An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

HomeNewsroomNewsArticle Display

Article - Article View

Cape Cod Air Force Station Maintains Vigilance with Energy Stream

CAPE COD AIR STATION, Mass. – The 6th Space Warning Squadron Missile Warning Operations Center conducts operations around the clock by two or three man teams made up of U.S. and Royal Canadian forces working together to ensure mission success. The 6th Space Warning Squadron is a geographically separated unit of the 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo. (Courtesy photo)

CAPE COD AIR STATION, Mass. – The 6th Space Warning Squadron Missile Warning Operations Center conducts operations around the clock by two or three man teams made up of U.S. and Royal Canadian forces working together to ensure mission success. The 6th Space Warning Squadron is a geographically separated unit of the 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo. (Courtesy photo)

CAPE COD AIR STATION, Mass. – Members of Team 6 in front of the mammoth PAVE PAWS radar. The 6th Space Warning Squadron, a geographically separated unit of the 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., is comprised of space operators, security forces, civilians and contractors. (Courtesy photo)

CAPE COD AIR STATION, Mass. – Members of Team 6 in front of the mammoth PAVE PAWS radar. The 6th Space Warning Squadron, a geographically separated unit of the 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., is comprised of space operators, security forces, civilians and contractors. (Courtesy photo)

CAPE COD AIR STATION, Mass -- From Greenland in the north to Panama in the south and stretching out into the mid-Atlantic Ocean the 6th Space Warning Squadron at Cape Cod Air Force Station has the nation's back diligently monitoring both air and space keeping America safe.

The 6th Space Warning Squadron is a geographically separated unit of the 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo. Cape Cod Air Force Station is located on Joint Base Cape Cod on a strip of land surrounded by Cape Cod Bay, Nantucket Sound and Buzzard's Bay about 60 miles from Boston.

The facility's primary mission is missile warning, vigilantly watching the eastern seaboard of the United States for land or sea launched intercontinental ballistic missile launches, said 1st. Lt. Anthony Carillo, 6th SWS chief of standards and evaluation.

"In addition to that mission the unit and its high tech equipment provide space situational awareness, tracking satellites to make sure they are on time according to planned orbits, watching for satellite breakups, space debris and monitoring any anomalous events," Carillo said. "The station tracks new launches as well, predicting where the object is going to settle into orbit."

The equipment allowing the 6th SWS to accomplish those missions is the Precision Acquisition Vehicle Entry Phased Array Warning System, or PAVE PAWS. The Air Force has five of the radars spread throughout the world including Alaska, California, England and Greenland in addition to Cape Cod.

The radar can detect and track multiple subjects moments after launch and send early warning information to United States' Missile Warning Center, the U.S. National Military Command Center and U.S. Strategic Command. Data gathered tracking satellites is passed to the Joint Space Operations Center/Space Situational Awareness Cell at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

What makes the PAVE PAWS special is the way it utilizes solid state technology to quickly project in different directions. The phased array antennae are not like mechanical systems that must physically be aimed at a target in order to track it. The phased array antennae remain in a fixed position steering the beams electronically in millionths of a second to control the timing of ingoing and outgoing signals, according to the Air Force Space Command fact sheet for the system. This technology allows for multiple targets, such as missiles, to be tracked while maintaining surveillance is achieved.

"It allows multiple object tracking while keeping the surveillance fence. It can change focus rapidly," Carillo said.

The entire system is housed in a triangular building which also supports the antennae arrays. The structure is designed in this fashion to optimize surveillance across the horizon. Four unique computers interact with each other, relaying data to Cheyenne Mountain Air Station as well as to missile defense forward users.

Another benefit of the PAVE PAWS over other types of systems is its ability to continue monitoring in all types of weather.

"It's effective in bad weather. It's not like the Ground Based-Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance Systems," said Carillo. "We had a blizzard last year and it didn't affect us very much." Using energy instead of optical resources to maintain the monitoring responsibility avoids clutter from weather events that can wreak havoc with optical systems.

The area, due to its proximity to Boston and Plymouth is steeped in military and maritime history. Environmental responsibility is important on the facility too as it is home to the Upper Cape Water Supply Reserve, the largest piece of protected and undeveloped land on the cape. A pair of wind turbines were installed and helped to decrease energy consumption significantly, Carillo said.

"We are at one of the tallest points, and easternmost points on Cape Cod so we are right where we need to be."

Peterson SFB Schriever SFBCheyenne Mountain SFSThule AB New Boston SFS Kaena Point SFS Maui