Space 'eyes' in the fight against terrorism
Posted: October 7, 2001

When the United States wages war against terrorism, it will fight looking through the eyes of Air Force Space Command.

The United States will never go to war without the space systems operated by AFSPC, said Gen. Ralph E. Eberhart, AFSPC commander.

"Whatever this nation does, wherever they do it, they're not going to leave home without us," Eberhart said while discussing the role his command plays in national defense and global stability. "The capabilities we provide in terms of intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and global communication are very important in the on-going Operation Enduring Freedom."

Operation Enduring Freedom is the military campaign to combat terrorism announced by President Bush following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and hijackings in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.

The command's high-tech data is now more useful than ever, Eberhart said. "The intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance imagery we're able to get is much easier to read," he said. The data is also sent to U.S. warfighters much more quickly thanks to how AFSPC operators receive the images from satellites and pass along the data to battle commanders.

The military satellites operated by the command now provide information the Department of Defense can not get reconnaissance aircraft like the U-2 Dragon Lady or SR-71 Blackbird. And those communication satellites enable the United States to remain a global power.

In 1970, Eberhart logged 300 combat missions in Vietnam as a forward air controller, learning first-hand the value of combat communications.

The accuracy of the munitions used in Vietnam was no where near the accuracy of the precision-guided munitions used today. In large part that is because of the Navstar Global Positioning System, or GPS, Eberhart said.

GPS is a space-based constellation of orbiting satellites that provides navigation data to military and civilian users all over the world. The GPS constellation is designed and operated as a 24-satellite system. GPS satellites orbit the earth every 12 hours, emitting continuous navigation signals.

The reason we're able to be so precise and usually destroy a target on the first pass and not have to send our people back into harm's way is because the munitions are precision-guided," Eberhart said.

The secure voice communication inside jet aircraft, which allows them to talk to other jets and people on the ground, is synchronized by GPS, he said.

As DOD leaders view the current global situation through systems overhead operated by AFSPC, Eberhart said the vivid images seen on TV Sept. 11 remind all of us what we are fighting against.

"If we stop and think about those nearly 7,000 lives snuffed out, unsuspecting," he said, "what we do in terms of deploying forward, leaving family and friends for a period of time, pales compared to that tragedy."