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3rd SOPS Makes Historic WGS Transition

The satellite transfer from SMC to 3rd SOPS provided the squadron and Schriever a new milestone in satellite operations.
by Staff Writers
Schriever AFB CO (SPX) Apr 21, 2008
At approximately 11:31 a.m. April 11, a historic transfer was made on the 3rd Space Operations Squadron's ops floor. The squadron, known for its Defense Satellite Communications System Phase III satellite operations, is now at the helm operating a brand new satellite.

Brig. Gen. Jay Santee, 14th Air Force vice commander, Air Forces Strategic-Space at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., approved the transfer of the Wideband Global SATCOM satellite system from the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles AFB, Calif., to 3rd SOPS.

Members of 3rd SOPS gathered around Lt. Col. Brent McArthur, commander of 3rd SOPS, as he took part in a teleconference between General Santee and Brig. Gen. Susan Mashiko, commander of Military Satellite Communications Systems Wing at L.A. AFB, for the historic transition.

"We've got it," Colonel McArthur said as the ops floor filled with applause.

Colonel McArthur then engaged his squadron and explained the importance of the transfer for 3rd SOPS.

"When we're flying ten satellites and one of them is the most powerful communications satellite in our constellation, that's a big deal," Colonel McArthur said.

Despite the transfer taking less than five minutes on the phone, years of preparation was involved in making the transition seamless.

"This satellite culminates over eight years of preparation, research, development and deployment," said Lt. Col. Tracy Patton, director of operations for 3rd SOPS. "Having worked this program for three years, I can tell you it's an incredible, historical time to be involved in military space communications."

The satellite transfer from SMC to 3rd SOPS provided the squadron and Schriever a new milestone in satellite operations.

"This is the squadron's first new satellite system in 25 years," Colonel Patton said. "In October 1982, the very first DSCS satellite was launched. Now almost 25 years later, the squadron is getting its next generation satellite."

The WGS satellite is also the wing's first new satellite in 13 years, the last being MILSTAR, he said.

WGS provides the warfighter advanced combat effects with bandwidth capability greater than the entire nine satellite DSCS constellation combined. If a fighter pilot were to download images of a potential target, WGS would allow real time imagery.

"Rather than waiting 20 minutes to download imagery, it will happen in 20 seconds," Colonel Patton said.

The transfer for 3rd SOPS did not come easily though. The squadron prepared for the transfer with three months of additional intensive training for the floor crew. In addition, 3rd SOPS played an important role in the development process. The squadron worked with the ground system contractor to build, test, validate and deploy more than 4,000 pages of software code which enables the ground system to command and control the satellite.

"Our involvement was critical because no one knows this system better than our operators," Colonel Patton said. "Without the expertise of our operators and engineers, this satellite would not be in orbit today."

The satellite, which was launched Oct. 10, 2007 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., is the first of six WGS satellites to become operational.

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