Looking Glass: USSTRATCOM's Airborne Command Post
By Airman 1st Class J.T. Armstrong, Public Affairs
/ Published September 23, 2016
MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- A U.S. Navy E6-B Mercury visited Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, Sept. 19-21, 2016. The visit allowed members of Team Minot to tour the inside of the Airborne Command Post (ABNCP) and learn about how it supports U.S. Strategic Command’s mission.
In addition to the tour, the aircraft and its mission, historically codenamed Looking Glass, came to Minot AFB for another mission-related reason as well.
“We’re here to accomplish a Simulated Electronic Launch-Minuteman (SELM),” Lt. Col. Deane Konowicz, 625th Strategic Operations Squadron commander. “The SELM is an end-to-end test, demonstrating the ability to command and control intercontinental ballistic missiles at Minot, from the aircraft.”
According to Konowicz, the ABNCP is dual purposed. While it primarily functions as a communications relay platform for submarines with its two trailing antenna wires, it also serves as an Airborne Launch Control System (ALCS). The ALCS is joint-manned by eight U.S. STRATCOM battle staff mission members.
“In addition to the battle staff, the 13 U.S. Navy member crew keeps the aircraft self-sufficient for day-to-day maintenance,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Andrew Holder, VQ-4 aircraft and mission commander. “This gives the E6-B the capability to land at any airfield, in addition to the ability to fly for 72 hours before refueling.”
The crew and aircraft’s abilities allow the ABNCP to be on alert at all times. The ALCS serves as an around-the-clock standby in the event that U.S. STRATCOM or launch control centers on the ground become incapacitated.
“Our focus is to provide survivable, mobile command and control capability,” said Maj. Gen. Richard Evans III, U.S. STRATCOM acting deputy commander. “U.S. STRATCOM and the president know they have someone to pick up responsibilities.”
Evans sits on alert as an Airborne Emergency Action Officer in command of the battle staff. He remembers first visiting Minot AFB was in the fall of 1986.
“The mission hasn’t changed much and neither has its importance,” said Evans.