Follow-on Early Warning System - FEWS

In 1985, the department began planning the Strategic Defense Initiative and decided to develop a new surveillance system because DSP did not provide timely or sufficiently accurate tactical parameters to support the active defensive mission.(1) The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (since redesignated the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization) initiated the Boost Surveillance and Tracking System for this mission. This new system would also support the early warning mission and would replace DSP.

In 1990 and 1991, the SDIO restructured the ballistic missile defense architecture and initiated the Brilliant Pebbles and Brilliant Eyes programs and terminated the BSTS program. The early warning mission was transferred back to the Air Force. Consequently, the Air Force modified the BSTS program by eliminating the requirement for post-boost vehicle tracking and removing the battle management capabilities, and called the new program the Follow-on Early Warning System. In response to Desert Storm, however, more emphasis was placed on reliably detecting tactical ballistic missiles.

One of the advantages of FEWS over DSP was to be its ability to process infrared data on the satellite platform instead of sending all data to the ground for processing. This capability would allow the satellite to send warning messages directly to the tactical user and avoid using the circuitous routing that was necessary during Desert Storm. This capability would also eliminate the need for overseas ground processing centers, which would significantly have reduced manpower requirements.

In the 1993 round of program re-examinations, DoD took into account that the threat has dramatically changed. The Soviet Union no longer exists, and the threat from strategic ballistic missiles is greatly reduced. Tactical ballistic missiles now represent the greatest threat, because they are dim, short-burning and therefore hard to detect, and they are proliferating. FEWS was designed to detect these missiles, but DoD decided the program as configured was unaffordable, and we are in the process of canceling it.

Because of the national security issues at stake in the early warning mission, DoD convened an independent study group, in parallel with the Department's internal review. This study group consisted of members from federally funded research and development centers, and their charter was to examine the issues associated with this mission. This group was chaired by Mr. Robert Everett from the MITRE Corp. and included representatives from the Institute for Defense Analyses, Aerospace Corp., MIT Lincoln Labs and Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab.

The study group examined several alternatives for satisfying the early warning mission. These alternatives included the existing DSP, a lightweight DSP, the current FEWS design, a lightweight FEWS design and a new satellite design developed by the study group. The group recommended that the Department should continue the block-buy of three DSP satellites because of near-term considerations and terminate the FEWS program because it was intertwined with nuclear warfighting and the Strategic Defense Initiative and therefore not responsive to current DoD direction.

It further advised the Department to acquire a better surveillance capability than DSP and that a better system than DSP could be acquired for less cost than DSP and could be available on the FEWS schedule. The Department accepted some of these recommendations and incorporated them into our plan that is represented in the FY 1995 budget request.

This decision to cancel FEWS was represented in the FY 1995 budget request. The new plan is to start a program to replace DSP that will have more modest performance in the area of onboard data processing than FEWS, but have better detection performance than DSP especially against tactical ballistic missiles. The unit cost of this program will be less than DSP, and it will be boosted it into orbit on a medium launch vehicle instead of a Titan IV.

Follow-on Early Warning System (FEWS)(2)

The U.S. Air Force's Follow-on Early Warning System (FEWS) program, a system of satellites and ground stations that will detect and track ballistic missiles during the boost phase of their flight. FEWS is a U.S. Air Force Space & Missile Systems Division program being developed to provide improved tactical warning and attack assessment of global ballistic missiles. The operational system will consist of multiple satellites, fixed ground stations and mobile, survivable ground stations.

The FEWS demonstration/validation program is a 24-month program valued at $240 million per contractor. The Air Force awarded Lockheed one of two dem/val contracts in the summer of 1992.

FEWS is a follow-on to the Defense Support Program constellation of satellites and ground stations. The potential program value is $5 billion. System development, integration and production activities will be centered in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Lockheed Missiles & Space Company, Space Systems Division, Sunnyvale, California -- Prime contractor responsible for design, integration and testing. Hughes Aircraft Co. Electro Optical Systems Division, El Segundo, California -- payload sensor. Honeywell, Clearwater, Florida -- Onboard data processor. McDonnell Douglas, St. Louis, Missouri -- Communications crosslinks. IBM, Boulder, Colorado -- Ground stations. E-Systems, St. Petersburg, Florida -- Satellite-to-ground communication links. SAIC, Los Angeles, California -- Systems analysis.

On 21 July 1992, the Air Force awarded an industry team led by Lockheed Missiles & Space Company a contract to demonstrate technologies required for the Follow-on Early Warning System (FEWS), the country's next-generation, space-based ballistic missile detection and tracking system. The $240 million, 24-month contract required Lockheed to demonstrate and validate technologies that will provide improved tactical warning and attack assessment using satellites and ground stations. The FEWS system development, integration, engineering, and production took place in Sunnyvale, California.(3)

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