Missile Warning Center

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Missile Warning Center
Seal of the Missile Warning Center.png
Seal of the Missile Warning Center
Country United States
TypeMissile warning center
RoleMissile warning and defense
Part ofCombined Force Space Component Command shield.png Combined Force Space Component Command
HeadquartersCheyenne Mountain Space Force Station, Colorado, U.S.

The Missile Warning Center (MWC) is a center that provides missile warning and defense for United States Space Command's Combined Force Space Component Command, incorporating both space-based and terrestrial sensors. The MWC is located at Cheyenne Mountain Space Force Station.


The Missile Warning Center coordinates, plans, and executes worldwide missile, nuclear detonation, and space re-entry event detection to provide timely, accurate, and unambiguous strategic warning in support of the United States and Canada.[1]


During deployment of the computerized air defense network for the United States, the Soviet Union announced that they had successfully tested an ICBM. BMEWS General Operational Requirement 156 was issued on November 7, 1957 (BMEWS was "designed to go with the active portion of the WIZARD system") and on February 4, 1958; the USAF informed Air Defense Command (ADC) that BMEWS was an "all-out program" and the "system has been directed by the President, has the same national priority as the ballistic missile and satellite programs and is being placed on the Department of Defense master urgency list."[2] The subsequent plan by June 1958 for a US Zone of the Interior facility for anti-ICBM fire control by Air Defense Command (ADC) was for it to be "the heart of the entire ballistic missile defense system" with Nike Zeus SAMs. On 19 October 1959, HQ USAF assigned ADC the "planning responsibility" for eventual operation of the Missile Defense Alarm System to detect ICBM launches with infrared sensors in space.

1960 Ent AFB CC&DF[edit]

The BMEWS Central Computer and Display Facility (CC&DF) built as an austere facility instead of the planned AICBM control center became operational on September 30, 1960, at Ent AFB when BMEWS' Thule Site J became operational. Site J's computers (e.g., in the Sylvania AN/FSQ-28 Missile Impact Predictor Set) processed 4 RCA AN/FPS-50 Radar Sets' data, and alerts transferred via the BMEWS Rearward Communications System to the CC&DF for NORAD attack assessment and warning to RCA Display Information Processors (DIPs) at the NORAD/CONAD command center (also on Ent AFB), SAC's Offutt AFB nuclear bunker, and The Pentagon's new National Military Command Center. DIPs presented impact ellipses and drove a "threat summary display" with a count of incoming missiles[3] and a countdown of "Minutes Until First Impact"[4] (cf. later large screen displays such as the Iconorama.) In July 1961 separate from the CC&DF, the surveillance center in New Hampshire "was discontinued as the new SPADATS Center became operational at Ent AFB" with the 496L Space Detection and Tracking System (i.e., NORAD began aerospace operations).[5] In 1962 the Army's LIM-49 Nike Zeus program was assigned the satellite intercept mission (Program 505's "Operation Mudflap" conducted a test), and the 1962 SECDEF assigned the USAF to develop the Satellite Intercept System which would use orbit data from a Space Defense Center.[5] By December 15, 1964, NORAD had an implementation plan[6] for a "Single Integrated Space Defense Center" for NORAD/CONAD to centralize both missile warning and space surveillance.[7]

1967 Space Defense Center[edit]

The 1st Aero on February 6, 1967, moved operations to the Group III Space Defense Center, the integrated missile warning/space surveillance facility (496L Spacetrack system with Philco 212 primary processor)[8] at the Cheyenne Mountain nuclear bunker (FOC of the new bunker's command center—a portion of the Burroughs 425L Command/Control and Missile Warning System—had been on July 1, 1966.)[8] Interim operations of the Avco 474N SLBM Detection and Warning System began in July 1970 (IOC was 5 May 1972),[9] and in 1972 20% of the Bendix AN/FPS-85 Phased Array Radar's surveillance capability "became dedicated to search for SLBMs"[10] (the FPS-85 relayed SLBM data via the 474N network for SLBM warning to "SAC, the National Military Command Center, and the Alternate NMCC over BMEWS circuits").[11]

