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752nd OSS: Sabers sharpen edge for Air Force’s control and reporting centers

The faces of Capt. Jennifer and Maj. Michael (last names not used in accordance with Air Combat Command directives), 752nd Operation Support Squadron air battle managers, are illuminated by the glow of their computer screens as they follow and point out target aircraft during a training scenario on the AN/TYQ-23A emulator Oct. 31, 2016, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. The trainees are working as part of a larger crew to test the communication and decision making skills of the individuals and team under a stressful environment. (Photos taken of systems configured to unclassified status by subject matter experts. Photo has been manipulated to blur the names of individuals shown.)(U.S. Air Force photo/Greg L. Davis)

The faces of Capt. Jennifer and Maj. Michael (last names not used in accordance with Air Combat Command directives), 752nd Operation Support Squadron air battle managers, are illuminated by the glow of their computer screens as they follow and point out target aircraft during a training scenario on the AN/TYQ-23A emulator Oct. 31, 2016, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. The trainees are working as part of a larger crew to test the communication and decision making skills of the individuals and team under a stressful environment. (Photos taken of systems configured to unclassified status by subject matter experts. Photo has been manipulated to blur the names of individuals shown.)(U.S. Air Force photo/Greg L. Davis)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --

The 752nd Operations Support Squadron is ensuring the Air Force maintains its edge in the air control mission for years to come through changes to equipment and training.

 

Lt. Col. Heather Fleishauer, 752nd OSS commander, said her unit, which falls under the 552nd Air Control Wing, is the lone, dedicated support squadron for the Air Force’s control and reporting centers.

 

“The CRCs are command and control elements that are ground-based,” Colonel Fleishauer explained. While the 552nd ACW conducts airborne control using the E-3B/C/G Airborne Warning and Control System, “the CRCs have the same mission and capability, in general, but with ground-based radar we have sustainment power. We are at fixed sites, but are considered mobile because within 72 hours we can get from one place to another.”

 

The Saber-tooth tigers provide dedicated support to geographically separated, combat-coded Air Control Squadrons throughout the United States, Europe and combat deployed locations. The 752nd OSS also plans and supports worldwide contingency operations for combatant commanders. There are four active-duty Air Control Squadrons, one of which is a Formal Training Unit at Luke AFB, Arizona. There are also 10 Air National Guard Air Control Squadrons, including a Test Squadron at Ft. Dodge, Iowa. The 752nd OSS supports all of these units. 

 

Currently, the 752nd OSS has the lead role in planning, testing, training and subsequently ensuring combat capable weapon systems and personnel are ready in the future.

 

The necessity for the 752nd OSS to take the lead on upgrades comes from aging equipment and technology associated with the current ground-based CRCs, the core of which are designated AN/TYQ-23. Relying on CRC radar and communication equipment, the AN/TYQ-23 is a mobile command and control system with multiple control and operating modules where teams of personnel and equipment work to control aircraft. The -23 system is air mobile and can be relocated to anywhere a combatant commander needs this capability within days. However, the system is dated, large, cumbersome and requires lots of maintenance.

 

Senior Master Sgt. Scott, the senior enlisted adviser for the 752nd, feels the time has come for the upgrade.

 

“We’re moving from 1970s technology into the 21st century. Finally! A lot smaller footprint, a lot less logistics required to get us to theatre,” he said. In theory we can move fast — quicker and more efficiently.”

 

The inherent changes aren’t necessarily reflected in the name change for the system which comes in the form of a diminutive “A” designator after the name. The addition of a letter may not be a big deal, however, the AN/TYQ-23A is a massive technology leap to a smaller, lighter, racked computer and equipment system which is more powerful, efficient and has better reliability, according to the systems manufacturer, Northrop Grumman Corp.

 

This system is tailorable to use the associated operating hard-side modules or all-weather shelter capable of withstanding winds in excess of 100 mph. It can also be easily tailored to work from an existing facility which might be found at an air base or other strategic location with existing infrastructure.

 

“As the OSS we want to relieve as much burden as we can off the air control squadrons so that we can concentrate on the future of the systems,” Colonel Fleishauer said. “They’re concentrating on immediately taking what they have and getting their folks ready to get out the door and fulfill the mission they are tasked to do.”

 

The CRCs will all receive new -23A systems in the next 18-24 months, she said.

 

“We’re tasked with streamlining MAJCOM coordination and to advance the weapon system itself,” the colonel said.

 

The 752nd OSS recognized there needed to be a better way to conduct training to match the equipment upgrades. Squadron leaders have fought hard to ensure that happens in a coordinated effort, which allows the training unit to continue producing initial students off the approved syllabi while the 752nd begins to slowly produce graduates who are qualified on the new system.

 

While the 752nd OSS won’t get a full-complement of the latest equipment upgrades until the operational squadrons get it first, they do have a training emulator at Tinker. The emulator consists of seven consoles which allow operationally representative training for almost all mission sets. For now the FTU at Luke, the 607th ACS, continues to train initial students on the older, approved syllabi.

 

The sea change has begun here at Tinker as the 752nd advances a new training program on a draft syllabus. Maj. Craig, the lead ABM instructor with the 752nd OSS, says they have the first batch of four students — one from the 752nd OSS, two from AWACS one from E-8C J-STARS.

 

Major Craig lauds this mix because “we’re getting a breadth of experience to test out this new course.” The training class conducted in-house by the 752nd OSS will graduate Dec. 9 with three personnel going to U.S. Air Forces Europe and one remaining with the unit.

 

Because there is a large cross-flow between the air battle managers who fly aboard E-3 AWACS and E-8C J-STARS and their ground-based counterparts at the CRCs, there is a large training burden which falls to the units based upon the current training plan. Currently, ABMs receive initial training and numerous evaluations as they progress, whether in the air or on the ground. If they move to another weapon system, they must recertify through the long training process. That translates into massive duplication of resources and flights. The new syllabi will allow ABMs to “certify” with basic qualifications they simply maintain and upgrade as required through one or two missions.

 

“Air Battle Management is a team sport,” Colonel Fleishauer notes. “Regardless of what platform you are on, you need to be able to communicate amid chaos so that you can calmly make a plan and direct that plan on a radio to someone who is miles and miles away.”

 

The units themselves will get somebody who’s more capable, according to the commander.

 

“They’ll have more in-depth knowledge of the different parts of the system,” she said. “Not just the beeps and squeaks, but how the crew needs to interact with each other.”

 

Major Craig said the new training course is designed to work, “for brand-new lieutenants out of the school house or Majors who are coming from the two other weapons systems.”

 

Colonel Fleishauer brings the conversation away from all the technology talk and training and back to ways we’ve always communicated — face-to-face.

 

“We have a more capable platform and we have a better way to operate it more efficiently,” she said. “The -23A allows us to sit people together and better communicate, because they are physically closer to each other rather than in boxes with four people each, you are all on one ops-floor.”