Joint Tactical Ground Stations (JTAGS)
Northrop Grumman [NOC]
JTAGS is the only deployable system able to provide combatant commander’s with direct down linked, in-theater early warning of ballistic missile launches. The JTAGS processes data from up to three Defense Support Program (DSP) infrared, missile-warning satellites to determine launch points and time, azimuth of flight, and predicted point and time of impact for theater ballistic missiles. Using this data in theater, a commander can use the data and in seconds precisely engage an incoming missile with a Patriot missile defense system.
JTAGS supports passive defense by providing in-theater early warning of enemy ballistic missile launch events and provides alert notification to command-level staffs who disseminate the alert message to units in the threatened area. JTAGS also supports active defense by cueing air defense assets to the missile track. Data is also provided on launch location to deep attack assets to aid in attack operations. The key to JTAGS’ theater support is its relatively direct connectivity and distribution architecture, via a variety of voice and data networks. As a result of its in-theater location, JTAGS can provide timely, assured early warning. JTAGS evolved from the Army Space Exploitation Demonstration Program. Prototype systems were built and demonstrated to Combatant Commander’s in Europe and Korea in 1993 and 1994. Joint Army-Navy crews operate the JTAGS system, which consists of a deployable towed shelter and a crew of 15 soldiers and sailors which provides 24-hour, 365 day-a-year, all weather threat monitoring.
JTAGS is a U.S. system. There are now five operational JTAGS systems. Two replaced the prototypes in Europe and Asia in 1997. They are the HQ & A/15th AD JTAGS (U.S. Europe Command) and HQ & A/52nd AD JTAGS (U.S. Pacific Command). The B/15th AD JTAGS is located in Colorado Springs, Colo. and designed to support contingency operations. The A/238th AD JTAGS is located at Fort Bliss, Texas, and designed for training purposes. The newest addition is the B/58th AD JTAGS located in the U.S. Central Command theater of operations. The B/58th AD JTAGS unit was stood up in early 2001 and is currently providing in-theater early warning of ballistic missile launches to U.S. forces and its allies in the Persian Gulf region as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
All of the JTAGS units are capable of giving a combatant commander clear, accurate and timely early warning of missile launches in a much shorter time line than previous operations in the Gulf. Also since the Gulf War, the military has taken advantages of investments in space sensors to provide warning to soldiers and allies overseas. For example, missile-defense capabilities have been greatly enhanced by the addition of JTAGS. In the past conflict, missile-warning information had to be sent back to Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado and then back to the warfighter in the desert. This required using a number of communication nodes to transmit information to Cheyenne Mountain and back into theater and that created a time delay and increased the probability of communications-node problems. Now, JTAGS reports missile launches and other infrared events of interest directly from satellite sources to theater commanders. JTAGS provides real-time alerting, warning and cueing of tactical ballistic missile launches to missile defense shooters. Another improvement provided by JTAGS is in the passive-defense role of alerting ground warfighters in the area of predicted missile impact. In Desert Storm, the predictions were so imprecise, whole theaters had to take preventative measures, such as donning chemical-biological gear, which caused wide-spread disruption to operations. With JTAGS, the ability to precisely predict the impact point is improved greatly, which reduces disruption to operations only in the immediate area of impact.