02 July 2010

TACAMO Training Mission


Back in April I visited the TACAMO Air Wing based out of Tinker Air Force base in Oklahoma and wrote about them here. Last week I had the opportunity to join them on a live training mission. It was, simply put, a very rewarding and educational experience. I was very impressed with the cohesion of this well-trained and disciplined team. Each of our Sailors on-board knew their job very well and executed superbly.

The first mission I observed was emergency message transmission. In the event of a national security emergency, TACAMO provides a survivable communications relay between our nation’s decision makers and our nuclear delivery systems. One of the ways TACAMO communicates with our submerged submarines is through a very-low-frequency (VLF) dual trailing wire antenna system. This antenna wire provides the aircraft with the ability to transmit one-way emergency messages. The antenna is a very long wire (thousands of feet) that is released, controlled and monitored by two reel operators while in flight. When deployed, the antenna trails behind and below the aircraft which must be flown fly in a sharp, circular orbit to allow it to hang as vertically as possible to enhance signal transmission. Depending on the mission, the aircraft may have to do this for hours. I observed the crew release the wire, enter the pattern and transmit a test message.
The picture to the right is a tv console on board that the operators use to monitor the wire. At the end of the wire is a drogue, which creates drag that keeps the wire fully extended and steady.

The second mission I observed was a mid-air refueling from an Air Force KC-10 tanker. I cannot say enough about the flying skill that is required from our aviators to make this happen. I think the pictures below tell the story best for this one.
I was once again impressed with our TACAMO Sailors and really enjoyed the opportunity to ride with them and observe first-hand these outstanding professionals at work. 
All the best, JCHjr

No comments: