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PACER COIN is a day/night, all-weather reconnaissance and surveillance system which provides imagery intelligence support to theater and other commanders. Pacer Coin is used to support special operations forces and U.S. counter-drug operations in the Western Hemisphere. Pacer Coin and Flowing Pen are two C-130 operations which deploy to Howard AFB six times a year for a two week period. The Pacer Coin mission is flown by the Nevada Air National Guard and is a vital information gathering resource for SOUTHCOM's counter drug efforts.

The Pacer Coin mission recently transitioned to the Air National Guard, and the 152nd Air Wing in Reno, Nevada. The Nevada Air National Guard is also transitioning to an air drop mission, and is receiving additional C-130 aircraft dedicated to this mission. By making the Pacer Coin aircraft dual-use, the utilization and mission capability of these aircraft will be significantly broadened. This modification will enable the Pacer Coin aircraft to maintain a primary mission of air drop/transport, while also preserving the unique imagery capabilities of the Pacer Coin for use by theater and other commanders when needed.

The Fy1996 budget request included $5.5 million in procurement and $19.5 million in operations and maintenance funding for the PACER COIN aircraft. In January 1996 the Defense Authorization bill conferees agreed to authorize the PACER COIN budget request. Nevertheless, the conferees had serious reservations about whether the PACER COIN program, within its current mission tasking, provided such unique intelligence collection as to justify continued spending of limited resources on this mission.

However, the conferees agree that terminating the PACER COIN program immediately this fiscal year would place unacceptable stresses on the personnel system. The Department had already obligated fiscal year 1996 funds for this mission and the Air Force would need funds to terminate the program and provide proper aircraft/equipment disposition.

The conferees directed the Department to determine whether or not the PACER COIN aircraft could be used in a dual use role. The conferees believe that the analysis should answer several questions, including at least the following: Could the aircraft be used, without certain PACER COIN systems, in an air drop role? Could the aircraft be configured to simultaneously perform the PACER COIN mission and carry the SENIOR SCOUT tactical intelligence system? What alternatives are there for filling the requirements of the regional Commander in Chief if the PACER COIN program is terminated? What would be the effects of failing to meet the requirements of the regional Commander in Chief for the PACER COIN capability?

The conferees directed the Secretary of Defense to report to the congressional defense and intelligence committees on the results of this analysis by May 1, 1995. If the Department determined that dual use of the aircraft was not practical, the conferees directed the Department to determine proper disposition of the PACER COIN mission aircraft (e.g. permanent aircraft storage or deconfiguration from the current mission configuration). If the Department determined that dual use of the aircraft is practical, and that the operational unit can fulfill multiple missions, the conferees directed the department to maintain the PACER COIN aircraft in a reconfigurable state for use in those multiple roles and retain the PACER COIN mission equipment for future contingency or national disaster mission uses; and begin training for those appropriate new missions, including air drop, as soon as possible to ensure a smooth transition from the PACER COIN-unique mission.

A very unique part of the Air National Guard intelligence capability is provided by the 152nd (Reconnaissance Group) at Reno Tahoe International Airport in Reno, NV, that flies the C-130 imagery intelligence collection platform called Pacer Coin. It is used to support our special operations forces and U.S. counter-drug operations in the Western Hemisphere. The Nevada Air National Guard began the conversion to a new aircraft and mission in October 1995, with training and construction to support the Airlift mission and the Pacer Coin Reconnaissance mission. The unit received its first C-130E aircraft on April 9, 1996, and became an operational Airlift Wing in April 1997.

In February 1998 it was announced that the 152nd AW (Air National Guard) would replace two C-130H aircraft with two C-130E aircraft for a total of eight aircraft with the discontinuation of the Pacer Coin mission in early FY 99. On April 1, 1998, they began the conversion to the airdrop mission, with the C-130 Pacer Coin aircraft retiring in May 1998. This action resulted in a decrease of 29 full-time military, 44 part-time military and 20 civilian manpower authorizations.

The 152nd AW can also fly reconnaissance missions in support of military command and control operations, counter drug operations, disaster relief and photo mapping for federal and state agencies. The KS-87 sensor pallet, developed and built by the units members for use in the C-130E continued to provide a reconnaissance capability which can be used for counter drug operations, fire fighting hot spot detection, and other support to federal and state agencies.

As a Guard unit, the most challenging mission the unit was tasked with, was the continuing rotations to Panama in support of drug interdiction operations for Southern Command. The unit assumed this mission when it converted to the C-130E in October 1995. The Nevada Air Guard had the only Pacer Coin aircraft in the inventory. The special sensors and optics on-board provide photo reconnaissance capability. Their deployments complete, the Pacer Coin aircraft was retired on May 15, 1998.

After being fully operational for only a few months, the unit was called to support peacekeeping operations in Bosnia as part of Operation Joint Guard from August 1997 through December 1997. The unit deployed one aircraft and 130 personnel to provide reconnaissance support to the region with its Pacer Coin capability. Flying out of the Aviano Air Base, Italy, the unit was scheduled to remain in-theater for approximately 60 days, but was not returned home until after 104 days.

The FY1998 intelligence budget request contained $2.4 million in aircraft spares and repair parts for the transfer of mission equipment from retiring Pacer Coin aircraft to the non-dedicated, follow-on C 130 reconnaissance aircraft.

Associated Units

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Page last modified: 28-07-2011 00:50:29 ZULU