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13th Space Warning Squadron

13th Space Warning Squadron

13th Space Warning Squadron

The 13th Space Warning Squadron is located on Clear Air Force Station, an 11,500-acre subarctic remote installation 80 miles southwest of Fairbanks, Alaska.  The squadron is a geographically separated unit (GSU) of the 21st Space Wing, Peterson Air Force Base, CO.

- Provides combat capabilities through missile warning and space surveillance for NORAD, USNORTHCOM, and USSTRATCOM.

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.  Additionally, the 13th Space Warning Squadron operates Cobra Dane, North America’s first line of defense against missile attacks over the Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea. 

The 13th SWS accomplishes these missions using the AN/FPS-123 Solid State Phased Array Radar System (SSPARS) located at Clear Air Force Station, AK and the AN/FPS-108 Phased Array Radar (COBRA DANE) located at Eareckson Air Station on Shemya Island, AK.


The SSPARS radar is housed in a triangular-shaped 11 story building with two radiating faces of 1,792 active elements each.  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.  It has two faces which together form a coverage area 240 degrees wide and 3,000 miles deep into space.  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.


COBRA DANE is a 120 foot tall single-face phased array radar with a 136 degree coverage area.  The radar supports USSTRATCOM’s Ballistic Missile Defense mission by providing midcourse coverage for the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS).  It can detect sea and land based ICBMs, classified reentry vehicles and other missile objects, providing real-time information to Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) Fire Control (GFC).  The highly accurate phased array radar is also capable tracking some of the smallest objects in earth orbit and is a significant contributor to the satellite catalog.    


There are approximately 330 people directly supporting the 13 SWS mission including Active Duty military, Alaska Air National Guardsmen, Royal Canadian Air Force personnel, DoD civilians and contractors.   

BMEWS operations began at Clear Air Force Station in 1961 as the 2nd Detachment (Det 2) 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.  In 2001, SSPARS became operational on Clear AFS as the last BMEWS site was deactivated. 


The COBRA DANE system was fielded in 1976 and operated by the 16th Surveillance Squadron which became the 16th Space Surveillance Squadron in 1991.  In April 2013, COBRA DANE became part of the 13th Space Warning Squadron as Operating Location-COBRA DANE (OL-CD).