Published March 22, 2017
PAVE PAWS is an Air Force Space Command radar system operated by three 21st Space Wing squadrons for missile warning and space surveillance. PAVE PAWS radars are located at Cape Cod Air Force Station, Mass., Beale AFB, Calif., and Clear AFS, Alaska.
PAVE PAWS RADAR SYSTEM
PAVE Phased Array Warning System (PAWS) Radars are maintained by the U.S. Space Force. These radars are capable of detecting Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) attacks and conducting general space surveillance and satellite tracking. PAVE is a military program identification code.
The PAVE PAWS are ground based phased array radars located on the west and east coasts of the U.S.
Missile warning and attack characterization data is sent to the U.S. Missile Warning and Space Control Centers, the U.S. National Military Command Center and U.S. Strategic Command. Satellite tracking data is sent to the Combined Space Operations Center (CSpOC) for processing.
One of the PAVE PAWS Radars has been modified to support the Missile Defense mission. Both systems are operated by U.S. and Canadian personnel. One of the PAVE PAWS has a co-primary mission to provide missile tracking data to the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) GMD Fire Control Center (GFC/C) while simultaneously providing Missile Warning Data to the Integrated Tactical Warning and Attack Assessment (ITW/AA) system.
The unique aspect of the radars is their phased array antenna technology. The systems differ from mechanical radars, which must be physically aimed at an object for tracking and observation. The phased array antenna remains in a fixed position. Phased array antenna aiming, or beam steering, is done in millionths of a second by electronically controlling the timing, or phase, of the incoming and outgoing signals.
Controlling the phase through the many segments of the antenna system allows the beam to be rapidly projected in different directions. This allows interweaving of tracking pulses with surveillance pulses, allowing tracking of multiple targets while maintaining the surveillance responsibility.
A phased array antenna, as with any other directional antenna, will receive signals from space only in the direction in which the beam is aimed. To provide surveillance across the horizon, the building housing the entire system and supporting the antenna arrays is constructed in the shape of a triangle. The two building faces support the arrays, each covering 360 degrees azimuth.
The radar system is capable of detecting and tracking multiple targets that would be indicative of a massive missile attack. The system must rapidly discriminate between vehicle types, calculate their launch and impact points, and perform scheduling, data processing and communications requirements. The operation is semi-automatic and requires highly trained personnel for monitoring, maintenance, prioritization, scheduling, and as a final check of the validity of warnings. Four different computers communicate with each other from the heart of the system, which relays the information to a warning center and missile defense forward users.
(Current as of Oct 2020)