1975 NORAD/ADCOM center[edit]

The NORAD/CONAD Missile Warning Center came under NORAD/ADCOM control in 1975 when the unified Continental Air Defense Command ended and in early 1972, the 427M improvement program was planned; e.g., (NORAD Computer System to replace the 425L System.)[8] After SAC assumed control of ballistic missile warning and space surveillance facilities on December 1, 1979,[12]: 48  the MWC was in the same room as HQ NORAD/ADCOM J31's Space Surveillance Center (separated by partitions.) The "NORAD Missile Warning and Space Surveillance System" was the general term for the entire network applied by the House's 1981 Armed Services Committee—the Core Processing Segment (CPS) handled missile warning/space surveillance with three Honeywell H6080 computers, e.g., a NORAD Computer System (NCS) H6080 for command and control and for missile warning functions (2nd for space surveillance and 3rd as backup for both).[13] Circa 1986, the "missile and space surveillance and warning system" consisted of a space computational center and 5 sensor systems:[5]

By 1981 Cheyenne Mountain was providing 6,700 messages per hour[15] compiled via sensor inputs from the Joint Surveillance System, BMEWS,[16] the SLBM "Detection and Warning System, COBRA DANE, and PARCS as well as SEWS and PAVE PAWS". During the 1991 Gulf War, the missile operations section that supported the MWC processed SCUD missile detections and interceptions for theater warning units.[17] The Space and Warning Systems Center maintained[when?] "26 stovepipe systems"[specify] for USSPACECOM, NORAD, and AFSPC,[18] and the Space Computational Center was replaced in 1992.

In February 1995, "the missile warning center at Cheyenne Mountain AS [was] undergoing a $450 million upgrade program as part of Cheyenne Mountain's $1.7 billion renovation package."[17] At Cheyenne Mountain on September 11, 2001, Major Richard J. Hughes was the Missile Warning Center Commander and the Chief of the J7 Exercise Branch.[19] In 2003, construction began for a new command center at Cheyenne Mountain to include Ground-Based Midcourse Defense[20]—the "new Missile Correlation Center" (MCC) was to have new consoles, mission system connectivity and communications capabilities.[21]

Missile Correlation Center[edit]

The Missile Correlation Center (MCC) and Space Control Center were in Cheyenne Mountain by March 4, 2005[20] when Patrick Mullin was the commander of the MCC,[22] which by 2006 was receiving input from five Joint Tactical Ground Stations.[23]

Missile Warning Operations Center[edit]

The 2006-8 Cheyenne Mountain Realignment divided MCC operations into NORAD/NORTHCOM's Missile and Space Domain at Peterson AFB and STRATCOM's facility in Cheyenne Mountain[citation needed] ("Missile Warning Operations Center" in 2007.)[24] USSTRATCOM announced a 2007 plan to relocate the MWOC from Cheyenne Mountain to Schriever AFB (cf. the Space Control Center which AFSPC was moving from Cheyenne Mountain to Vandenberg.)[25] In May 2010, USSTRATCOM decided to keep its missile warning center at Cheyenne Mountain,[26] which had begun a $2.9 million renovation in January 2010 (a temporary MWOC facility had to be set up.)[27]


