Military News

Monday, July 13, 2015

45th SW says Farewell to Antigua Air Station

by 1st Lt. Alicia Wallace

7/13/2015 - ANTIGUA AIR STATION, Antigua -- After more than 50 years of operations, Antigua Air Station was deactivated July 7 in a ceremony held on the island.

Brig. Gen. Nina Armagno, 45th Space Wing commander and presiding officer of the ceremony, sheathed the detachment colors in a sleeve, symbolizing the organizations inactive status, while the Honorable Larry Palmer, ambassador to the U.S. Embassy Barbados, the Honorable Gaston Browne, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, and his Excellency Sir Rodney Williams, the Governor-General of Antigua and Barbuda, and his wife Lady Sandra observed the event.

Originally established as a revision of a land-lease agreement with Great Britain, the mission of Detachment 1, 45th Operations Group, was to support the space-lift mission of the Eastern Range by providing high data rate telemetry.

"Antigua Air Station has been an extremely valuable asset to the success of the 45th SW. It served as one of the primary Range and Control instrumentation sites for space and launch vehicle tracking support," said Armagno. "There was never a launch scrub due to a failure of Antigua based instrumentation. This is remarkable considering there was no redundancy for the Antigua radar or command system."

A thorough review of mission requirements in recent years determined that the mandatory tracking and command responsibilities that were carried out by AAS could be accomplished using the data rate telemetry received from other Air Force assets.

"Mission requirements for space and launch vehicle tracking support were reviewed, and we discovered that we are able to provide the necessary capabilities with mission design changes and use of the telemetry system on Ascension," said Lt. Col. Steven Melvin, commander of Det 1.

The decision to inactivate the air station was a difficult one to make, according to Armagno, but in the constrained fiscal environment, the wing was forced to make changes. Operating expenses for AAS were over $10 million USD per year.

In his comments, Palmer described the moment as "historic though bittersweet." The ambassador said the partnership between the U.S. and Antigua and Barbuda has and will continue to benefit both nations in the future.

The C-Band Radar used in AAS is being relocated to Harold E. Holt Naval Communications Station, Australia. Once established, the sensor will be integrated into the U.S. Space Surveillance Network.

"Many of our allies and partners rely on the U.S. SSN to provide foundational elements for protecting space assets," said Melvin. "The resulting increase in battlespace awareness due to the location in Australia will provide the warfighter with predictive and actionable situational awareness through early detection of launches at a lower inclination than previously available."

Armagno thanked the detachment and the CSR team for their support to the 45th SW.

"The 45th Space Wing will never forget the contributions that Antigua Air Station has provided over the past 50 years. We will never forget the support that this Air Station has provided and the wonderful people that have helped get our mission accomplished," said Armagno. "Today is a hard day, but you should be gratified. Be proud of everything that you've stood for and be satisfied for a job well done and know that you will always hold a special place in the storied history of space launch for the Air Force and the United States of America!"

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