Nuke Sensors to Get Upgrade

WASHINGTON (05/24/2000) - The global network of sensors used to detect nuclear testing anywhere in the world is being modernized to take advantage of recent technological advances.

The U.S. Air Force on Monday awarded a US$50 million contract to Science Applications International Corp. to upgrade and sustain existing sensors and possibly to install new ones. The contract will cover the first six years of a 10-year program that could be worth up to $120 million.

The network of sensors has been in place since the 1960s and has been upgraded before, but even some of the upgrades are up to eight years old - an advanced age for information technology, according to Tom Bache, SAIC's senior vice president in charge of the program.

The network is made up mostly of seismic sensors similar to those used for detecting earthquakes. But it must be sensitive enough to distinguish between a nuclear explosion and the approximately 50 earthquakes that occur throughout the world each day.

In addition to seismic sensors, the network includes hydroacoustic sensors on ocean floors and infrasound sensors, which monitor sounds at frequencies lower than the human ear can detect.

Bache said the program might be worth up to $120 million, depending in part on whether international test ban treaties and the U.S. military budget allow for the planned installation of four new seismic array sites.

"This is a contract with a lot of uncertainties," Bache said.

The contract is expected to include 29 major upgrades, installation of the four new seismic array sites and maintenance of the network.

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