PAVE PAWS is a radar system operated by the U.S. Air Force - specifically, by SPACECOM
. It consists of three installations around the perimeter of the United States - one in Clear Air Force Station
, one at Beale AFB
in California, and one at Cape Cod
AFS in Massachusetts. The purpose of these systems is to provide early warning
(detection), as well as track data and target identification
, of potential missile attacks against the U.S. Similar in purpose to the BMEWS
, the PAVE PAWS is mainly intended to catch SLBM
launches from the Atlantic
oceans, as well as provide some coverage against inbound ICBM
s. PAVE is an Air Force designated prefix for two-word program nicknames, and PAWS stands for P
ystem (because, of course, it's a phased array
The name is a combination code and acronym. PAVE is an Air Force standard designation for ground-based radars, and PAWS stands for "Phased Array Warning System." The radars consist of three buildings (one at each site) built in the shape of a equilateral triangle. In each of two faces is set an enormous (several stories tall) phased array radar antenna; each of these is capable of covering a 120-degree arc centered on the perpendicular from the radar's face. Thus, each installation can cover 240 degrees of horizon. In addition, the array faces are at a slight reclining angle, in order to allow vertical coverage from between 3 and 85 degrees above horizontal.
Due to the power and size of these installations, the airspace near them is heavily restricted. They could probably (if desired) microwave the contents of any nearby Cessna to 'Convection Bake' level.
According to the Air Force, the radars are almost entirely automatic; a few personnel are on station at each site to monitor the health of the systems and provide final manual checks on warnings. The data from each radar site is collected and integrated at NORAD's central facility (which used to be inside Cheyenne Mountain - see WarGames).