  1. ^ https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/jp3_14.pdf
  2. ^ USAF memo to Air Defense Command cited in 1958 NORAD/CONAD Historical Summary, Jan–Jun
  3. ^ "NORAD Center Located At Colorado Springs Site" (Google News archive). The Othello Outlook. November 26, 1964. p. 3. Retrieved 2014-03-09.
  4. ^ https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1300&dat=19640617&id=2qYUAAAAIBAJ&sjid=jpYDAAAAIBAJ&pg=5546,2720521
  5. ^ a b c Leonard, Barry (c. 1986). History of Strategic and Ballistic Missile Defense: Volume II: 1956–1972 (Army.mil PDF – also available at Google Books). Retrieved 2012-09-01. About the same time that the Nike Zeus program was assigned the satellite intercept mission, the Secretary of Defense directed the Air Force to achieve a similar capability from their installation on Johnston Island, in the mid-Pacific, using a Thor, IRBM. The project was designated the 437 SIS (Satellite Intercept System). The Thor was to be launched using satellite ephemeris data and launching data generated in the Space Defense Center in the NORAD Combat Operations Center. … Mudflap capability as directed by the Secretary of Defense in April 1962. … The missile and space surveillance and warning system currently[specify] consists of five systems and a space computational center located in the NORAD Cheyenne Mountain complex. The five systems are: the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System; the Defense Support Program (DSP) formerly called Project 647; the Forward Scatter over the Horizon Radar (440L system); the Sea-Launched Ballistic Missile Warning System; and the Space Detection and Warning System. … 20 April [1966] The 425L system portion of the NORAD Cheyenne Mountain Complex (NCMC) became fully operational.[specify] (the GAO report says July 1.)
  6. ^ ADC to NORAD, "(U) NORAD Space Defense Center Implementation Plan," 15 Dec 1964 (cited by NORAD Historical Summary, 1966 January–July)
  7. ^ M/R, NPSD-C, " (U) NORAD/ADC Planning for Single Integrated Space Defense Center 20 May 1965 (cited by 1966 Jan–Jul NORAD Historical Summary)
  8. ^ a b c "NORAD's Information Processing Improvement Program: Will It Enhance Mission Capability?" (Report to Congress). Comptroller General. September 21, 1978. Retrieved 2013-01-24. – The 425L Command/Control and Missile Warning system uses a Philco 212 computer in conjunction with two Univac 1218 processors and the Display Information Processor, a custom built unit provided by RCA. In addition, another Philco 212 computer acts as an on-line backup for this system.
    – The 496L Spacetrack system uses a Philco 212 computer as its primary processor.
    – The Command Center Processing system uses a Univac 1106 computer and provides all Commanders-In- Chief with simultaneous situation displays.
    – The Intelligence Data Handling system uses two Honeywell 6060 computers to process intelligence data for the Commander-In-Chief, NORAD.
    – The off-line utility processors are two Philco 1000 computers which can also serve as backup processors for the 496L system and the Automatic Digital Relay Switch, if necessary. … The NCS segment will replace the 425L Command and Control system including the Univac 1218s, the 425L Back-up system, the Command Center Processing system, and the Display Information Processor. The Univac 1106 presently used in the Command Center Processing system will be used for a Mission Essential Back-up Capability (MEBU) … The NOVA 840 computers currently used for Communications Multiplexors and Inter-computer Processors for the HIS 6050s could be used to perform the 6050 functions
    (a document resume is available.)
  9. ^ "Chapter I: Mission, Command, Organization, and Resources" (Archive.org transcription). Declassified US Government Internal Documents on Military Research and Arming of the Heavens (Report). Retrieved 2014-06-24. The Space and Missile Warning System Operations Working Group, for example, reported to the larger group that significant differences existed between the number of personnel required in those specialities and the number currently available. … between 1 July and [tbd] October SAC would acquire space surveillance and missile warning assets
  10. ^ Jane's Radar and Electronic Systems, 6th edition, Bernard Blake, ed. (1994), p. 31 [cited by Winkler]
  11. ^ North American Air Defense Command Historical Summary (Report).[specify]
