An Exclusive Look At Sbirs And Its Capabilities
The U.S. Air Force set about its ambitious project, the Space-Based Infrared System (Sbirs), in 1996 with a goal of dramatically improving the products provided by overhead, persistent infrared satellites. These satellites are the first line of defense in the event of a missile attack against the U.S. or deployed U.S. forces, as they are the first to detect a launch. They are used to cue radars and interceptors.
Nearly 20 years later, Air Force officials say they are finally beginning to realize that plan. But it came at a high cost. The system is estimated to cost more than triple its original estimate, the first satellite was deployed nine years late, and many a bright, fast-burning colonel was “eaten alive” by foiled attempts to right the wayward program in the 2000s.
Now, operators at the 460th Space Wing at Buckley AFB, Colorado, are planning to implement a major upgrade and consolidation to the ground control architecture there. It is projected to usher in new capabilities far beyond the missile warning and defense roles. After years of unsuccessful requests to see Sbirs in action, the Air Force granted Aviation Week exclusive access to the new operations floor before control functions begin in earnest and classification rules restrict personnel there. Read more about Sbirs: Bringing the Heat