first RAU to a 21st SW unit since then, and the first-ever associated with a squadron at Peterson.

"People should know this is a critical mission," said Col. Jay Raymond, 21st SW commander. "Both units are on the forefront of defending America's vital satellite network for the warfighter."

Interference to satellite communication, known as 'SATCOM,' is a growing concern in the global war on terror. 

Lt. Col. Michael Assid, 310th SG, Detachment 1 commander, said, "The U.S. military's reliance on commercial SATCOM for operations in Southwest Asia has increased nearly 4,000 percent since Desert Storm."

As a result of increased operations and reliance on satellites, operations have become more susceptible to interference from both intentional and unintentional sources.

"The first documented case of intentional commercial SATCOM interference occurred in 1986. Since that time, numerous groups and nations have demonstrated a capability and willingness to threaten [America's] critical SATCOM links," Colonel Assid said. "Of equal concern to us in the RAIDRS community is the number of unintentional jams that can occur in theater where operators inadvertently tune their equipment to the wrong frequency, effectively jamming communication of other U.S. and coalition forces. This is the job we've been asked to do: find these sources, identify them and report our findings."

Both SPCS units will be jointly responsible for the day-to-day operations of the RAIDRS system at Peterson and, when needed, around the world. And it's the latter where both units are performing this vital mission in Southwest Asia since 2005. Then, when RAIDRS was just a concept, the system demonstrated the ability to track and identify satellite interferences. Combatant commanders in the field were so impressed by the system's capabilities, RAIDRS was kept in the field indefinitely to support the global war on terror.

As RAIDRS remains deployed for the foreseeable future, AFSPC is expected to field three new deployable ground segments as well as a central operating location at Peterson sometime between now and early fiscal year 2009. By FY 2011, the system is expected to include six additional fixed sites located around the world. Crews from the central operating location are expected to operate both the fixed sites as well as deployable segments. Officials expect deployed assets to operate autonomously, with personnel deploying with them depending on the situation.

According to Lt. Col. Edward Allard, 16th SPCS commander, this is what RAIDRS is designed to address.

"[RAIDRS] is a passive monitoring system that allows operators to detect electromagnetic interference, determine the type of jamming [taking place] and then geolocate its source to a small area on the surface of the Earth," he said. "It's this geolocation capability that makes RAIDRS a vital component in achieving our space wing's mantra of space superiority. When we can identify and locate the source of the interference, it allows leadership to determine the right corrective action. It's a great capability, and vital to ensuring our forces have the communications they need, when they need them."

As mission requirements and the need for defensive counterspace systems increase, operating the RAIDRS system relies heavily on both units. The 16th SPCS is expected to retain operational control of the mission and owns the equipment, while the 380th SPCS will provide nearly two-thirds of the required manpower.

"We sometimes say the 16th SPCS owns the mission, but RAIDRS relies heavily on the 380th to execute it," Colonel Allard said. "It's far more accurate to look at the two units as a single entity bringing a critical capability to the combatant commanders."

And Colonel Assid agreed.

"At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what patch is on your uniform. Where 16th and 380th SPCS are concerned, we're one team-one fight."

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