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In God we trust.
All others we monitor.

True to our mission, AFTAC remains the world’s most trusted leader providing technical nuclear information. We collect, produce, and advance capabilities to observe foreign nuclear tests for treaty monitoring; respond to global nuclear events; and prevent strategic surprise.

Of course, AFTAC continues to improve the U.S. Atomic Energy Detection System (USAEDS). As the nation’s caretaker of USAEDS, AFTAC works closely with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization in Vienna, Austria. Together, both parties are significantly improving the International Monitoring System (IMS). In fact, AFTAC now contributes six of its U.S.-based USAEDS seismic monitoring stations to the IMS.

AFTAC includes nine detachments, four operating locations and more than 60 unmanned equipment locations around the world supporting AFTAC’s long range nuclear detection mission.

Technician gathering data in the Arctic

Technician gathering data in the Arctic

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.

Laboratories do significant research and analyze data and actual nuclear debris. For example, AFTAC supported Operation Tomodachi, the U.S. government’s response to the 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011. The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant experienced a nuclear meltdown in three of the plant’s six nuclear reactors. AFTAC personnel flew nine nuclear debris collection sorties and analyzed 660 samples from the affected Pacific peninsula.

Radiochemistry Lab

In 2014, AFTAC supplemented its extensive network of contracted laboratories by opening its own state-of-the-art 38,000 square foot 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 Ciambrone Radiochemistry Laboratory is now the centerpiece of networked labs designed to analyze and identify radiological and nuclear debris from foreign nuclear explosions, as well as other materials, devices and debris. AFTAC’s Nuclear Debris Collection and Analysis Program is the U.S. Government’s main source for this kind of collection and analysis.

In the aftermath of 9/11, the U.S. Government recognized a need to develop technical nuclear forensics capabilities to ensure rapid analysis to understand and identify threats and inform tactical responses. The Ciamborne Radiochemistry Laboratory is part of that effort to meet vital national security requirements.

Testing in a clean room
Two lab technicians with equipment
AFTAC transport plane
Ciambrone Radiochemistry Lab
Scientist conducting analysis
Researcher testing samples
Engineer calibrating testing equipment
Gathering samples for testing
Researchers in Alaska
Technicians in a clean room
Remote sensing station
Airman working with civilians

AFTAC is also on the forefront of protecting the homeland as it establishes an array of sensors across the United States as part of the National Technical Nuclear Forensics program. This program is designed to collect forensic analysis after detonations to aid the Federal Bureau of Investigation in attributing attacks on U.S. soil to foreign governments or terrorist entities to swiftly bring those responsible to justice.

AFTAC is part of the Air Force Civilian Service (AFCS). That’s the indispensable force that provides the brain power and manpower that keep the Air Force ready for action and the homeland protected.

At 170,000 strong AFCS is a force to be reckoned with. We fill positions in over 600 different occupations. Dedicated and confident, we work shoulder to shoulder with Airmen around the country and around the world, committed to the vital Air Force mission in air, space, and cyberspace.

Together we are... Forces. Joined.


Remote sensing station

Remote sensing station


Soon after the end of World War II, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower recognized the need to monitor nuclear testing programs. In 1947, he directed the Army Air Forces to develop technologies capable of detecting “atomic explosions anywhere in the world.” In 1949, a particulate sampler aboard an Air Weather Service modified B-29 flying between Alaska and Japan detected debris from the first Russian atomic test—an event experts predicted could not happen until the mid-1950s.

As the Air Force activated AFTAC in 1959 to prepare to monitor compliance with the Limited Test Ban Treaty, AFTAC assumed some responsibilities for the USAEDS and the advancement of Long Range Detection capabilities. Over time, AFTAC’s various programs evolved into a unique resource system monitoring compliance with nuclear treaties; supporting our nation’s space program; and helping to protect citizens during emergencies involving nuclear materials.

Over the years, the Air Force tasked the nuclear treaty monitoring center to conduct short-notice collection operations. In April 1986, AFTAC responded to the Ukrainian nuclear accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the former Soviet Union. In total, AFTAC flew 55 sorties compiling 502 flying hours, and AFTAC's McClellan Central Laboratory processed 354 samples and logged more than 2,500 manhours in support of the effort.

In October 2006, AFTAC detected an event associated with North Korea’s claim of a nuclear test and later provided verification of their claim to national authorities.

More recently, the center supported the U.S. government's response to the 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011. The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant experienced a nuclear meltdown in three of six of the plant's six nuclear reactors. AFTAC personnel flew nine nuclear debris collection sorties and analyzed 660 samples.

Airman working with civilians

Airman working with civilians

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