  12. ^ Winkler, David F; Webster, Julie L (June 1997). Searching the Skies: The Legacy of the United States Cold War Defense Radar Program (Report). Champaign, IL: U.S. Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratories. LCCN 97020912. Retrieved 2013-04-23.
  13. ^ Modernization of the WWMCCS Information System (WIS) (AdA095409) (Report). Armed Services Committee, US House of Representatives. 19 January 1981. Retrieved 2012-08-29. real-time receipt, processing, display and output of missile warning data, nuclear detonation reporting, atmospheric surveillance and warning, and weapons and sensor system status (pdf pp. 8,63–4)
  14. ^ North American Air Defense Command Historical Summary (Report).[specify]
  15. ^ Failures of the North American Aerospace Defense Command's (NORAD) attack warning system (minutes of "hearings before a subcommittee of the Committee on Government Operations, House of Representatives, Ninety-seventh Congress; May 19 and 20, 1981") (Report). United States Government Printing Office. Retrieved 2013-01-23. at Norad is the establishment of a Systems Integration Office
  16. ^ Edwards, Paul N (1997). The Closed World: Computers and the Politics of Discourse in Cold War America. MIT Press. p. 107. Retrieved 2014-05-14. norad.
  17. ^ a b Orban, SSgt. Brian (February 1995). "The trip wire". Guardian. Air Force Space Command. p. 6. For more than 30 years, the crews operating the missile warning center [for] advanced warning of incoming ballistic missiles. … the missile operations section, which supports the missile warning center. … once we had our first couple of Scud detections and interceptions under our belt, we felt a lot more confident.
  18. ^ "SWSC Domain Engineering Lessons-Learned" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-09-24. The Space and Warning Systems Center (SWSC) … at Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, maintains and modifies C2 systems…comprised of 26 stovepipe systems, 12 million lines-of-code, 24 different languages, 34 separate operating systems, and numerous proprietary hardware and software components
  19. ^ http://www.wright.edu/academics/prog/rotc/includes/biographies/Lt%20Col%20Hughes.pdf
  20. ^ a b Allen, Beverly (March 4, 2005). "New Command Center Opens at Cheyenne Mountain". Archived from the original on August 10, 2014. The centers are the Air Warning Center, Missile Correlation Center, Domestic Warning Center, Space Control Center, Operational Intelligence Watch, Systems Center, Weather Center, and the Command Center.
  21. ^ Coughlin, Capt. James (October 2005). "Modernized Command Center Supports Expanded Focus". Signal. Retrieved 2014-06-23.
  22. ^ https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0956911/fullcredits/
  23. ^ "Base Guide: Peterson AFB" (PDF). 2006. the only missile warning sensor [that can characterize] number and types of missiles in a raid, and the earliest and next impact times for locations in the continental U.S. …to the MCC … JSpOC at Cheyenne Mountain … JIC at Offut … The Theater Missile Warning Company operates Joint Tactical Ground Stations providing early warning of missile launches worldwide to deployed U.S. forces. The five JTAGS systems are operated by joint Army/Navy crews and are a part of U.S. Strategic Command’s Tactical Event System. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  24. ^ Raymond, Jay (Colonel, 21st SW Commander) (December 13, 2007). "Commander visits Space Warning Squadrons at Clear" (PDF). Space Observer. p. 3. Retrieved 2014-04-16. (also available at an Air Force Print News Today webpage) Archived 2014-08-12 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ Full Costs and Security Implications of Cheyenne Mountain Realignment Have Not Been Determined (Summary of 13 page GAO report) (Report). May 21, 2007. Retrieved 2014-06-23.
  26. ^ Gillentine, Amy (July 10, 2010). "U.S. Strategic Command re-ups at Cheyenne Mtn". Colorado Springs Business Journal. Retrieved 2014-06-22. home to the only Department of Defense lab that’s underground … $1.8 billion underground complex with 1,100 personnel … the only Priority Level 1 Combined Joint Air Force Operational Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Facility in the world. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  27. ^ Johnson, Lea (August 16, 2011). "Cheyenne Mountain unveils renovated Missile Warning Center". Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group. Retrieved 2012-10-02. The $2.9 million project, funded by USSTRATCOM, began in January 2010 and was completed June 30, 2011. A ribbon cutting for the new MWC was held Aug. 5. ("released by the Air Force Space Command")