December 7, 2015 – In the midst of the Cold War, the United States realized the importance of being able to better detect incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles in order to take defensive measures. Years of ingenuity and development created the Defense Support Program, which uses infrared to detect missile launches. This program, established 45 years ago, plays an integral role in defending the nation and its allies against enemies who possess the capability to launch a variety of missile platforms.
Colorado is host to the nation’s premier military installation that provides space-based missile warning capabilities. Approximately 8,000 infrared events are detected and addressed each year, all from spacecraft connected to Colorado, providing safety and security to billions of people around the world. For more than four decades, this state has been a pillar to national defense and because of this, John W. Hickenlooper, Governor of the State of Colorado, proclaimed that December 4 will forever be Space-based Missile Warning Day in the State of Colorado.
In honor of the day, Buckley AFB held a ceremony to commemorate the newly proclaimed day in Colorado. Dozens of distinguished guests and community leaders gathered to celebrate the importance of the mission and honor those who are involved in its success. Among the visitors was Su Ryden, State House Representatives legislator district 36, who read and presented the official proclamation to Col. John Wagner, 460th Space Wing commander.
“Colorado is proud to be a leader in providing space-based missile warning, which has a far-reaching utility and whose multi-use services are critical to national and global security,” said Ryden.
Our Air Force’s space-based missile warning program has a robust history stemming from the 1960s through the present. As these programs have evolved over the decades, their continued presence demonstrates their necessity to ensuring our national defense, stated Wagner.
“Today is a day to highlight the capability of DSP and the current and future contributions of the Space-based Infrared System, which is the follow-on capability to the highly successful DSP, that helps maximize communication in support of national security,” Wagner said. “As the SBIRS program continues to advance, new mission opportunities are underway, including support civil agencies, in order to enhance their respective missions such as U.S. Forest Services with early forest fire detection.
Wagner, along with Col. Michael Jackson, 460th Space Wing Operations Group commander, and Col. Thomas Mckenna, 233rd Space Group commander, spoke on the importance space-based missile warning plays in combating evolving global threats.
“The only system in existence that can see it and do anything about it is hosted right here at Buckley Air Force Base,” Jackson said, as he pointed to a chart that illuminated dozens of countries that have the capability to launch missiles against the U.S. and its allies.
During his presentation, Jackson also highlighted how DSP has changed how the nation reacts to the threat of ICBMs.
The U.S. understands the importance of the information that these satellites provide for the defense of the nation and has invested more than 50 billion dollars towards the construction, maintenance and appropriate manning needed to operate these satellites.
“The most important part of the mission, however, is the operators,” Jackson said. “Without innovative Airmen and without the ability to critically think through problem sets and identify how to overcome the next challenge, all we’re doing is buying stuff. I will give every capability we have to anyone of our adversaries and let them try to do it as well as our Airmen. I’ll dare them.”