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Cavalier Air Force Station Opens in N.D.

The project began on March 31, 2014, and was scheduled to be complete by Dec. 30, 2015, with a small portions pending completion.

Wed March 09, 2016 - Midwest Edition
Brenda Ruggiero

The project began on March 31, 2014, and was scheduled to be complete by Dec. 30, 2015, with a small portions pending completion.
The project began on March 31, 2014, and was scheduled to be complete by Dec. 30, 2015, with a small portions pending completion.

A recent project at the Cavalier Air Force Station in North Dakota will “further ensure that the most capable radar in the world can remain in effect during possible contingency scenarios,” said Lt. Col. John Koehler, 10th Space Warning Squadron commander at the station.

The project began on March 31, 2014, and was scheduled to be complete by Dec. 30, 2015, with a small portions pending completion.

According to Koehler, the $20 million project includes infrastructure improvements to the Air Force's phased-array radar system, the Perimeter Acquisition Radar Attack Characterization System (PARCS), the most capable radar in the Space Surveillance Network. Operated and maintained by the 10th Space Warning Squadron at Cavalier Air Force Station, the radar provided roughly 29 million observations to the network last year, tracking about one third of all low earth orbiting objects.

PARCS continuously provides critical missile warning and space surveillance data to North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) and regional combatant commanders. Additionally, 10 SWS provides attack characterization data to the Secretary of Defense and the president for real-time war plan execution decisions.

“The objects tracked by the PARCS system directly contribute to North America's missile warning and space surveillance program, and is vital to our nation's defense,” Koehler said. “The $20 million project at Cavalier Air Force Station includes upgrading protective shielding around the primary mission facilities to protect against EMP-emitting weapons, as well as several infrastructure and hardware projects that will make our weapon system more reliable and impenetrable by EMP attack. The sub-projects vary from replacing outdated equipment to cost-saving measures and further hardening the facility against attack.”

Funding is being provided by Deputy Secretary of Defense in Program Decision Memorandum III, and Koehler noted that it will “further increase our ability to provide flawless missile warning and space surveillance to ensure space superiority, and to defend our nation and allies.”

The prime contractor for the Cavalier AFS project is Serco, under the direction of Randy McCanne. Subcontractors were Gaven Industries and Jaxon.

Three of the biggest challenges in completing the specific task orders were discussed by McCanne, Serco NA program director, engineering services. He also is the program manager of the Air Force Space Command C4I2TSR contract under which the work at Cavalier AFS was performed.

“One challenge was preventing a phenomenon known as 'scope-creep,'” he said. “An approved technical solution can sometimes be vague and, therefore, leave a lot of the intricate details to interpretation. Because of their fluid/flexible nature, this is especially true of construction projects. Since this is a construction TO, the requirements, if left unchecked, can easily spiral out of control. Our team managed this potential issue by maintaining a very strict attention to detail on the requirements set forth at the beginning of the TO.”

The location of the project presented another challenge.

“Cavalier AFS, located in Cavalier County, N.D., is within 20 miles of the Canadian border,” he said. “This remote location presents a number of environmental [extreme weather conditions either impede or hamper TO progress] and logistical [getting personnel, equipment and material delivered] concerns that other sites do not have.”

A third challenge dealt with water infiltration.

“North Dakota has a lot of water, both above and below ground,” McCanne said. “We were challenged by the changing water table, which required us to change the foundation type of our electrical filter building to be supported by helical piers vs. a slab foundation.”

The diverse nature of the work made the project unique.

“This effort included upgrades to many different areas of the facility, both inside and out,” McCanne said. “This included escape hatches, doors, the power plant waterproofing and structural protection, cathodic protection and grounding, cooling tower replacement, lighting breakers, fire alarms etc. This project encompassed multiple engineering disciplines, including civil, mechanical, structural, and electrical engineering and design.”

The Serco team excavated more than 65,000 cu. yds. (49,696 cu m) from the below-grade structure.

Unique equipment used for this job included a Kobelco 110-ton (99.7 t) capacity crane, Gaven Inc. designed 65 mechanical and three architectural penetrations, various serial communication modules for primary and secondary generator control units, three B&G Horizontal Split Case Pump Series HSC-S, five Siemens fire control panels, four FS2000 series fire detection control panels (Protectowire) and two Nitrogen (N2) Generations Systems (generators, holding tanks, air dryers, etc.).

Other items of interest for this particular construction project included the design and implementation of a new comprehensive grounding system to include the PARPP building and surrounding structures and equipment and the design and implementation of a new cathodic protection systems to protect underground metal structures from corrosion.

In addition, the site's existing emergency generator control systems were upgraded, the components of the PAR and PARPP buildings' existing fire alarm and fire monitoring systems were designed, upgraded and replaced, and the components of the facility's lighting system were upgraded and replaced to improve the lighting scheme of the PAR building.

New electrical protective devices (EPDs) were designed into the existing operational systems of the facility; two new cooling towers with associated mechanical piping and electrical, control and monitoring components and systems were designed and installed; two existing refrigeration units were upgraded and overhauled; and the facility's Lube Oil Building was insulated and improved to have better ground water resistivity.

Cavalier AFS

The PARCS radar is the most prominent building on Cavalier AFS — a concrete structure that stands 125 ft. (38.1 m) high. Additional facilities at 10 SWS include the industrial building, which houses the unit motor pool and supply areas, fire station and gymnasium in separate buildings. There also is an eight-unit bachelor crew quarters and 15-unit security forces alert facility. The squadron also has an on-site family housing complex of 14 three or four-bedroom units with fenced yards and landscaping. The Community Activity Center houses a heritage hall, hobby and activities area, shoppette, lounge area, library, theater, cafeteria and bowling lanes.

A mixture of military and civil service people are assigned to 10 SWS. Most of the military members are assigned to the operations directorate, which is responsible for the Missile Warning Operations Center where missile warning and space surveillance missions are performed. The remainder of the assigned military and civilian workers provide support functions and quality assurance evaluation functions for various contracted activities on Cavalier AFS. There are also contract workers at the unit who provide such services as fire protection, law enforcement, custodial care, operations, maintenance and supply. Security forces personnel from Grand Forks AFB provide both internal and external security for the radar.


The unit was originally the acquisition radar portion of the United States' only operational antiballistic missile system, known as SAFEGUARD. Due to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, components of the SAFEGUARD complex, with the exception of PARCS at Cavalier Air Force Station, were deactivated in February 1976. In January 1977, under the US Army, PARCS began passing tactical warning and attack assessment data. In October of 1977, the NORAD Early Warning Mission was transferred to the Air Force and two months later the spacetrack capability was added. In December 1979 the unit was transferred from Aerospace Defense Command to Strategic Air Command.

The unit, as it exists today, joined Air Force Space Command in 1983 as Detachment 5, 1st Space Wing. On Aug. 1, 1986, the unit was redesignated as the 10th Missile Warning Squadron, 1st Space Wing. It was renamed the 10th Space Warning Squadron on May 15, 1992, when the 1st Space Wing and 3rd Space Support Wing were inactivated and the 21st Space Wing was activated. In September of 2007, the installation, along with PARCS, was transferred to the Air Force.

Since its construction, PARCS and the military members and civilians who operate and maintain it have constantly watched the skies for any signs of threat and allowed the tracking of satellites and other man-made objects.

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