16th SPCS: Defending space at high frequencies
By Dave Smith, 21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer, 21st Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 09, 2017
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – An array of satellite dishes point to strategic locations in space allowing airmen to monitor Super-High Frequency and Ultra-High Frequency signals assisting military units across the globe in fulfilling their missions.
The 16th Space Control Squadron, part of the 21st Operations Group and housed at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, utilizes defensive space control capabilities to assure U.S. space superiority.
The squadron’s motto, “Tutamine Victoria” means “With a strong defense, victory” and speaks to the fact it is the sole defensive space control unit in Air Force Space Command. With that responsibility, the 16th SPCS has a 24 hours a day, seven days a week in-garrison mission and has an additional deployable mission as well.
Scheduling and manning such a detailed mission can be a challenge, said Lt. Col. Thomas Johnson, 16th SPCS commander. To fill its needs, the squadron is augmented by the 380th SPCS, its reserve associate unit.
The 16th SPCS systems provide a near global ability to monitor, detect, characterize, geolocate and report sources of electromagnetic interference on U.S. military and commercial satellites in direct support of combatant commanders, Johnson said.
The UHF Standardized Process for Interference Recognition and Interference Targeting, known as UHF SPIRIT, utilizes antennae locations in the Eastern U.S. and Asia that feed data to the central operating location on Peterson AFB. Johnson said the system is the only near-global UHF EMI detection system in the Department of Defense.
In addition to UHF SPIRIT, the 16th SPCS has two deployable weapons systems. The systems are the RAIDRS Deployable Ground Segment 0 and Bounty Hunter. The systems are deployed in the Middle East as part of Operation Silent Sentry. The RDGS-0 requires an eight person crew and the Bounty Hunter system has a five person crew, who are deployed on six-month rotations.
The systems can “see” and monitor frequencies in the UHF and SHF ranges, said Johnson. Signals are watched and 16th SPCS personnel can zoom in on anomalies to analyze them.
“We can tell if a signal is being interfered with and recommend the user move communications, or whatever (is being attacked),” he said. “If it’s an attack we can attempt to use multiple satellites to geolocate the interference.”
Many types of equipment can cause interference in the frequencies the 16th SPCS monitors. Things like cell phones, cable TV and most wireless devices operate in the UHF range of 300-3,000 megahertz and SHF range pf 3,000-30,000 megahertz.
Besides monitoring the UHF SPIRIT system, the squadron’s facilities on base are used for training and preparing for deployment, said Johnson.
“It’s nice to be able to train pre-deployment in a live radio frequency environment,” he said. “And from here we can also support exercises like Red Flag.”
The capability to monitor potential interference taking place almost anywhere in the world from its location at Peterson AFB, and deployed locations, make the 16th SPCS a critical element in U.S. forces dominating the high ground.