y Dave Smith
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
1/6/2016 - Cavalier Air Force Station, N.D. -- Once
a major piece of U.S. nuclear defenses during the Cold War, Cavalier
Air Force Station continues to be a significant link in the nation's
missile warning and space defense scheme.
The 10th Space Warning Squadron is a geographically separated unit of
the 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs,
Colo. Cavalier Air Force Station, N.D. is about 15 miles south of the
Canadian border. The installation initially provided the first and only
ballistic missile defense of ICBM fields in the northern U.S. Following
the Strategic Arms Limitations Treaty II that mission was terminated.
Soon after, new dual missions of providing missile warning and
supporting space surveillance began. The Perimeter Acquisition Radar
Attack Characterization System at Cavalier AFS is the only Safeguard
component that was not deactivated.
The most prominent structure at Cavalier AFS is the Perimeter
Acquisition Radar building, a ground-based Integrated Tactical
Warning/Attack Assessment sensor key to the National Military Command
System. The building housing the PARCS radar system, often referred to
as the second tallest building in North Dakota after the state capitol,
is an electro-magnetic pulse hardened structure built as part of the
Army's anti-ballistic missile Safeguard program.
"PARCS' primary mission is Missile Warning; its secondary mission is
Space Situational Awareness," said Lt. Col. John Koehler, 10th SWS
commander. "PARCS is uniquely positioned to view objects approaching the
United States and Southern Canada from the north. It has a visibility
range of 3,300 kilometers, which is approximately 2,000 miles." This
allows the world's most capable radar to provide observations on
thousands of earth-orbiting satellites."
The PARCS provides around the clock missile warning data to North
American Aerospace Defense Command and space surveillance data to United
States Strategic Command. The system monitors and tracks more than half
of all earth-orbiting objects to enable space situational awareness.
The 10th SWS team provides real-time missile warning data to the
secretary of defense and the president to assist in decision making.
"Cavalier AFS is a unique installation with unparalleled personnel,"
said Koehler. "The opportunities here rival and exceed what I've
experienced at previous bases over my 17 years of service. The missions
have direct impact on capabilities provided globally, from the farmers
in the local area to operations overseas. This is truly the nation's
most capable radar operated and maintained by the most capable team of
There are about 130 people working at Cavalier, he said. Most are
contractors performing a variety of services like maintenance, custodial
services and firefighting. There are about 40 military and five
government civilians in the mix. The installation is considered an
isolated facility and too small to provide all the functions of a
typical base, so some services are made available through other bases.
Grand Forks AFB, 80 miles south, provides security forces personnel and
support functions like finance and medical, for example. Emergency
services like hazardous waste disposal and explosive ordinance disposal
are provided by Minot Air Force Base about 200 miles west.
The site is remote, but Cavalier personnel stay active in the local
community, participating in events ranging from parades to providing a
color guard at various ceremonies. Volunteering is a big part of the
military lifestyle, and there are many opportunities for 10th SWS
members to participate. Extracurricular events like zip-lining in
Canada, fishing and ice fishing at local lakes and rivers, camping and
boating at Icelandic State Park in the summer, and skiing are available
year round. On-site activities like bowling, potlucks, and karaoke are
available all year at the Community Activity Center, lovingly called the
To bring the installation from the look associated with its time as a
prominent Cold War site into the 21st century, a number of upgrades took
place. A $4.8 million construction project added 14 new housing units
for military families living on station, Koehler said. The project
included a new community center and indoor play area aimed for use
during cold winter months.
"The project represents a significant increase in the quality of life for base residents," Koehler said.
A $20 million High-altitude Electromagnetic Pulse protection project is
nearing completion, including 10 major subprojects at the station.
Koehler said these projects should ensure Cavalier's operational
relevance far into the future.