Located at the “Top of the World,” the 12th Space Warning Squadron’s location offers a unique and strategic vantage point in the execution of its missile warning, missile defense and space surveillance missions in support of U. S. Strategic Command.
The 12th SWS, one of the 21st Space Wing’s geographically separated units, operates the Upgraded Early Warning Radar 24/7. The radar is maintained by U.S. and Canadian Airmen, and is assisted by a U.S., Danish and Greenlandic contractor force. While the unit is small, the strategic importance and criticality of its mission is not.
As part of the Integrated Tactical Warning and Attack Assessment System, 12th SWS provides the U.S. National Command Authority with early warning of all ICBM and submarine launched ballistic missiles penetrating its coverage area and their probable impact points. NORAD evaluates the integrated sensor information and notifies the national leadership in Ottawa and Washington, D.C., whether or not North America is under attack.
“Time is critical in the execution of our missile warning mission,” said Lt. Col. Jason Resley, 12th SWS commander. “Our crews have under a minute to assess and determine whether they have a valid or anomalous site report and forward our data to the Missile Warning Center.”
The 12th SWS has a secondary mission of providing space surveillance data on man-made objects in space to the Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The 12th SWS set a record last year with more than three million space objects tracked to help the JSpOC maintain space situational awareness. The space surveillance mission includes tracking routine space objects, maneuvering satellites, re-entry assessments and space launches.
“My experience here at 12th SWS and Thule has been fast paced; we have the same responsibilities as all of the other space warning squadrons with about half of the manning,” said Staff Sgt. Andrew Rogers, 12th SWS crew chief. “Also we have tracked more objects this past year, than in 12th SWS’s 50-plus year history.”
The 12th SWS also battles the harsh Arctic environment. When strong winds or an Arctic storm blows through, the members have to sometimes stay in their radar complex for their safety. The complex provides many resources for its members, including a dining facility, fitness center, sleeping quarters and even a small game area. The complex also has its own fire department and medical room in case of emergencies.
Source:: Air Force Space Command