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$93 million contract keeps missile warning system vigilant

  • Published
  • By Benjamin Newell
  • 66th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass., -- The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center here will provide maintenance and sustainment capabilities for the Shared Early Warning System, located at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, through a $93 million small business contract.

AFLCMC-Hanscom selected Boecore, Inc., headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to fulfill this five-year effort required for the system often referred to as SEWS beginning in July 2017. The system provides uninterrupted reporting on potential adversary ballistic missile launches to allies who have a bilateral agreement in place with the United States.

“We have a network of sensors and clients dedicated to several unified combatant commands and nine foreign partner nations, so the back-end servers and communication devices require flexible technical capabilities,” said Col. Todd Wiest, senior materiel leader for Strategic Warning and Surveillance Systems Division. “Small businesses are very agile and flexible.”

In addition to their responsive support, small businesses offer the government the promise of innovative ideas and lower costs.

The system serves U.S. Strategic Command and select geographic combatant commands. The nine partner nations are not identified for operational security reasons, but each has an interest in using SEWS to receive warning of possible missile strikes and be able to respond accordingly.

“A missile launch starts a timer,” said SEWS Program Manager Capt. Frank Schiavone. “We’re working hard to provide the combatant commands and partner nations with as many extra seconds as possible so they can begin countermeasures, warn their populations, and protect themselves.”

When a potential missile launch is identified by a constellation of heat-detecting U.S. satellites, the information is shared immediately with the combatant commands and partner nations within the threatened area, while intelligence agencies work to verify and identify the specific threat. Military, civilian, and contractor personnel work around the clock at Peterson to ensure system integrity and maintain redundant communications systems. Each partner nation has multiple SEWS sites, which are constantly monitored.

The system originated in the early 1990s, though its history as a concept dates back much farther. Because some of the technology is more than 20 years old, each maintenance and sustainment contract includes upgrades to keep the system current. The SEWS team of 67 Airmen, government civilians, and contractors works directly with the communications equipment and computer servers to oversee the SEWS system.

“Improvements on the new contract will focus on the ability to receive new message formats and an extensive system architecture upgrade project to modernize the system,” said Schiavone. “The Combatant Commands and SEWS partners are relying on these future advancements to overcome the mounting threats around the world.”