Some in Washington, together with the Authorities Accountability Workplace (GAO), have been sowing doubts in regards to the Subsequent-Gen OPIR acquisition technique
Our space-based missile warning methods have to be upgraded and enhanced to handle the altering strategic atmosphere.
China and Russia have been quickly creating and fielding new threats to theater-based forces and the U.S. homeland — from the extra acquainted ballistic missiles to a extra numerous set of ballistic, cruise and hypersonic weapons able to reaching higher attain. As well as, cyber assaults, lasers, high-powered microwave emitters, jamming and anti-satellite missiles are being developed, fielded and may maintain all our important area property in danger.
To deal with these threats, the U.S. House drive is creating the Subsequent Technology Overhead Persistent Infrared (Subsequent-Gen OPIR) constellation of satellites in geosynchronous and polar orbits.
These satellites are a vital ingredient of the nation’s strategic missile warning enterprise, and have resiliency options designed to make sure U.S. warfighting commanders can function by way of contested eventualities ought to they prolong to area.
Subsequent-Gen OPIR is the House Power’s largest procurement program however it’s not properly understood, partly because of it excessive stage of classification. Too usually individuals assume that Subsequent-Gen OPIR is a one-for-one alternative of its predecessor, the House Primarily based Infrared Satellite tv for pc System (SBIRS).
The brand new satellites — at the moment being developed by Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman — will present extra superior capabilities than SBIRS. Subsequent Gen OPIR supplies almost full Earth protection with fewer satellites and thrice higher sensitivity to dimmer targets reminiscent of hypersonic missiles and decrease flying ballistic missiles.
Subsequent-Gen OPIR sensors can detect static and transferring targets two occasions quicker than SBIRS, and may detect a number of targets with a picture that’s 25 p.c higher high quality than SBIRS and may characterize a goal with accuracy two occasions higher than that of present missile warning methods.
The House Power is utilizing a brand new kind of improvement and acquisition program for Subsequent-Gen OPIR that leverages speedy prototyping strategies to get the system on orbit quicker than satellites of comparable complexity.
In an period the place velocity issues, this one counts. In 2018, utilizing congressionally authorised acquisition authorities for speedy prototyping, the House Power was capable of get satellites on contract one 12 months sooner than older approaches. The purpose is to have the speedy prototyping effort full by 2023 to allow the primary geostationary orbit (GEO) launch by 2025.
Through the deployment part, every new automobile will increase SBIRS for the missile warning mission.
Some in Washington, together with the Authorities Accountability Workplace (GAO), have been sowing doubts in regards to the Subsequent-Gen OPIR acquisition technique and whether or not the timelines are practical. They recommend this system would require far more money and time to get the system developed and launched.
Nevertheless, actuality suggests a distinct end result. This program is proving to be faster and less expensive than its predecessors. Of word, it’s far outpacing SBIRS, which was suffering from schedule delays and price overruns.
Backside line: this new system is vital to make sure a sturdy, survivable missile warning functionality for our nationwide command authorities. The info that this technique supplies is important for our nationwide leaders throughout occasions of disaster and protects the U.S. homeland in opposition to existential threats.
Congress ought to absolutely assist this program and the U.S. House Power should work tirelessly with their business companions to make sure this technique will get deployed as quickly as doable. The risk atmosphere is altering quick, and our space-based capabilities should maintain tempo.
Christopher M. Stone is senior fellow for area research on the Spacepower Benefit Analysis Heart, Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Research. He’s the previous particular assistant to the deputy assistant secretary of protection for area coverage within the Pentagon.