CONR-1AF adopts innovation to support NORAD TFR enforcement for SpaceX launch

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  • By U.S. Continental NORAD Region-1st Air Force (Air Forces Northern)
  • U.S. Continental NORAD Region-1st Air Force (Air Forces Northern)

U.S. Continental NORAD Region-1st Air Force (Air Forces Northern) adopted an innovative approach to providing data-link support for NORAD aircraft protecting the temporary flight restricted airspace above the SpaceX launch conducted Nov. 15 at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla.

A team of Airmen from the 729th Air Control Squadron’s Control and Reporting Center, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, supported data communications needs for the NORAD TFR enforcement mission using the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS), an L band Distributed Time Division Multiple Access network radio system used by the United States armed forces and their allies.

The datalink provides a more comprehensive air picture, which in turn assists with the NORAD TFR enforcement mission.

“Typically, a CRC is deployed when you need to provide control and/or radar coverage of air forces in an AOR. They are functionally similar to a NORAD Air Defense Sector but are deployable worldwide,” said Capt. Zachary Darnell, AFNORTH Chief of Joint Integrated Air Defense Systems. “In this case, we’re splitting out just the tactical data-link portion of the CRC and deploying it on its own, which is outside the norm. The 729th is performing a critical role in the identification and assessment of any potential concerns, bolstering the safety of our manned space flight mission.”

Providing tactical-datalink coverage has been a joint endeavor; coverage of the previous SpaceX launch was provided by the South Carolina Army National Guard’s 263d Army Air and Missile Defense Command, Anderson, S.C.

“Supporting SpaceX launches working with both Air Force and Army data-link units demonstrates the professionalism and interoperability within of our military Air Defense community,” said Canadian Maj. Gen. Derek Joyce, deputy commander, CONR. “We are grateful for the support units provide and the privilege of being a part of such an important event.”

The 729th ACS is a geographically separated unit of the 552nd Air Control Wing, Tinker AFB, Okla., and is one of only three active-duty air control squadrons in the Air Force.