12th Space Warning Squadron [12th SWS]
The 12th Space Warning Squadron, Thule Air Base, Greenland-the northernmost U.S. base-provides tactical warning and attack assessment of ballistic missile attacks against the United States and Canada. The squadron is a geographically separated unit of the 21st Space Wing, Peterson Air Force Base, CO.
The 12th Space Warning Squadron is the host unit for Thule AB and is one of five ground-based radar systems providing space warning for the 21st Space Wing, Peterson AFB, CO.
The squadron provides attack warning and assessments of sea-launched and intercontinental ballistic missiles. It passes that information to the North American Aerospace Defense Command missile warning center, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, CO. The squadron is also responsible for a portion of the Air Force Space Command space surveillance program and assists in tracking nearly 9,500 objects now in Earth's orbit.
Additionally, as the installation commander for Thule Air Base, he is responsible for operation of the airfield and deep seaport, and providing total base support for more than 1,000 year-round residents of the base.
The unit is a vital portion of the ballistic missile early warning system operation, which includes the 13th Space Warning Squadron, Clear Air Force Station, AK, and the Royal Air Force Station at Fylingdales-Moor in the United Kingdom.
The 12th SWS is tasked with:
- Providing tactical warning and attack assessments of sea-launched and intercontinental ballistic missile attacks;
- Forwarding that information to the United States and Canadian Command Authorities;
- Assisting in tracking nearly 8,000 objects in orbit around Earth;
- Operating a 10,000-foot runway and associated airfield; the only airfield in northern Greenland capable of supporting jet aircraft
- Operating the world's northernmost deep-water port;
- Providing logistics resupply operations support for smaller military sites both in Greenland and northern Canada, as well as support for several arctic scientific studies; and
- Managing and operating the AN/FPS-120 solid-state phased array radar.
Because of its location in the arctic, the 12th SWS base is completely self-sufficient, with its own electric and steam plants, and water filtration and pumping system. There are two large petroleum tank farms, capable of holding large fuel reserves, that allow the base to operate without resupply for an extended period. The unit maintains 65 miles of roads, which connects it to several locations necessary to support the mission.
The origin of the 12th SWS goes back to the establishment of the Ballistic Missile Early Warning Site in 1961. Throughout the years, several commands were responsible for the base, including Northeast Air Command, Air Defense Command and Strategic Air Command.
The unit was first designated as the 12th Missile Warning Squadron and later became the 12th Missile Warning Group. Air Force Space Command took control of Thule in 1983 and the unit was redesignated as the 12th SWS in 1992.
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