America’s Premier Space Wing Completes SBIRS Baseline Constellation

February 1, 2018 – “Nobody does what we do; other organizations and nations perform missile warning to some degree, but only the 460th Operations Group does so on a global scale every second of every single day,” said Capt. Ryan Griggs, 2nd Space Warning Squadron assistant director of operations.

It’s no secret that the U.S. Air Force and the 460th Space Wing remain superior in global missile warning surveillance. Watching for heat signatures anywhere on the planet, these Airmen are responsible for detecting missile activity and warning both tactical and national-level decision makers of imminent threats.

On January 19, 2018, the U.S. Air Force Space Command, with help from partner agencies, launched the fourth Geosynchronous Satellite of the Space-Based Infrared System on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket to ensure the United States’ abilities remain unmatched.

“This launch completed the baseline SBIRS constellation – Block 10 ground system, four GEO vehicles, and two Highly Elliptical Orbit payloads,” stated 1st Lt. Andrew R. Bathurst, 2nd SWS SBIRS Launch & Early On-Orbit Test operations lead. “This will allow the 460th OG to begin replacing the aging Defense Support Program constellation and allow SBIRS operators to collect on dimmer targets at a higher revisit rate.”

Team Buckley and AFSPC made an extreme effort in the completion of the SBIRS constellation. While the first two launches were in May 2011 and March 2013, the third and fourth launches were successfully launched within a year’s time.

“It has been an absolutely massive undertaking to launch two GEO satellites in one year,” stated Bathurst. “Throughout the history of the DSP and SBIRS programs, it has been very rare to have such a high-tempo launch schedule. A dedicated team of Airmen and contractor personnel worked tirelessly for the last two years to make this endeavor a success.”

The improved sensor flexibility and sensitivity of the newest SBIRS assets will enable the 460th Space Wing to provide enhanced missile warning to keep U.S. warfighters, the American people and our allies safe. Additionally, the United States will have a significantly enhanced ability to support the battlespace awareness and technical intelligence mission areas.

Two additional satellites, GEO-5 and GEO-6, are expected to launch sometime in the early 2020s to further enhance the 460th Space Wing’s capabilities.