The current Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) is considered outdated by the Air Force. The strain on financial resources to maintain it are immense. These costs are impractical amid concerns that it is not reliable and easily breached by enemies. The new system is planned to be in place in the year 2020. The goal is to find a more readily available item that can be added to any launching satellite and easily put into place as needed.
The new system is called “Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared.” Technology at the ground level is also undergoing a change. The entire plan is to make the missile warning system cost efficient and more dependable. This new warning system should be able to detect and fend off intrusions. The goal is to create a more basic system, while accomplishing something complex. Ease of use, however, is what adds to the dependability.
The recently launched SBIRS geosynchronous satellite, or GEO Flight 4 is already in orbit. Funding for GEO Flights 5 and 6 is being sought out now. These are planned to be launched consecutively in the years 2021 and 2022. The Air Force considers the current protection to the minimal acceptable amount. Higher surveillance with the addition of the fifth and sixth satellites aims to add extra features such as infrared sensors and scanning capabilities.
The present cost of $1.7 billion per satellite should go down about 20% for the following two SBIRS launches. Changes in production and less complications applied by the Air Force contributed to the projected lower cost. Even with these advancements, change is still sought out for a replacement to the SBIRS. They are considered targets for enemies and a less detectable system is desired. The time to construct these items is also unrealistic in a situation where quick action is necessary.