President Donald Trump credited a space-based early warning system with helping save the lives of American and coalition forces during this week’s Iranian missile attacks on U.S. installations in Iraq.
The American military’s early warning defense system runs through a constellation of satellites orbiting Earth, and Alabamians built the rockets which powered those satellites into position to protect the nation’s troops.
Each of the four geostationary satellites, which are part of the U.S. military’s Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS), were carried into space by Atlas V rockets made at United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Decatur plant.
“No American or Iraqi lives were lost because of the precautions taken, the dispersal of forces, and an early warning system that worked very well,” Trump remarked during his address to the nation on Wednesday morning.
At a Pentagon briefing on Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper highlighted the importance of the systems in allowing troops to prepare ahead of the attack.
“We had a heads up in the sense that our warning systems and all those things were activated and watching and were able to give a sufficient warning,” Esper said.
A Department of Defense official provided more detail of the early warning system’s role in limiting casualties to SpaceNews.com and other outlets.
“U.S. early warning systems detected the incoming ballistic missiles well in advance, providing U.S. and coalition forces adequate time to take appropriate force protection measures,” the official stated.
The SBIRS satellites, made by Lockheed Martin Corp., occupy a critical role in America’s intelligence gathering. These satellites continually scan Earth and utilize infrared technology to identify the hot plumes of gas that come from the end of missiles being launched. Once identified as threats, the system calculates the trajectory of the missile and warns the national command authority.
ULA’s Atlas V rocket will power two more SBIRS satellites into space beginning in March 2021.
Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia