962nd Airborne Air Control Squadron [962nd AACS]
The 962nd Airborne Air Control Squadron (962 AACS) is an operational E-3 unit assigned to the 3rd Wing, Elmendorf Air Force Base (AFB), Alaska. It provides responsive employment of the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) for surveillance, warning, and control in a variety of tactical, strategic, and special mission applications.
The 962nd Airborne Early Warning and Control Squadron was first activated on July 8, 1955, as a unit of the 551st Airborne Early Warning and Control Wing, with headquarters at Otis AFB, Massachusetts. The squadron, equipped with various models of the propeller-driven C-121 Constellation aircraft, was a unit of the Air Defense Command.
The 962nd Airborne Early Warning and Control Squadron participated in numerous operations to test the capability and readiness of the early warning system in order to extend radar coverage seaward beyond that provided by land radars. The unit provided navigational and communications assistance to U.S. and allied aircraft crossing the Atlantic Ocean and to units operating near Cape Canaveral, Florida.
As an operational unit of the 551st Airborne Early Warning and Control Wing from 1955 to 1969, one of the 962nd's missions was to conduct search and rescue operations. One result of this role was the popularization of search operation patterns used while searching for a missing Navy aircraft in late February 1958.
The unit was inactivated December 31, 1969. Having been redesignated as the 962nd Airborne Warning and Control Squadron, the unit was reactivated on July 8, 1986, at Elmendorf AFB in support of the Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) Region. A tenant unit of the 21st Tactical Fighter Wing, the 962nd AWACS was assigned to the 552nd Air Control Wing, Tactical Air Command, with headquarters at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma.
The mission of the 962 AWACS was to provide the 11th Air Force/Alaskan NORAD Region commander with a survivable radar platform that can extend the surveillance coverage of the land-based radar system operated by the Regional Operational Control Center. This enables battle commanders to see a threat at previously undetectable ranges and to position fighters to intercept them before they approach U.S. airspace. Since 1986, the squadron assisted in the interception of 68 Soviet aircraft.
In October 1992, the squadron was redesignated to the 3rd Wing, Elmendorf AFB, under Pacific Air Forces, and acquired the additional mission of being ready to deploy in support of Commander In Chief Pacific Command. In August 1994, the 962 AWACS was redesignated the 962nd Airborne Air Control Squadron (962 AACS).
On 22 September 1995, the squadron suffered the worst single accident in the Air force's longest-serving wing. Yukla 27 rolled for takeoff at 0746 Alaska Standard Time (AST) remaining airborne only 42 seconds due to a massive birdstrike resulting in catastrophic damage. The plane disappeared into the timbered hills 3,500 feet Northeast of the runway at precisely 0747:12. The fire plume could be seen as far as 30 miles away. Given the type of aircraft, fuel load and crash location, there was little hope for the crew.
The mission of the 962nd AACS is:
- To provide the Commander in Chief, Pacific Command, with a long-range airborne surveillance, detection, identification, and command and control platform for both local and deployed composite wing operations;
- To support CINCNORAD's commitment to the defense of the Alaskan region;
- To Respond to worldwide tasking as directed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
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