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460th Space Wing accepts America's newest missile warning payload

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- SBIRS HEO team members celebrate the Operational Acceptance of the HEO-2 Payload by Air Force Space Command July 23. (U.S. Air Force photo)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- SBIRS HEO team members celebrate the Operational Acceptance of the HEO-2 Payload by Air Force Space Command July 23. (U.S. Air Force photo)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The 11th Space Warning Squadron, Schriever Air Force Base, Colo. completed the evaluation period for the second Space Based Infrared System Highly Elliptical Orbit payload and accepted for operational use July 23.

The SBIRS HEO, built by Lockheed Martin, is designed to provide early warning of ballistic missile launches, missile defense, technical/measures intelligence and battlespace awareness. Operational acceptance of HEO-2 represents a dynamic change in the missile warning and defense architecture with two IR sensors now available for tasking by Air Force Space Command.

"It has been an amazing experience to be a part of such a huge milestone in SBIRS' history," said Airman Philip Graham, 11 SWS mission crew chief. "We have shown everyone that hard work and dedication pays off."

During the trial period, Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center personnel observed the daily operations of the HEO systems, including transmitting operational data across missile warning networks. Their evaluation validated SBIRS HEO's significant additional warning and intelligence capabilities and paved the way for Air Force Space Command's acceptance into the operational inventory. This milestone paves the way for U. S. Strategic Command's formal certification of HEO-2 system next month.

"The goal that we have been working toward for three years has been reached, but we still want to take it to the next level and make operations better," said Master Sgt. David Hagar, 11 SWS flight chief.

Building upon the operational acceptance of the first HEO payload in Nov, 2008, operational acceptance of the HEO-2 payload culminates years of efforts by 460th Space Wing personnel. HEO-1 and HEO-2 data will be collected and analyzed by operators in the 11 SWS at Schriever Air Force Base, and forwarded to the mission control station at Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Here SBIRS HEO data will be combined with data from the 2nd Space Warning Squadron and transmitted to warfighters throughout the world.

"The announcement of operational acceptance by Air Force Space Command is a success story for the HEO team," said Master Sgt. Aaron Rath, 11 SWS, Operations Training NCO-in-Charge. "It's has been a lot of work, but marks the beginning of a new era of improved missile warning."
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