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S P E C I A L: The Standoff with Iraq

High-tech weaponry to aid U.S. strike

The Cheyenne Mountain military omplex is home to the U.S. Space Command and the North American Air Defense Command, or NORAD  
February 14, 1998
Web posted at: 2:22 p.m. EST (1922 GMT)

CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN, Colorado (CNN) -- In the seven years since the Gulf War, the Pentagon has spent billions of dollars to make it easier for wartime military commanders to stay informed about what's happening on the battlefield and in the sky above.

As a result, the process of gathering battlefield information and passing it on to the commanders is much improved, Gen. Howell Estes, commander-in-chief for the U.S. Space Command at Cheyenne, Colorado, told CNN. Cheyenne also is home to the North American Air Defense Command, known as NORAD. icon 88 K / 7 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

A look at the Space Command's role in military operations

During the Gulf War, it often took more than five minutes to notify ground troops that Iraq had launched a Scud missile.

Today, the situation at the North American Air Defense Command at Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado is much different: If a missile of military significance is launched anywhere in the world, it will show up on NORAD computers within seconds.

Satellite receiver stations  

Computer operators then instantly contact commanders on the ground -- via computers and a sophisticated satellite receiver station on the battlefield.

The use of satellite imagery also has revolutionized other battlefield communications. The army is now using satellite imagery and other systems to give ground and air commanders photographs and interactive on-screen maps of the battlefield.

Armed with that information, a commander can make a "virtual reality flight" over a target area days before an actual strike.

Computers at command centers in Cheyenne, Colorado, can give up-to-the-minute information to battlefield commanders  

The generals agree that many of their high-tech weapons depend on the Global Positioning System satellite to hit the intended target. And they contend it's unlikely that an enemy could successfully attack the GPS satellites or ground stations.

Pentagon budget cuts have brought about another positive change, military officials say. To maximize resources, U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force units communicate and coordinate more effectively with each other. Generals say the result will be a much more coordinated wartime effort.

Correspondent John Holliman contributed to this report.

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