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ALERT goes strategic against missiles

Astro News - Feb. 27, 1998

Maj. James D. Thorne
Shield/ALERT Program Manager

It's well known that North American Aerospace Defense Command's mission is to provide early warnings of strategic missile launches such as intercontinental ballistic missiles. But what about the smaller missiles, like SCUDs?

Since 1995, the Air Force has been operating a ground system called Attack and Launch Early Report to Theater to handle these short-range, quick-burning tactical missiles. By fusing data together from a variety of sources, ALERT calculates the best estimate of a tactical missile's path, and immediately sends this information to warfighters in theater units around the globe. For example, ALERT messages can be used to provide warning to targeted theaters, to help Patriot missile crews target incoming tactical missiles, or to guide aircraft to hunt down and kill the missile launchers.

The ALERT system took on a new task Jan. 1, at the direction of United States Space Command, to also provide back-up capability for launch detection messages for strategic missiles warnings at the direction of USSPACECOM. The ALERT team, composed of AFSPC, Space and Missile Systems Center's Space Based Infrared System and GenCorp Aerojet had to adjust their procedures-tracking process to handle the larger missiles. Acquisition and support of the ALERT system and its companion test facility, Shield, are managed out of SMC's SBIRS Program Office. The SBIRS SPO has established a flexible contract for rapid prototyping of new operational capabilities so ALERT can quickly respond to the ever-evolving theater missile threat.

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