Live Capabilities: 726 ACS executes real world adaptive skill
By Staff Sgt. Tyrell Hall, 366th Fighter Wing Puclic Affairs
/ Published October 07, 2020
MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- The Air Force’s ability to adapt and overcome is the stuff of legend. Implementing adaptive skills in the midst of uncertainty sets the Air Force apart as service. The 726th Air Control Squadron exemplified this when they executed a live mission take over for the 266th Range Squadron to support the 428th Fighter Squadron during their weapons qualifications.
The 428th FS commonly rely on the 266th RANS as the primary communications and air space control facilitator during they’re pilots’ weapons qualifications. This is because they are responsible for providing simulations of ground-based air defense threats on the Mountain Home Range Complex. However, due to exposure to COVID-19, the 266th RANS had to stand down. The 726 ACS was granted the opportunity of supporting the mission in their place, using their own equipment and expertise in radio communication.
“We received a short notice tasking to provide ground radio air control for this training exercise,” said Tech. Sgt. Nathan Jessee, 726th ACS radar systems craftsman. “At that point we rounded up our Airman, grabbed our equipment and got to work.”
These occurrences are rare for the Airmen of the 726th ACS to experience. However through team work and communications they rose to the challenge.
“This type of situation is more suitable to what the Airmen train for and will see downrange.” said Jessee. “Throughout this process, it’s cool to see how the younger Airmen are able to witness what an expeditionary movement looks like.
The 726th ACS doesn’t possess a stateside mission, so these circumstances presented a rare and golden opportunity for them to utilize their skillset in real time.
In under 24 hours and traveling over 70 miles across the range complex, they were able to assemble and send a full ADVON team, made of Airmen from the 726th ACS, the 366th Civil Engineer Squadron and Air Force National Guard Digital Systems personnel, to Grasmere Range, Idaho.
“This is the first time that the 726th ACS transmissions sections has worked directly alongside the 266th RANS mission set,” said Jessee. “In fact, this the first time I’ve seen this many career fields band together for an exercise like this on such short notice.”
The air-to-ground communications they established entailed the transportation and configuration of cyber connections lines, generators and long-range communications.
One of the most important pieces of equipment the 726th ACS established is called a TPS-75 Radar System, or ‘Tipsy 75”. This is a transportable radar system capable of providing radar information over a 240 nautical-mile area. This, coupled with another important machine, the Radio Unit-214 (RU-214), enables pilots to safely navigate the airspace.
“Whenever pilots are conducting missions they will be able to communicate through our RU-214 and other equipment,” said Senior Airman Cameron Lord, 726th ACS radar technician. “We’ve got to be able to set this equipment up pretty fast because without it the pilots would have no Air Picture.”
“Air Picture” refers to the data received by the pilots for use in air-to-air and air-to-ground readings. The 726th ACS set up this equipment in just three hours which is similar to the time frame they aim for in deployed locations.
“Downrange is the exact same thing,” said Lord. “When I was deployed we had the RU-214 set up in ample time and aircraft communicated directly to us, at which time we’d work together to generate accurate airspace information.
Part of the 726th ACS’s task during missions involves basic communications. Other parts involve sending that real time data to pilots so they can efficiently operate, enhancing the air superiority brought to a fight. Yet, other vital aspects go into establishing a presence and controlling a battle space.
“Site setup usually consist of three parts,” said Lord. “First, you have the power and generators that we need to run our communication equipment. Then, there’s the Radio Frequency personnel, who are responsible for ensuring physical communication is available at all times. Finally, there’s the cyber personnel who will use our communications to generate more specific information.”
Aside from overcoming some basic set up speed bumps, the 726th ACS didn’t skip a beat in planting their feet for this airspace training.
“Even with ample equipment and good training you’ll still have issues that present themselves,” said Lord. “But it’s important that we setup this system the same way we do downrange so that the missions run smoothly.”
Even on short notice, The 726th ACS was able to use this opportunity to make a statement by fully displaying their aptitude to rapidly deploy and control any airspace downrange.