- The Washington Times - Friday, March 28, 2003

The U.S. military has at least 50 satellites supporting the war in Iraq including highly classified radio-listening satellites and weather satellites that anybody can use.
All were launched after the end of the first Persian Gulf war. The military's resources in space also include the 28 satellites of the Global Positioning System, as well as commercial communications and Earth resource satellites.
"The DSCS bird provides anti-jam, beyond-line-of-sight communications to tanks to the Army, ships to the Navy and aircraft to the Air Force," said Christine Anderson, program manager for the Defense Satellite Communications System [DSCS]. "It really is the lifeline of our troops overseas."
During the first Gulf war, a pair of DSCS satellites transmitted 80 percent of the military traffic between the Middle East and the United States.
"If you're a telecommunications satellite, you don't want my satellite to be interfering with your satellite. They have to keep them apart," said astronomer Jonathan McDowell, who maintains a database of satellites, including publicly known information about U.S. military satellites. "The International Telecommunications Union negotiates those slots. Most of the military communications satellites have slots filed with the ITU.
"The British Skynet 4D military [communications satellite] was moved at the end of 2002 to get a better view of the Middle East," Mr. McDowell said. "The satellite was moved from the Atlantic Ocean to a position almost directly south of Iraq."
The British also have Skynet 4E over the Indian Ocean, Mr. McDowell said. "So this is really well-placed to support communications between the Middle East and Europe," he said. "It would be a fairly [sure] guess that the U.S. could have moved some of its [spare] satellites for better coverage over the region, too."
The United States owns five reconnaissance satellites capable of taking images over Iraq. "There are two Keyholes in the standard orbital planes, plus an older Keyhole, which has drifted into a different orbit," satellite observer Ted Molczan said.
Each Keyhole satellite passes over Iraq twice a day in daylight and darkness.
In addition, there are two radar satellites, often called "Lacrosse" because of an early code name. The Lacrosse satellites make about six passes over Iraq each day. They use an active radar system to take images day and night and are not affected by the weather.
The Defense Support Program (DSP) missile-warning satellites were originally designed to monitor missile tests, but also are capable of monitoring short-range missiles, such as the Scud. During the first Gulf war, DSP satellites tracked Scuds that Iraq launched toward Israel.
In the extremely classified category are seven National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) satellites in geostationary orbit, 22,300 miles above the equator. These satellites are believed to be radio-monitoring platforms with giant antennas that open like an umbrella, sensitive enough to monitor cell-phone conversations.
"The DSP missile-monitoring satellites and the NRO's listening birds have unpublished locations," Mr. McDowell said.
However, "the Milstar satellites are so large they can be viewed by the naked eye under ideal conditions and are easily visible in small binoculars," Mr. Molczan said. "It would be absurd to try to hide their existence."
Besides operational communications, the Navy's Global Broadcast Service is used for what the Navy calls "quality of life." It can be used to provide the same broadcasts to military personnel that they would get in the United States on a home satellite dish.
The STS-99 Space Radar Topography Mission that flew on the Space Shuttle Endeavour in February 2000 produced a three-dimensional map of the world. Those data are available to military planners, including Marine units in the field and programmers entering a course into a cruise missile.
The 28-satellite Global Positioning System is used for navigation, especially for precision weapons. GPS satellites can be used to guide bombs or aircraft with pinpoint precision.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide