964th Airborne Air Control Squadron [964th AACS]
Originally activated March 8, 1955, as the 964th Airborne Early Warning and Control Squadron, the unit flew EC-121 aircraft for early warning and control missions. The unit deployed to remote parts of the Pacific to track ballistic missiles and help recovery aircraft pinpoint impact sites. Later, unit crews and aircraft supported the Discovery and Mercury series programs in space operations by guiding the aircraft used to recover the space modules. Between April 1965 and June 1974 the 964th Airborne Early Warning and Control Squadron rotated aircraft and crew to Southeast Asia as an integral part of Big Eye (later College Eye) Task Force. Crews and aircraft also deployed frequently to East Coast of the United States, to Iceland, and other countries. The unit was inactivated June 30, 1974, when the Southeast Asia commitment ended.
Since the activation of the unit at Tinker AFB July 7,1977, its crew have trained to fly the E-3 in support of the 552nd Air Control Wing. The unit has more than 350 crew members and support personnel assigned. While Tinker AFB remains the home base for squadron operations, 964th crews regularly rotate to overseas operating bases and forward locations supporting worldwide missions. In September 1978, 964th crews initially deployed to the 552nd ACW's unit at Keflavik Naval Air Station, Iceland.
In March-April 1979 the 964th undertook the E-3's first real-world operational deployment to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. During the operation, the squadron crews flew the first E-3's to circumnavigate the globe. They visited Alaska, Hawaii, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and the Azores.
At home the 964th trains with North American Aerospace Defense Command and Tactical Air Command units throughout the United States and Canada. Operating from Tinker AFB, crews participate in TAC sponsored exercises including Red Flag,Copper Flag, Green Flag, Blue Flag, Maple Flag, Amalgam Chief, Gallant Eagle, Bold Eagle and Brave Shield, as well as playing an increasing role with the Navy in such large-scale exercises as Readiex, Readex, and Fleetex. In January 1979, 964th crews began NORAD alert in support of U.S. air defense requirements.
In December 1979 the 964th was the "lead squadron" to deploy to the Mediterranean area, participating in joint training exercises with air and sea units from the United States, as well as other nations in the area. This deployment concluded in May 1980. In September 1980, 964th crews again deployed on short-notice to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The purpose of this, the largest E-3 overseas deployment in history to date, was to enhance the air defense capability of Saudi Arabia. Approximately 200 aircrew members and other support people and four E-3s provided around-the-clock radar coverage, working closely with other U.S. forces, as well as elements of the Royal Saudi Air Force.
In October 1981, 964th Airborne Warning and Control Squadron crews deployed to Egypt after the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. While there, they provided air surveillance of the region and worked closely with Egyptian pilots and ground defense sites in maintaining peace.
In October and November 1983, 964th crews, working out of Puerto Rico, supported the Urgent Fury joint military operation in Grenada, providing air surveillance of the Caribbean Basin during all phases of the operation.
In November 1983 the 964th deployed to Kadena Air Base, Japan, in support of salvage operations following the Soviet downing of Korean Airline Flight 007. The unit provided air surveillance, as well as command and control for the highly visible search and rescue efforts following the incident.
In August 1983 the 964th deployed to Khartoum, Sudan, in support of the Joint Chiefs of Staff-directed operation called Arid Farmer. The unit provided around-the-clock air surveillance of the volatile border region between Libya and Sudan. Also, in August 1983, on very short-notice due to tensions in the region, the 964th deployed to Egypt for a Joint Chiefs of Staff directed operation called Early Call. Crews were divided with half going to Sudan for operation Arid Farmer and the other half participating in Bright Star, a Central Air Force deployment to Egypt.
The squadron participated in the first 552nd ACW-sponsored exercise, Coronet Sentry, held in October 1986. It combined Air Force and Marine fighter assets and provided eight days of surveillance and weapons training.
During 1987, the 964th deployed to numerous overseas and stateside exercises. The squadron deployed to Normad Thrust, an exercise practicing the ability to survive and operate in a chemical warfare environment. In May 1987, the squadron was deployed to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, when the USS Stark was attacked in the Persian Gulf. Crew members assisted with the search and rescue of the Stark's crew.
