Space-Based Theater Warning System
Working with the U.S. Air Force to further develop the Central Tactical Processing Program, Aerojet developed the ALERT (Attack and Launch Early Reporting to Theater) system to provide the warfighter immediate access to critical information and enhanced space support. ALERT is a ground-based processing station using satellite data to provide improved detection, identification and tracking of ballistic missiles in support of theater missile defense. In addition to providing early warning to areas under attack, ALERT provides more accurate locations for targeting launch systems or cueing radars associated with interceptors.
ALERT is operated by the 11th Space Warning Squadron at Falcon Air Force Base in Colorado on a 24-hour basis, and is supported by Aerojet's Azusa and Colorado Springs facilities. Currently using Defense Support Program (DSP) satellites, ALERT will perform the same real-time tactical applications for future space-based sensor systems. The heart of ALERT is the Central Tactical Processing Element (CTPE) located in the National Test Facility on Schriever Air Force Base, CO. The CTPE is composed of commercial-off-the-shelf telemetry hardware and Onyx computers processing data from all DSP satellites simultaneously and performing multiple sensor tracking of tactical ballistic missiles. Although tactical missiles take only a few minutes to hit a target, ALERT processors crunch 1.5 billion operations per second and give warfighters enough time to detect and shoot down the missiles.
Despite the success of Defense Support Program satellites detecting every SCUD missile during Operation Desert Storm, there remained a need to provide more timely and accurate information. The technology available was accurate enough, as each SCUD missile launched by Iraq was detected by DSP satellites, but wasn't intended for theater use. Commanders in Saudi Arabia needed information quicker, and with more precise targeting information for anti-missile batteries, such as the Patriot.
To meet that need, the Air Force set up a research and development program called TALON SHIELD. The program was tasked to improve and enhance sensor processing from DSP spacecraft to optimize space-based warning support for theater commanders. The first fruits of that study is the ALERT system. ALERT uses improved satellite data processing equipment and programs to speed up identifying when missiles anywhere in the world are launched. Improvements to the system have speeded up this critical aspect of war fighting ten-fold.
ALERT is a solution to improving and enhancing sensor processing from DSP spacecraft to optimize space-based warning support for theater commanders. ALERT not only enhances the tactical application of Air Force Space Command's warning capabilities using improved DSP sensor data processing to support theater missile defense responsibilities, it also corrects space operations deficiencies identified during Desert Storm.
Since ALERT can focus specifically on all areas of the world, instead of the localized focus provided by each of the Air Force Space Command's DSP satellites, it provides the edge theater commanders need to protect the people under their command. ALERT enhances the tactical application of Air Force Space Command's warning capabilities using improved DSP sensor data processing in order to support theater missile defense responsibilities and, in the process, correct space operations deficiencies identified during Desert Storm. As a dedicated theater warning system, ALERT reduces DSP data thresholds without modifying the spacecraft sensors.
Central Tactical Processing Element Components
- Custom real-time software
- Commercial off-the-shelf telemetry hardware
- Silicon Graphics Onyx computers
- Tactical Ballistic Missile launch detection and reporting
- Slow Walker threat detection and reporting
- Situation awareness support
Theater Missile Defense Support
- Attack operation
- Active defense
- Passive defense
ALERT System Benefits
- True N-Source tracking
- Integrates Defense Support Program and other systems' data
- Cost effective evolution to support future surveillance systems
- ALERT Space-Based Theater Warning System
- ALERT goes strategic against missiles Astro News - Feb. 27, 1998 Maj. James D. Thorne Shield/ALERT Program Manager -- Since 1995, the Air Force has been operating a ground system called Attack and Launch Early Report to Theater to handle short-range, quick-burning tactical missiles, fusing data together from a variety of sources. The ALERT system took on a new task Jan. 1 to also provide back-up capability for launch detection messages for strategic missiles warnings.
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