A critical role in air defense
Protecting the homeland with NASAMS, a system that never sleeps
When Erica Hellandsjo first worked on the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System mission, known as NASAMS, she knew exactly what she wanted to do after the military.
Now she works with NASAMS on the civilian side, supporting air defense coverage of the United States National Capital Region, or NCR. The NASAMS program has been providing 24/7 air defense to the NCR since 2005, and its critical mission has been extended another four years.
“After my first rotation on mission, I knew I wanted to do something with NASAMS full-time,” Hellandsjo said. “It became my dream job to work with Raytheon (Technologies) and made it my mission to absorb all things NASAMS. My knowledge of the mission and the system from an operator’s perspective truly helps me tie everything together.”
Hellandsjo is one of the seven field service representatives who actively support the mission for Raytheon Technologies.
“As an operator, you carry out the mission and push the buttons, but never have to get into the nitty-gritty parts of the system; but as a contractor, I now get to load the missiles, conduct tests, fix and improve equipment and train soldiers,” said Hellandsjo, a senior field engineer for the NASAMS program.
The field service representatives work in cooperation with the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force’s Joint Air Defense Operation Center, called JADOC. NASAMS is a tailorable, state-of-the-art air defense system. It can identify and engage such threats as enemy aircraft and cruise missiles.
Raytheon Missiles & Defense, one of the four businesses that make up Raytheon Technologies, recently won a contract award for another four years for the NASAMS NCR program with the U.S. Army.
U.S. National Guard soldiers oversee this system that never sleeps.
Where the magic happens
Hellandsjo is also an assistant operations sergeant in the South Carolina Army National Guard. She serves as a senior Early Warning System operator in Air Defense Command.
“Basically, Sentinel radars and Command and Control are my thing,” she said.
Hellandsjo twice mobilized in the NCR in support of Operation Noble Eagle; the first time was six years ago as a NASAMS launcher crew member. In 2017, she served as a NASAMS tactical control assistant in the JADOC.
“The JADOC is where the magic happens,” said Brian Heath, NASAMS multinational program manager. “The area it protects 24/7 covers a significant radius around the White House in the National Capital Region.”
Devoted to the mission
Through strong enterprise collaboration, the Raytheon Missiles & Defense team has helped to protect the past four presidential inaugurations and all annual State of the Union addresses. The JADOC is staffed around the clock at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling by Air Force and Army National Guard personnel, who watch for potentially dangerous aircraft.
“The vastness of the knowledge and experience possessed by everyone on this team is mind-blowing,” Hellandsjo said.
The business has trained hundreds of soldiers on the NASAMS system. It maintains a team of dedicated field service representatives located at the NCR, along with multi-disciplined engineers in various locations.
“They are literally a mile wide and a mile deep,” Hellandsjo said. “We troubleshoot, repair and replace components, deal with logistics, interface with the customer, move big missiles, drive forklifts, drive big trucks, operate cranes, work with electricity, do all the ‘it’ things.”
“They're looking at different threats coming across the 360-degree-capable radar coverage area,” said James Normington, director of Medium Range Air Defense programs at Raytheon Missiles and Defense. “They track airplanes or objects and identify friend or foe, and if something shows up they can track it immediately with advanced technologies as it's coming in to determine if it is a threat and how to deal with it.”
NASAMS is fielded by eleven countries with various configurations. In addition to the U.S., Norway, Finland, Spain, The Netherlands, Oman, Lithuania, Indonesia, Australia, Qatar and one undisclosed country have chosen to depend on NASAMS for defense of their homelands and critical assets. The system configuration may include Raytheon Technologies’ AMRAAM, AMRAAM-ER and AIM-9X missiles and Sentinel™ radar, and Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace AS’ Fire Distribution Center, canister launcher and high mobility launcher.