In 1988, the squadron continued to support real-world commitments in Iceland and Saudi Arabia. The squadron also deployed to exercises at Geilenkirchen, West Germany, and the Naval Air Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico.
In the spring of 1989, Saudi Elf-One Operations ended with the termination of hostilities in the Iran/Iraq war. In addition, the 964th started special operations known as Agate Path (later changed to Enhanced Ops) in support of the war on drugs.
In December 1989, Operation Just Cause, the largest military night operation since World War II was launched against the forces of Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega. The 964th was a key participant in these activities, which ceased shortly after Noriega's capture. U.S. losses during the operation were minimal.
In August 1990, the Persian Gulf once again became a region of increased tension, with the invasion of Kuwait by hostile Iraqi forces under Saddam Hussein. 964th personnel quickly deployed to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in support of the operation known as Desert Shield. This operation, formed to protect the Saudi Kingdom, was a multinational effort that continued into January of 1991. In January, the United Nations Security Council gave Iraq until January 15 to withdraw from Kuwait. Saddam Hussein's non-compliance with the mandate resulted in the coalition nations launching Operation Desert Storm two days later. It would be known as the largest air assault in history, and the most successful air-land campaign to date. Aircrews of the 964th were directly involved in all operations, including the Composite Wing forces in Turkey, known as Operation Proven Force. The Iraqi army was defeated after only 42 days of combat, the last 100 hours was Desert Sabre, the ground assault.
Following the campaign, on March 22, a task force was formed to monitor remaining Iraqi forces and guarantee no further hostile actions. Personnel from the 964th participated in these operations to maintain the peace. Also beginning in April, crews from the squadron deployed to Turkey for Operation Provide Comfort, assisting the plight of Kurdish refugees fleeing from Iraq. Valuable supplies were air dropped to these people, the aircraft controlled and monitored by support E-3s.
When the President's "war on drugs" moved up on the priority list, the 964th spearheaded the deployment to Panama in November 1992. Meanwhile halfway around the globe on January 17, 1993 the squadron assisted in the shootdown of an Iraqi MiG-29 for violating the no-fly zone.
Overseas was not the only area the 964th was active. In April 1993, the 964th coordinated a search and rescue mission for a downed F-16 over Texas. Also, from March 19 to April 2, 1994 the squadron completed the third and final Joint Air Defense Operation/Joint Engagement Zone test, a joint air defense exercise involving all the U.S. Armed Forces. These tests will help to shape U.S. war fighting doctrine for years to come.
On July 1, 1994 the squadron name was changed from the 964th Airborne Warning And Control Squadron to its present designation.
In May 1995 the 964th was selected as the lead AWACS squadron to team with the 366th Wing at Mt. Home AFB, Idaho, for the largest Operational Readiness Inspection in Air Force history.
The 964th continued to meet many new mission assignments in 1996, in addition to continuing commitments in Operation Southern Watch in Saudi Arabia and Operation Provide Comfort in Turkey, counterdrug operations and Standoff IV and VI. In addition to Red, Green, Blue, and Maple Flag exercises, the squadron participated in such international exercises as Baltops at Geilenkirchen Air Base, Germany and Matador 96 at Zaragoza Air Base, Spain. That year's 4th annual Multinational Airborne Early Warning Commander's Conference was held at Avord Air Base, France. The 964th represented the wing at the conference and supported a mission with the French Air Force.
The squadron's ability to be first on the scene and maintain airspace integrity was fundamental earlier in 1996 when two civilian Cessnas were shot down by Cuba in the Florida Straits.
Also, during 1996 while conducting a routine counterdrug mission, the 964th tracked a vessel to what would ultimately become the largest drug interception by weight since 1989.
The 964th AACS is tasked to provide responsive employment of E-3 Sentry aircraft for surveillance, warning and control in a variety of tactical, strategic and special mission applications. Personnel of the 964th AACS bring extensive flying, and warning and control experience to the job from previous assignments. Aircraft backgrounds vary, but most flight crew members have C-135 experience and quickly transition to the E-3. Mission crew members' backgrounds include experience in manual and computerized control systems in worldwide theaters of operation.
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