Snakes in our midst: 607th ACS trains Airmen to control the skies
By Chief Master Sgt. Carlos Trujillo, 607th Air Control Squadron
/ Published January 17, 2008
LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz - -- Command and control history is being written everyday in the skies over Iraq and Afghanistan. The Snakes of the 607th Air Control Squadron, a tenant unit at Luke, plays a major role in the success of command and control personnel assigned to units engaged in these areas of responsibility.
The 607th has a highly decorated wartime history; the unit carries a flag with 10 battle campaign streamers, and four presidential unit citations. Its mission has changed between wartime and training a number of times.
In August 1999, Headquarters Air Combat Command directed the 607th to once again convert to a training unit, the Combat Air Force's first and only ACS formal training unit. Its mission is to conduct initial qualification training for operations crew personnel assigned to ACSs.
Training is conducted in three major areas. Teaching tactics, techniques and procedures; an understanding of theater level execution and they increase mission effectiveness through simulated and live air missions. Bottom line, students are trained to be a third set of eyes for combat aircrews conducting air-to-air, air-to-ground and air refueling missions.
Maintenance and operations personnel assigned at the schoolhouse are responsible for training surveillance technicians, weapons directors and air weapons officers. In 2007, the 607th trained 56 surveillance trainees, and 54 weapons trainees. In the very near future, the FTU will also become the only AN/TPS-75, mobile radar system, maintenance technician school in the Air Force. The annual maintenance technician student load is yet to be established.
FTU graduates are either assigned or destined to one of five ACSs in the Combat Air Forces. These squadrons fill spots in the control and reporting center role within theater air control systems. They support an air component commander in the air operations center.
In order to do their job, the CRC possesses four modular control equipment operations modules. The modules look much like a refrigerated storage cubicle. The modules are used to put together an all-inclusive air picture by multiple data links from air-, sea- and land-based radar sensors, as well as, from its own TPS-75 radar sensors. The CRC uses this integrated air picture for decentralized command and control of joint operations by conducting threat warning, battle management, theater missile defense, weapons control, combat identification, and strategic communications. It's a mobile weapons system, that is classified as a low-density, high demand Air Force asset. ACSs face a daunting deployment schedule to answer the nation's call in today's war on terrorism.
Surveillance technicians are responsible for providing and maintaining a recognizable air picture, as well as identifying and classifying all airborne objects in the CRC's area of responsibility. They do so by establishing computerized symbology on air tracks and initiating amplifying data for display on their operator console unit. They also distribute flight plans and track information to adjacent and subordinate units. The surveillance technicians must coordinate activities with air traffic control facilities and ensure air tasking order information is correct and up-to-date in the operational database in order to effectively identify all detected air tracks in their area of responsibility.
When one of these air tracks is unidentifiable or identified hostile, then weapons directors or air weapons officers are responsible for tactical control of air-to-air and air-to-surface combat aircraft. In meeting this responsibility they provide critical situation awareness to aircrews during aerial combat. They are like another set of eyes or the third wingman, by providing positioning assistance during air intercept, air combat training, or air refueling missions.
The weapons directors and air weapons officers ensure a safe and orderly flow of pilots and their aircraft to targets, tankers, forward air controllers and other control agencies. They also provide critical traffic, airspace, weather advisories and emergency assistance as required. These highly skilled Airmen must maintain high knowledge levels of United States warfare plans, as well as threat intelligence. In order to succeed in a dynamic stress filled war environment controllers must be extremely knowledgeable on all theater air control system equipment and its capabilities.
The 607th Maintenance Flight is made up of highly diversified skill sets from many Air Force specialties. With the exception of a large tactical vehicle fleet, they work on the exact same equipment the war-tasked ACSs maintain. The squadron's training mission does not start each day without the maintenance piece.
Nine work centers, each with distinct responsibilities make up the maintenance flight. Their technicians service various pieces of crypto equipment; HF/VHF/UHF radios and their complementary ensembles; data link equipment; numerous small computer systems and the networks they reside in; heating, ventilation, air conditioning equipment, the TPS-75 radar. The success and timeliness of all equipment maintenance is kept on track by the quality assurance and the maintenance operations centers. These work centers keep all systems available for instructors to hone their skills and train students.
In order to stay current in their own personal command and control skills, 607th ACS instructors provide in-garrison radar control to combat training units flying in local Southwest region airspaces. They operate radar and communications equipment worth $85 million on a daily basis to support 56th Fighter Wing aircrew training with radar control. They also support the 355th Wing at Davis-Monthan AFB and the 162nd Fighter Group at Tucson International Airport.
The Snakes remain worldwide deployment qualified to fight in our nation's war on terrorism. Both maintenance and operations personnel enable the five ACSs they train by deploying in combat positions, as well as various global contingency operations and 365-day deployments to Afghanistan in direct support of the war on terrorism. At any one time, 10 to 20 percent of the unit is deployed. Seldom is there an ACS in the forefront of theater combat operations without a Snake in their midst.