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966th Airborne Air Control Squadron [966th AACS]

The 966th Airborne Air Control Squadron is a unit of Air Combat Command's 552d Air Control Wing, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla.

The 966th AACS traces its lineage to the 466th Bombardment Squadron, activated July 9, 1942. During World War II the unit earned two combat streamers for its actions. After several name redesignations it became the 966th Airborne Warning And Control Training Squadron. It was again activated on December 18, 1961, as the 966th Airborne Early Warning and Control Squadron. Two months later the unit was organized at McCoy Air Force Base, Fla., and assigned to the 551st Airborne Early Warning and Control Wing at Otis Air Force Base, Mass. There it flew propellerdriven EC-121 Super Constellation radar surveillance aircraft.

The squadron changed its parent wing May 1, 1963, moving to the 552nd Airborne Early Warning and Control Wing, headquartered at McClellan Air Force Base, Calif. The mission of the 966th Airborne Early Warning and Control Squadron covered a broad spectrum of responsibilities. The unit supported Strategic Air Command and Military Airlift Command operations, assisted in anti-submarine patrols and developed weather information. It also furnished airborne radar surveillance and technical control in support of global air defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff contingencies. Aircrews frequently deployed to distant operational locations including Southeast Asia.

In December 31, 1969, the squadron was inactivated at McClellan AFB, Calif.

The unit was redesignated the 966th Airborne Warning and Control Training Squadron May 5, 1976. It was activated July 1, 1976, at Tinker AFB, Okla., and assigned to the 552nd ACW.

In July 1976, a C-5 aircraft airlifted new E-3 flight and mission simulators to the unit, expanding its training capability. The flight simulator was built by Boeing Aerospace Company.

The flight simulator is an exact replica of the E-3 flight deck, which enables instructors to provide a realistic environment, including in-flight emergencies, with absolute safety at minimum cost. The mission simulator has the same computer operator display consoles as the E-3 aircraft. Every situation possible on an E-3 mission can be duplicated in simulators, including two flight and three mission simulators.

In December 1983, the 552nd Training Squadron was formed to share AWACS training responsibilities with 966th AWACTS. The 552nd TS provides academic and simulator training for all E-3 mission crewmembers. It also acts as the initial unit of assignment and as their administrative student squadron for all new and returning E-3 aircrew members undergoing Air Combat Command Programmed Flying Training (PFT).

In April 1984, implementation began for a $29.7 million civilian contract for the academic, simulator and flight training of flight crew members. In addition to the four E-3s assigned to the 966th AWACTS, an additional two Boeing 707s are flown by 966th instructor pilots to train new pilots, reducing the number of E-3 pilot proficiency sorties. The contractor teaches academics to pilot and flight engineer students. Navigators are given part-task training and academic instruction. By using proven commercial aircrew training practices, the contractor reduced the course length required to train E-3 pilots, navigators and flight engineers.

On July 1, 1994 the squadron changed its name from the 966th Airborne Warning and Control Training Squadron to its present designation. In May 1996, the 966th AACS moved in to a new training facility. Here, students plan and debrief actual flight missions while undergoing PFT. The 552nd ACW PFT program is the largest training program of its kind in the Air Combat Command, and provides training to over 450 initial qualification and 300 upgrade training aircrew personnel each year. With instructors for every aircrew position, the 966th AACS trains about 24 crews annually to carry out the operational mission. Once they graduate, newly qualified crew members move on to their final assignments in operational E-3 flying squadrons at Tinker AFB, Okla., and overseas at Kadena AB, Japan, and Elmendorf AFB, Alaska.

In August 1996, the squadron was officially recognized as a Replacement Training Unit.

The mission of the 966th AACS is to conduct combat crew flight training in tactics, techniques and operations of assigned aircraft and associated equipment. The unit also maintains the readiness state of personnel and equipment for dispersal and augmentation of tactical forces as directed by higher authorities.

The unit trains flight and mission crews for the operational squadrons of the 552nd ACW. Instructors develop student study guides and lesson plans required for use in the training environment. They provide training during airborne missions as well as in mission simulators.

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