21st Space Wing History

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The 21st Space Wing is the Air Force's only organization providing missile warning, missile defense and space control operations to unified commanders and combat forces worldwide. The wing provides missile warning and space control data to U.S. Strategic Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command through a network of ground-based radars and optics operated by geographically separated units around the world, making us a vital component of our nation's defense. While we are postured globally, our area of expertise is space—the ultimate high ground. To ensure our continued success in all our operations, we are constantly building a culture of leadership, innovation and discipline.

Our Airmen detect and track ballistic missile launches, using cutting-edge systems to provide data on foreign ballistic missile launches. This information provides "top cover" for today's warfighters, while also providing continual space control information for a number of applications allowing for the safe and responsible use of space. The wing also provides defensive and offensive counterspace capabilities to rapidly achieve flexible and versatile space effects to support the warfighter worldwide.

Today, ballistic missile warning is critically important to U.S. military forces. At least 17 nations currently have nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, and the technology to deliver them over long distances. According to intelligence estimates, during the next 10 years, several Third World countries will develop the technology and capability to launch ICBMs at the United States, making space situational awareness more critical than ever.

The wing is also responsible for the professional operation of six installations including Peterson Air Force Base; Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station; Thule Air Base, Greenland; Clear Air Force Station, Alaska; Cavalier Air Force Station, N.D.; and Cape Cod Air Force Station, Mass.

At Peterson, the wing supports myriad mission partners, including North American Aerospace Defense Command, U.S. Northern Command, Air Force Space Command, Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Strategic Command, and the 302nd Airlift Wing (Reserve) as well as 48 units from other major commands. About 11,000 Airmen, as well as Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, civil servants, and contractors, pass through the gates every day, and the wing is also responsible for providing services to more than 16,000 retirees and their family members in the Colorado Springs area.

Lastly, the wing is tasked with providing combat-ready and disciplined forces to deploy worldwide in response to combatant commander taskings. Approximately 25 percent of the wing's military personnel deploys each year in support of overseas contingency operations.