Protect America by saving Beale |

Protect America by saving Beale

Losing a neighbor whose only purpose in life is to keep you and your loved ones safe is never a pleasant thought. “What are the odds that Beale Air Force Base will be shut down?” is a critical question to the safety of the United States. I believe good judgment will prevail and that Beale will remain open.

Furthermore, we could even see considerable growth in the future. There are two critical military systems at Beale that lead me to this prediction. Let me explain.

A recent article in The Union (“Rumsfeld says downsizing wouldsave $7B annually,” Feb. 21) points out that “lawmakers want to make sure they are spending resources wisely” and with extra military base capacity at nearly 25 percent, all domestic bases are under consideration for closure. It also states this is especially true if there are “aging facilities” or if the base is “used by only one of the four Services.”

Beale actually fits both of these defined limitations. But, that is only half of the story. Sen. John Warner, R-Va., highlights another crucial side of this story. He suggests the U.S. needs those bases “that are on the very edge of what we [the USA] need to defend ourselves.” Applying that criteria, Beale jumps to the top of the “essential” list. Let’s examine why.

At Beale now are two military technologies absolutely essential to the war-fighting capabilities of the United States.

The first, PAVE-PAWS, is a Star Wars radar warning system designed to detect any sort of intercontinental missile being fired at the United States by a foreign adversary. The Beale facility, facing out over the Pacific, is housed in a windowless 10-story building with walls (actually, the radar’s’ antennas) slanting inward so markedly, it looks like the designer screwed up by failing to build it correctly.

What is so unusual about it? Typical radar systems – that you might see at an airport tracking planes – send an electronic signal out (and back) using huge dish antennas swinging back and forth or rotating around in a circle. Because of the antenna’s weight, these heavy metal pieces are very slow to move as the radar searches for targets.

PAVE-PAWS solves this dilemma by having no moving parts. Not on the inside. Not outside. Not in the antenna. Not anywhere. All of the radar microwave beam movements are switched electronically. Thus, by having no moving parts in the system, you are able to move this very narrow (and accurate) thin beam of radar signal energy instantaneously. The result is to continuously provide precise signal information to detect even a small target heading to the United States at over 3,000 miles away.

Recent intelligence has surfaced about a rising military threat boiling up in a country that I have seared in my memory. One I fought over 50 years ago – North Korea. It still has no love for the United States, and it recently announced to the world it “now has nuclear weapons.” So let’s see. Rogue nation … deranged leader … hates the U.S. … has nuclear weapons … long-range missiles … other side of the Pacific. Hmmmm. Is PAVE-PAWS important? You tell me.

The second equally crucial key weapon system located at Beale is the unmanned Global Hawk. Although flown with no human on board, there is a pilot flying it. But he is sitting on the ground in a flight control center at Beale. Global Hawk can fly anywhere in the world nonstop, for about a day and a half. Using highly sophisticated optical and radar surveillance systems, it can see targets on the ground in the day time, night time, rainy weather, snow, or in clear skies. In fact, it can see so well that, at an altitude of over 10 miles, you can identify what type of aircraft are sitting on the ground, where the tanks or trucks are, and can even spot a person walking across a landing strip.

This information, recorded and delivered instantaneously, is sent back to the Beale control center or, alternatively via satellite, to any specific U.S. military location in the world that is equipped to handle it.

This will allow wars of the future to be carried out with a great deal more precision than previously, permitting reduction in casualties, eliminating collateral damage, and bringing the fighting to a rapid end. One final note on Global Hawk: Although it is headquartered at Beale Air Force Base, it supports all U.S. forces: Army, Navy, Marines and Special Ops.

By examining the importance of these military systems now in place at Beale, it makes infinite sense to not interfere with these two vital, cutting-edge tools of the US military.

I also believe Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld would agree.


Fred Levien, a Nevada County resident, was chairman of the Electronic Warfare Department at Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey.

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