Air Force Technical Applications Center (AFTAC)
Service or Branch:
Patrick Air Force Base, FL
Computer and Computational Sciences, Electrical Engineering, Geosciences, Nuclear Engineering, Operations Research, Physics
The Air Force Technical Applications Center (AFTAC) is a surveillance organization subordinate to 25th Air Force, an Air Combat Command Numbered Air Force. AFTAC is located at Patrick AFB on Florida’s east coast, less than 30 miles south of the Kennedy Space Center and 60 miles east of Orlando. AFTAC includes nine detachments, six operating locations and more than 60 unmanned equipment locations around the world supporting AFTAC’s long range nuclear detection mission. In addition, AFTAC manages 11 world-class laboratories to assist the International Atomic Energy Agency with the promotion of safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technologies. AFTAC employs more than 1,000 personnel and boasts a highly educated workforce possessing 171 associate degrees, 121 bachelor’s degrees, 214 master’s degrees and 63 doctorate degrees.
AFTAC provides national authorities quality technical measurements to monitor nuclear treaty compliance and develops advanced proliferation monitoring technologies to preserve our nation’s security. It is the sole organization in the federal government whose mission is to detect and report technical data from foreign nuclear explosions.
Consisting of more than 3,600 sensors worldwide, AFTAC operates and maintains a global network of nuclear event detection equipment called the U.S. Atomic Energy Detection Systems (USAEDS), the largest sensor network in the U.S. Air Force. Once a disturbance is detected underground, underwater, in the atmosphere or in space, the event is analyzed for nuclear identification, and the findings are reported to national command authorities.
AFTAC’s nuclear event detection mission is directly linked to its nuclear treaty monitoring mission. AFTAC monitors signatory countries’ compliance with the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty. This treaty prohibits nuclear testing anywhere but underground and prohibits the venting of nuclear debris or radiation from those tests into the atmosphere outside the country’s national borders. AFTAC also monitors the Threshold Test Ban Treaty of 1974 and the Peaceful Nuclear Explosion Treaty of 1976. The 1974 treaty limits the size of underground nuclear tests to 150 kilotons, while the 1976 treaty prohibits the testing of nuclear devices outside of agreed treaty sites.
AFTAC is on the leading edge of technological research and the evaluation of verification technologies for current and future treaties involving weapons of mass destruction which threaten our national security. In 2014, AFTAC supplemented its extensive network of contracted laboratories by opening its state-of-the-art Ciambrone Radiochemistry Lab to analyze and assess compliance with nuclear weapons testing in support of USAEDS and AFTAC’s Nuclear Debris Collection and Analysis Program. The 38,000 square foot lab filled a void created when the center’s central laboratory at McClellan AFB, Calif. closed after the 1995 Base Realignment and Closure actions.