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Silent Sentry contributes to ops throughout the AOR

  • Published
  • By Maj. Shariful Khan
  • 379th Expeditionary Operational Support Squadron/Silent Sentry Flight
Operation Silent Sentry and the Rapid Attack Identification Detection and Reporting System (RAIDRS), Deployable Ground Segment Zero has been monitoring and protecting critical Satellite Communication assets in Southwest Asia for more than two years. 

Formerly known as the SATCOM Interference Response System (SIRS), Silent Sentry began simply as a "120-day proof of concept" but has grown and matured into a fully operational system that provides proven effects to the warfighter and the Combined Air and Space Operations Center's ability to command and control its forces. "The system has proven so successful that it has been retained indefinitely to integrate and normalize space effects across the battle space," said Maj. Paul A. Tombarge, 379th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron/Silent Sentry Flight. 

"Much of this success has do to with the men and women of the 21st Space Wing, particularly the 76th Space Control Squadron, the 4th Space Control Squadron, 21st Operations Support Squadron, and other 21st Space Wing units who initially operationalized SIRS manning requirements for Air Force Space Command's first deployable defensive counterspace weapon system," said Capt. Jerade Tipton, Silent Sentry crew commander. 

Their efforts earned them the 2006 Air Force Association Citation of Honor for "outstanding contribution of an organization to the development of aerospace power for the betterment of mankind." 

With the activation of the 16th Space Control Squadron in May 2007, the 21st Space Wing now has a dedicated cadre of defensive counterspace personnel to employ the system and fully integrate the mission area into theater planning and operations. They will achieve this with the help of their Reserve Associate Unit, identified as the 380th Space Control Squadron, currently Detachment 1, 310th Space Group.
Together, the 16 and 18 SPCS have fielded more than 50 percent of the deployment teams in the last two AEF cycles and will steadily increase this footprint as they formalize their unit manning requirements. 

Space effects, and SATCOM in particular, is a critical integrator and enabler on the modern battlefield. It affects all dimensions of conflict and is vital to the way we prosecute and win our wars today. Producing these full-spectrum effects is an array of satellites, SATCOM terminals, and a communication architecture which provides the Combined Forces Air Component Commander critical oversight of forward deployed forces and systems. "RAIDRS, as part of Silent Sentry, is a defensive counterspace weapon system designed to detect, characterize, and geolocate the source of interference on these critical communication links utilized by coalition forces," said Tombarge. 

Operationalizing this one-of-a-kind system and growing a new capability in the AOR presents unique challenges as well as opportunities. Since initial fielding of the system, Silent Sentry operators have prosecuted more than100 detection events and assessments in direct support of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. Each event has helped to refine the unit's tactics, techniques, and procedures. 

With our ever increasing reliance on SATCOM capabilities, Silent Sentry's battle rhythm has become fast and furious in order to diligently prosecute electromagnetic interference events. Added to this is the daily task of integrating space control into the mindset of theater planners. "Given the criticality of satellite communication links, Silent Sentry has superb support from the CAOC's Director of Space Forces team," said Tombarge. 

On a recent trip to Afghanistan, Maj. Gen. William L. Holland, Vice Commander, 9th Air Force, and Deputy Commander, U.S. Central Command Air Forces, specifically asked for "Silent Sentry capabilities" when he was told of electromagnetic interference occurring in one particular location. 

As Silent Sentry passed the two-year anniversary of deployed operations, they can be proud of their accomplishments and take satisfaction that they have established a legitimate operational presence in the Southwest Asia with great results.