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Product center finishes $250 million comm program

by 1st Lt. Stephen Fox
Electronic Systems Center Public Affairs

12/8/2005 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. (AFPN) -- The Global Information Grid Systems Group installed an emergency communications system at Minot Air Force Base, N.D, the last of 50 identical systems of a more than $250 million program.

The Minuteman Minimum Essential Emergency Communications Network Program -- which began more than seven years ago -- replaces Legacy Emergency Communication Systems at 20th Air Force Minuteman III launch control centers. There are also centers at Malmstrom AFB, Mont., and F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo.

The systems are designed to receive emergency action messages from the National Command Authority in the event of a nuclear strike against the United States.

"This upgraded system is a vital link between the NCA -- the president and defense secretary -- and the Minuteman III missile crews in the field," said Lt. Col. Bryan Bagley, director of the emergency communications. "It provides the warfighter a communications system that is faster, more secure and dependable than before."

The new system replaces one with outdated components that were pieced together, not optimally located and certainly not integrated, said 1st Lt. John Gould, program manager.

The new system provides a single interoperable terminal with reliable, redundant and secure radio and MILSTAR satellite communication links to Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile forces. It replaces 1970-ere radio links with an extra high frequency satellite radio. It also upgraded the very low frequency radio links.

The new system was designed to function even in the case of an electromagnetic pulse and radiation following a nuclear blast, Lieutenant Gould said.

"A nuclear strike could knock out nearly all forms of conventional communication. Radio, telephone, Internet and satellite communications would all be affected," the lieutenant said. "It's imperative that links from the National Command Authority to the warfighter not be broken.

“This program ensures that important link is maintained," he said.

Each installation was completed in two phases. The first phase, the above-ground equipment at missile alert facilities, included an EHF antenna encased in a 40,000-pound reinforced steel shelter on top of a 60,000-pound concrete foundation. The second phase replaced cables to the existing VLF antenna and the communications equipment in the underground launch control center.

The new system is more robust than the previous system, Lieutenant Gould said.

"The EHF communications network, with a topside antenna encased in a steel shelter, is designed to withstand a nearby nuclear blast," the lieutenant said. "The VLF network, with its antenna buried underground, can survive a direct nuclear strike."

The reliability of the new system far exceeds the Air Force standard. The EHF radio is nearly 300 percent more reliable than the accepted standard. The VLF network exceeds the bar by more than 2,200 percent, Lieutenant Gould said.

The program also fielded 31 systems in training facilities and five in test facilities. Work is underway on a $50 million contract to provide system spares and depot maintenance and repair through at least 2010.

"This program has ensured the United States' ability to rapidly respond to strategic threats for years to come," Colonel Bagley said. "I am very proud to be a part of this team whose dedication, hard work and professionalism over the last seven years ensured the successful delivery of combat capability to the field."

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