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Kirkuk unit controls Iraqi sky

by Tech. Sgt. J. LaVoie
506th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs

9/19/2005 - KIRKUK AIR BASE, Iraq (AFPN) -- The 727th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron Detachment 1 here provides instantaneous and continuous information superiority by providing commanders and pilots with a real-time view of northern Iraq’s airspace.

The detachment’s Airmen give operators at nearby Balad Air Base a key airspace picture, allowing them to communicate enemy targets and threats to pilots flying missions.

“The radar feed we provide is integral to fighters in the cockpits. Our picture allows operators to contact friendly aircraft and relay the position of hostile forces and when they will be within weapons range,” said Capt. Donald Land, detachment commander. “The end goal is to deploy our weapons while the enemy is still looking for our aircraft.”

The squadron’s Airmen provide this capability for all of northern Iraq.

“We provide a picture for over 200 nautical miles, 360-degree rotation,” said Airman 1st Class Derek Riley, a radar maintainer.

That is 285,000 square miles of air superiority that can be picked up and moved at a moment’s notice. If given a supply of water, diesel and packaged meals, the squadron’s Airmen can take all of its assets and move to a new location in a matter of days. Because the squadron brings everyone from medics to security with them, they can move to a bare base location and begin providing an air picture immediately.

“We don’t always deploy to a base,” said Tech. Sgt. James Johnson, 727th EACS Det.1 support. “We can go wherever they need us. We are completely independent.”

This rapid deployment ability makes them the most cost-efficient choice for a bare base environment.

Airborne warning and control system aircraft cost more money because of fighter escort and refueler requirements, and every second the system is airborne it is expensive in fuel costs alone, Captain Land said.

The squadron’s Airmen provide an air picture with completely recoverable equipment. They are able to relay that air picture to Balad, and then relay Balad’s instructions to pilots via radio, providing a virtual presence here, squadron officials said.

“If we had to move our operators with the equipment, it would create a bigger footprint,” said Staff Sgt. Charles Sherer. “This allows them to control aircraft while they are in another part of the country.”

In theory, operators could control aircraft while in another part of the world, said Staff Sgt. Pete Johnson, the detachment’s noncommissioned officer in charge of the communications support flight.

“This would keep troops safe by putting less people in a combat zone,” he said.

Wherever the operators sit, the detachment’s Airmen will continue to provide an important role in air superiority.

“Our picture allows for command and control,” said Staff Sgt. Alec McKinney, a radar maintainer. “Our information gives the commanders the big picture. It allows them to manage the airspace.”

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