Space Force wants 'FOO Fighters' satellites to combat hypersonic missiles

The US Space Force has published a call for a new constellation of hypersonic missiles detecting and tracking satellites dubbed "FOO Fighter."
Christopher McFadden
Satellite constellation transmitting
Satellite constellation transmitting


The United States Space Force's Space Development Agency (SDA) has published a draft solicitation for a "FOO Fighter" satellite constellation. The Fire-control On Orbit-support-to-the-war Fighter program gives it its full name, F2; the constellation is intended to detect, track, and coordinate the interception of hypersonic missiles.

Published on July 7, 2023, the program asks for eight satellites fitted with infrared and optical sensors. These satellites will aid in detecting, warning, and precisely tracking advanced missile threats, including hypersonic missile systems. Their deployment is intended to enhance fire-control capabilities on a global scale. Given the relatively low altitudes hypersonic missiles travel at (compared to intercontinental ballistic missiles), these satellites will extend the warning time the US (and its allies) can achieve to detect and respond to hypersonic threats.

It'll track hypersonics

As explains, "Fire control incorporates various technologies such as radar or other sensors, targeting computers and ranged weapons together into a cohesive system that can detect threats or targets and then direct weapons or other countermeasures at them." While few other details are available, the SDA plans to launch the prototype FOO Fighter constellation in 2026, as stated in the contract opportunity. However, further information about the program is classified as "Top Secret."

"The Space Development Agency (SDA) is issuing this DRAFT solicitation for the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture's (PWSA) Fire-control OOrbit-support-to-the-war Fighter (FOO Fighter) Program. The draft solicitation provides an opportunity for industry to review and offer feedback [before] final solicitation posting," the solicitation says.

"Foo Fighter or F2 system will accelerate the ability to provide fire-control in support of global detection, warning, and precision tracking of advanced missile threats, including hypersonic missile systems. The F2 system will demonstrate advanced missile defense capability by incorporating fire control-quality sensors into a prototype constellation. SDA plans to purchase and deploy eight (8) F2s SVs with EO/IR sensors using more than one vendor," it adds.

As for the name, it is unclear whether this is accidental or a callback to a common phrase used to describe Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs). It originated from World War Two when there were reports of mysterious balls of light that Allied aviators named "Foo Fighters." For music fans, Dave Grohl's post-Nirvana band is also named after them.

Whatever the reasoning behind the abbreviation, the emergence of hypersonic weapons like glide vehicles has increased the need for improved detection and tracking capabilities and new interceptors to counter their higher speed and maneuverability compared to previous missiles. The "FOO Fighter" program is part of the ongoing efforts by the US military to develop space-based sensors that can detect and monitor existing and potential threats, including hypersonic missiles.

Satellites galore

The Space Force reported that in August 2022, "United Launch Alliance" (ULA) successfully launched the sixth and final satellite of the SBIRS GEO constellation. This constellation is designed to provide infrared surveillance for missile warning, missile defense, battlespace awareness, and technical intelligence.

Earlier this year, in April, SpaceX successfully launched a group of ten advanced satellites called "Tranche 0" for the US Space Force. These satellites are part of the "Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture," a constellation of satellites aimed at enhancing the Space Force's missile detection and tracking capabilities.

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