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Strategic Communications Wing ONE [COMSTRATCOMWING ONE]
Task Force 124

Commander Strategic Communications Wing ONE, based at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, provides operations and administrative command and support for the Navy's TACAMO ("Take Charge And Move Out") E-6 Mercury community. The E-6 provides a survivable communications link between national decision makers and the country's arsenal of strategic nuclear weapons.

Little known and sometimes forgotten is a collection of seven Navy commands headquartered aboard an Air Force base in the middle of America. These units combine to form Strategic Communications Wing 1. Anchored aboard Tinker Air Force Base just outside Oklahoma City, 1,200 Sailors carry out the day-to-day TACAMO routine, a Navy one-of-a-kind mission. There are two operational TACAMO squadrons: Fleet Air Reconnaisance Squadrons 3 and 4. Both fly the E-6 Mercury, a modified Boeing 707 airliner. TACAMO's mission is one of strategic communication, and strategic command and control.

To support the squadrons and training pipeline, TACAMO also boasts a Navy communications station, personnel support detachment and Wing Command Staff. Originally stationed at both coasts, the squadrons were consolidated aboard Tinker in 1992 providing one central location for training, administration and mission. In addition to the commands at Tinker, TACAMO has detachments at Travis Air Force Base, Calif.; Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.; and Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md.

In a move designed to consolidate missions and save defense dollars, Department of Defense officials announced in May 1995 that Navy E-6 TACAMO aircraft would begin replacing the EC-135 Looking Glass sometime in FY98 as the aerial platform for US Strategic Command's Airborne National Command Post mission. The EC-135 was taken off continuous airborne alert in 1990, although it remained on ground alert. In 1992, According to DOD estimates, the transition resulted in a one-time cost avoidance of $1 billion and annual savings of nearly $250 million. Before the E-6A fleet could assume its new role, however, each aircraft completed a series of modifications, including installation of battlestaff modules. The EC-135 passed on the Looking Glass airborne command post mission to the Navy's E-6B aircraft on 25 September 1998 bringing to an end 37 years of service in that role. At that time, five TACAMO E-6Bs were operational in the Looking Glass mission, but the remaining 11 were slated for completion by 2002.

The roots of this change extend back decades, to the height of the Cold War. In the early 1960s, the US Navy deployed the first ballistic missile submarine fleet, establishing the submarine-launched ballistic missile as a key element of the nation's nuclear triad, which also included Air Force strategic bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles. Like the Air Force, the Navy also developed a method for maintaining constant control of their nuclear forces. The same year that EC-135s took on the Looking Glass mission, modified Marine Corps KC-130s (re-designated EC-130Qs) took on the mission of command and control of SSBN forces. The EC-130Qs were equipped with a very low-frequency radio transmitters contained in vans loaded aboard the aircraft.. Despite force modernization and advances, both airframes displayed a high degree of reliability and remained essentially unchanged for decades.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:01:26 ZULU