Shelton Sounds Early Warning

The Air Force’s Space Based Infrared System satellites will require modernization in the next decade to remain viable, said Gen. William Shelton, head of Air Force Space Command. “With the threats that are coming, we don’t believe that SBIRS, in its current incarnation, will be survivable past the mid-2020s,” he said during a July 16 speech on Capitol Hill sponsored by AFA, the National Defense Industrial Association, and Reserve Officers Association. Shelton said by then, there will be a “very different space environment than what we are operating in today,” which will require a “different kind of capability.” SBIRS satellites are designed to provide early warning of missile launches. Two of the six SBIRS satellites ordered are already on orbit—and the first one is now operational—plus there are two SBIRS sensor payloads hosted on classified intelligence satellites in space. Looking ahead, Shelton said AFSPC is exploring alternative architectures that would be sustainable for both the upcoming threat and budget environments. Some ideas involve separating the strategic and tactical missile warning missions onto different satellites or posting infrared sensors on other platforms, he said. (For more coverage of Shelton’s talk, see On the Fence and More Cyber Jobs Coming.)