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Space control Airmen ensure constant communication
by Staff Writers
Peterson AFB CO (SPX) Sep 18, 2014

Airmen from the 16th Space Control Squadron perform maintenance on a satellite communication antenna at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Sept. 3, 2014. Image courtesy U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Krystal Ardrey.

Air Force Space Command's 16th Space Control Squadron in partnership with the Air Force Reserve Command's 380th SPCS is responsible for ensuring the Defense Department has uninterrupted global satellite communications.

Located at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., two squadrons are responsible for operating space control capabilities to rapidly achieve flexible and versatile space superiority in support of theater campaigns and U.S. Strategic Command's space superiority mission.

To accomplish this, Airmen operate a variety of antennas deployed globally to detect, characterize, geo-locate and report sources of radio frequency interference on Defense Department and commercial satellites supporting combatant commanders.

"Adversaries are always increasing their abilities, and they've identified that communication is one of our primary keys to being successful as a military organization," said Capt. Andrew Buck, 380th SPCS, responsible for both 16th SPCS and 380th SPCS operational training. "They are working on depriving and degrading our abilities to actually use satellite communication."

"Geo-location is math intensive; it requires both science and art. Where we can, we use technology to do the math, so our operators can focus on the art of characterizing and finding the right needle in what can sometimes be a very large haystack," said Lt. Col. Mark Guerber, 16th SPCS commander.

"It's our mission to develop response options by using our front row seat to track what adversaries are doing to our signals, locate their assets, and try to help friendly forces reconfigure to mitigate hostile effects. We want to figure out an adversary's playbook, so we can better help out those who depend on satellite communications, including command and control nodes, naval users, mobile ground units, and our assets in the air," Buck added.

"Here at the 16th we are responsible for protecting ultra-high frequency spectrum satellites in a geosynchronous orbit, which are approximately 22,000 miles out in space," said Tech. Sgt. Dustin Bingham, 16th SPCS, operations training non-commissioned officer.

"We continuously monitor friendly signals. As we detect interference, we analyze it to determine a specific profile using parameters such as size, technique, and sophistication. If necessary, we locate any unauthorized users and refer them to command and control centers like the Joint Space Operations Center or a theater Combined Air Operations Center for diplomatic resolution or engagement.

"We have a central operating location here at Peterson with two remote sites, one on the east coast and the other in Asia," Bingham added. "With these sites we have near-global coverage of the UHF spectrum, which provides the ability to monitor just about any UHF signal out there."

Not all interference is caused by an enemy; some is from environmental factors such as sunspots or atmospheric disturbances. Friendly U.S., allied, or commercial communication signals can also be another big source of interference.

"Because we can determine the source of interference, we're a great asset for resolving signal 'fratricide'. Many times, we can tell a fellow Airman, Soldier, or Sailor the exact parameters needed to check to restore communications. We bring a unique ability to help the message get through," Buck said.

"Legacy satellite communications platforms are just the beginning, as the internet expands to include space based networks, I have no doubt, we'll be on the cutting edge of helping protect and deter attacks against those assets as well," Guerber added.


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