Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron SEVEN [VQ-7]
The Naval Training Support Unit was redesignated VQ-7 on 01 November 1999. Initially the squadron did not have an officially approved insignia. The VQ-7 students eventually join a Navy air wing fully integrated on Tinker AFB, carrying out a mission for joint operations. 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. The 16 E-6s they operate enable the president and the secretary of defense to directly contact submarines, bombers and missile platforms protecting the United States through nuclear deterrence.
In addition to its squadrons, TACAMO also trains its enlisted and officer students at two separate training commands, Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron SEVEN [the former Naval Training Support Unit] and Naval Aviation Maintenance Training Detachment 1080 (NAMTRAGRUDET). Both commands boast multi-million dollar state-of-the-art computer-based training programs and scale aircraft training compartments to simulate in-flight routines and emergencies. Two high-tech flight simulators round out one of the Navy's most-advanced training programs. VQ-7 provides airborne communications officer and aircrew (mission systems operator, inflight technician, reel operator) ground training. NAMTRAGRUDET provides squadron personnel organizational (O) level maintenance training on the E-6 aircraft and all subsystems and O and intermediate level training on the Mission Avionics System equipment.
E-6 aircrew training is accomplished by the Contract Flight Crew Training System (CFCTS) and is accomplished at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. CFCTS provides program management, flight crew instruction, system operation and maintenance, and engineering services in support of VQ-7 and NAMTRAGRUDET. CFCTS equipment consists of two operational flight trainers (OFTs), an Academic Training System and two inflight trainer (IFT) TC-18F aircraft. CFCTS provides ground training to pilots, navigators, and flight engineers for initial qualification, refresher, instructor basic and upgrade, instrument ground school, and basic flight engineer, utilizing instructor-based training, computer-based training, and the OFTs. Flight training of the pilots (transition and inflight refueling) is accomplished in the TC-18F IFTs utilizing Navy instructor pilots and Navy and contractor instructor flight engineers.
In 1997 Navy instructor pilots used the EC-18B Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft, or ARIA, from the 452nd Flight Test Squadron to train naval aircrews who will operate E-6B Mercury aircraft. The E-6 provides communication links between national command authorities and U.S. strategic nuclear forces. A cadre from the Navy's Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron 7, or VQ-7, at Tinker Air Force Base, OK, rotated to Edwards AFB periodically to school student pilots and navigators aboard the EC-18s. VQ-7 aircrews used 452nd aircraft because one of their two aging trainers, a TC-18, was grounded in 1997 after an FAA-mandated inspection. Looking for quick replacements, VQ-7 aviators discovered the 452nd's EC-18s were built on the same airframe, a Boeing 707, as their TC-18. And with the EC-18B not flying as frequently as in the past, the 452nd FLTS had a readily available product for the Navy's immediate need. The agreement between the 452nd and VQ-7 had the Navy employing the ARIAs until October 1997, with a possible year extension if it hadn't acquired new trainers by then.
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