This Florida military unit is watching for North Korean nuclear bomb tests


This Florida military unit is watching for North Korean nuclear bomb tests
  1. This Florida military unit is watching for North Korean nuclear bomb tests
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    The Air Force Technical Applications Center operates and maintains the U.S. Atomic Energy Detection…
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Lt Col. Ehren Carl talks about AFTAC, its mission, and their 24/7 readiness. Video by Malcolm Denemark

Airmen assigned to the Technical Support Squadron monitor seismic activity throughout the world from Patrick Air Force Base.(Photo: U.S. Air Force photo by William B. Belcher)

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PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — As the world awaits North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's next military move, a secretive U.S. Air Force complex on the other side of the planet continues to monitor the isolated nation for nuclear bomb tests.

Headquartered at Patrick Air Force Base, the Air Force Technical Applications Center operates and maintains the U.S. Atomic Energy Detection System. Operating on all seven continents, this $3 billion surveillance network of more than 3,600 high-tech sensors — including seismic sensors, ocean hydrophones and gamma detectors — identifies nuclear detonations underground, underwater, and in the Earth’s atmosphere and space.

"AFTAC, and our squadron in particular, are ready to go all the time, 24/7. It doesn't matter what's happening globally, what the specific circumstances are," said Lt. Col. Ehren Carl. He commands the Technical Surveillance Squadron, a group of 70 airmen who analyze the incoming sensor data.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has claimed an "historic" advance in the country's nuclear strike capability with the successful test of a solid-fuel rocket engine, state media said.  KCNA via AFP/Getty Images Fullscreen A man cycles past the Kim Il Sung square on Wednesday, ahead of the 'Day of the Sun' celebrations in Pyongyang, North Korea.  Franck Robichon, EPA Fullscreen Young boys get the view of Pyongyang, North Korea from a bus window, April 12.  Franck Robichon, EPA Fullscreen Waitresses work on April 12, in a restaurant of the Koryo Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea.  Franck Robichon, EPA Fullscreen A tramway rides past the Pyongyang Station in Pyongyang, on April 12, 2016.  Franck Robichon, EPA Fullscreen Pedestrians walk along a street in Pyongyang, North Korea.  Franck Robichon, EPA Fullscreen A large mosaic representing Kim Il-Sung, left, and Kim Jong-Il in Pyongyang suburbs, North Korea is shown on April 12, 2016. An ethnic Korean U.S. citizen was sentenced to 10 years in jail for espionage.  Franck Robichon, EPA Fullscreen A worker unloads a bag of fertilizer from a conveyer belt at Hungnam Fertilizer Complex in Hungnam, South Hamgyong Province, North Korea, March 13, 2016.  Kim Kwang Hyon, AP Fullscreen A shipbuilder works at the Hongwon Shipyard in Hongwon County, South Hamgyong Province, March 12, 2016.   Jon Chol Jin, AP Fullscreen Newly manufactured shoes are seen at Wonsan Shoes Factory in the Kangwon Province, March 14, 2016. North Koreans are being mobilized en masse to boost production and demonstrate their loyalty to leader Kim Jong Un in a 70-day campaign aimed at wiping out "indolence and slackness." To show their loyalty, workers are putting in extra hours to boost production in everything from coal mining to fisheries.   Kim Kwang Hyon, AP Fullscreen A North Korean soldier walks past a truck near goods piled up on a dockyard in Sinuiju, North Korea, March 14, 2016.  AP Fullscreen North Koreans load goods on a dockyard with a Chinese and North Korean national flags in Sinuiju, North Korea, as seen from Dandong in northeastern China's Liaoning province, Feb. 26, 2016 .   AP Fullscreen This undated photo released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 2, 2016 shows a missile test of a new-type anti-air guided weapon system at an unknown location.   KCNA, AFP/Getty Images Fullscreen Kim Jong-Un inspecting the test of a new-type anti-air guided weapon system at an unknown location. photo released on April 2, 2016.  KCNA, AFP/Getty Images Fullscreen North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un inspecting the Plant under the Ryongsong Machine Complex in North Korea.  KCNA, AFP/Getty Images Fullscreen A woman cycles with her child riding in a basket in Kaesong on Feb. 22, 2016.  Wong Maye-E, AP Fullscreen Bicycle riders in Kaesong on Feb. 22, 2016.   Wong Maye-E, AP Fullscreen Korean People's Army Lt. Col. Nam Dong Ho is silhouetted against the truce village of Panmunjom at the Demilitarized Zone on Feb. 22, 2016.  Wong Maye-E, AP Fullscreen The North Korea's women soccer team fills up custom forms in front of a globe structure as they prepare for departure to Beijing at Pyongyang's International Airport on Feb. 23, 2016.   Wong Maye-E, AP Fullscreen Two people cycle past a planetarium at the Three Revolutions Exhibition Hall in Pyongyang on Feb. 23, 2016.   Wong Maye-E, AP Fullscreen A cashier prepares a receipt for customers at a local restaurant in Kaesong on Feb. 22, 2016.   Wong Maye-E, AP Fullscreen Solar panels hang from windows of an apartment building in Kaesong.   Wong Maye-E, AP Fullscreen Soldiers guard the truce village of Panmunjom at the Demilitarized Zone on Feb. 22, 2016.  Wong Maye-E, AP Fullscreen North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un attends a concert marking the 70th founding anniversary of the KPA military band in Pyongyang, in this photo released Feb, 23, 2016.  Korean Central News Agency Fullscreen A boy pushes a cart of cabbage along a main road in Hyangsan County, north of Pyongyang, on Dec. 3, 2015.  Wong Maye-E, AP Fullscreen South Korean army soldiers close a gate in Paju, near the border with North and South Korea, on Feb. 8, 2016.  …
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