SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
The 4th Space Operations Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado made first contact with the Advanced Extremely High Frequency Four satellite minutes after its launch Oct. 17.
United Launch Alliance used an Atlas V 551 rocket to launch the AEHF-4 communications satellite for the U.S. Air Force from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
Lt. Col. Armon Lansing, 4th SOPS commander, said the spacecraft will provide some new capabilities.
“Many of the space systems we have are ageing and this launch provides some new capabilities as far as security and increasing bandwidth for our strategic and tactical users,” he said.
This is the fourth spacecraft in the new system of protected satellite communication systems and ninth in the group of protected satellites.
The system is a joint-service satellite communications system, providing survivable, global, secure, protected and jam-resistant communications for high-priority military ground, sea and air assets.
“This particular space craft, being AEHF, is primarily designed for the strategic fight, supporting missile defense and presidential communications,” Lansing said. “However, with the upgrade and additional capabilities, it also provides some links for our tactical users as well. There are more tactical users looking into and desiring this capability to be able to ensure their communications get through.”
The first three AEHF satellites were successfully launched in 2010, 2012 and 2013 as the new constellation was formed in geosynchronous orbit 22,300 miles above Earth to build up and eventually succeed the legacy Milstar fleet. One AEHF satellite has greater capacity than the entire five-satellite Milstar constellation.
This jam-resistant system also serves international partners including Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
First Lieutenant Andrew Donlin, Space and Missile Systems Center business operations director for the AEHF-4 space segment, said the collaborative work of allied countries in the space realm is paramount.
“Going forward, for the future of space operations, it is really important we work with our allies to provide capabilities to the warfighter,” he said.
The entire project’s production was an international affair, with parts constructed from Los Angeles, California to as far as Zurich Switzerland.
Second Lieutenant Johnathan Desimone, SMC project officer with the AEHF program office said the work of the production and launch teams is a great achievement.
“Today was a monumental occasion,” he said. “We are all extremely proud and happy to be part of team.”
The Air Force will continue to expand the AEHF constellation to meet the demands of the Defense Department and the warfighter. AEHF-5 is projected to launch in the summer of 2019 and AEHF-6 in 2020.