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WESS Recognizes the 50th Anniversary of the Washington-Moscow Hotline

By Craig Powderly, DCATS Plans and Operations

The image above shows the Hotline terminal room of the National Military Command Center at the Pentagon in July 1976.

COL Clyde Richards, PM DCATS, and Mr. Stephen McClintock, Deputy Product Manager, Wideband Enterprise Satellite Systems (PdM WESS), attended a ceremony on Aug. 29 marking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Washington-Moscow Hotline.

The ceremony featured-high profile speakers from both countries and was conducted at the Earth Station at Fort Detrick, Md., which is an integral part of this historic Direct Communications Link (DCL) between the U.S. and Soviet governments.

The communications link was initially established via undersea cable in 1963 to avoid breakdowns in communications such as those that occurred during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The two nations shifted to satellite technology in the early 1970s. Fort Detrick joined the system in 1978 as a U.S. communications ground station supporting the Nuclear Risk Reduction Center (NRRC) communications for the U.S. State Department.

The image above was taken at the event of the 50th anniversary of the Hotline on Aug. 26, 2013, and shows what it looks like today.

“The Fort Detrick Earth Station provides U.S., Russian and other former Soviet world leaders with a format for communicating during times of crisis. This was most evident during recent times of crisis like September 11,” said COL Richards. “Prior to the hotline, the two super powers communicated via mail or teletype through official channels.

Predecessor organizations to DCATS and WESS were involved in the initial acquisition of commercial satellite communications (SATCOM) technology for the DCL. That system has since expanded to include direct links not only with Moscow but with the capitals of several former Soviet bloc countries, including Belarus, Kazakhstan and the Ukraine, in order to track nuclear missile technology.

Today, WESS is responsible for acquiring and sustaining SATCOM terminals and their baseband equipment, both in the U.S. and at these overseas NRRC locations. “In fact,” noted Mr. McClintock, who has worked with U.S. SATCOM since 1987, “we have just begun planning for a system-wide 2016/2017 modernization campaign at the Fort Detrick Earth Station, which is going to be the next step in this ongoing story.”

The image above was taken at the event of the 50th anniversary of the Hotline on Aug. 26, 2013, and shows what it looks like today.

Posted October 25, 2013