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Looking Glass: USSTRATCOM's Airborne Command Post

Members of U.S. Strategic Command stand in front of their U.S. Navy E6-B Mercury at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Sept 19, 2016. The crew operates as the Airborne Command Post, having the ability to command and control U.S. STRATCOM’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class J.T. Armstrong)

Members of U.S. Strategic Command stand in front of their U.S. Navy E6-B Mercury at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Sept 19, 2016. The crew operates as the Airborne Command Post, having the ability to command and control U.S. STRATCOM’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class J.T. Armstrong)

Maj. Gen. Richard Evans III, U.S. Strategic Command acting deputy commander, stands in front of a U.S. Navy E6-B Mercury at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Sept 19, 2016. Evans visited Minot to meet with and show thanks to the Airmen supporting U.S. STRATCOM’s mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class J.T. Armstrong)

Maj. Gen. Richard Evans III, U.S. Strategic Command acting deputy commander, stands in front of a U.S. Navy E6-B Mercury at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Sept 19, 2016. Evans visited Minot to meet with and show thanks to the Airmen supporting U.S. STRATCOM’s mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class J.T. Armstrong)

Members of Team Minot are briefed on the communication capabilities of the U.S. Navy E6-B Mercury during a tour at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Sept 19, 2016. U.S. Strategic Command’s E6-B serves two purposes: a communication relay to submarines and an airborne command post. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class J.T. Armstrong)

Members of Team Minot are briefed on the communication capabilities of the U.S. Navy E6-B Mercury during a tour at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Sept 19, 2016. U.S. Strategic Command’s E6-B serves two purposes: a communication relay to submarines and an airborne command post. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class J.T. Armstrong)

A U.S. Strategic Command airborn command post patch adorns the shouder of Maj. Gen. Richard Evans III, U.S. STRATCOM acting deputy commander, at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Sept 19, 2016. Evans visited Minot to meet with and show thanks to the Airmen supporting U.S. STRATCOM’s mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class J.T. Armstrong)

A U.S. Strategic Command airborn command post patch adorns the shouder of Maj. Gen. Richard Evans III, U.S. STRATCOM acting deputy commander, at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Sept 19, 2016. Evans visited Minot to meet with and show thanks to the Airmen supporting U.S. STRATCOM’s mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class J.T. Armstrong)

A U.S. Navy E6-B Mercury sits at Base Operations during a tour at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Sept 19, 2016. The E6-B is primarily used as a n airborne communications platform, using two trailing antenna wires  to aid in communication relay to submarines. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class J.T. Armstrong)

A U.S. Navy E6-B Mercury sits at Base Operations during a tour at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Sept 19, 2016. The E6-B is primarily used as a n airborne communications platform, using two trailing antenna wires to aid in communication relay to submarines. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class J.T. Armstrong)

Members of Team Minot look at a U.S. Navy E6-B Mercury during a tour at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Sept 19, 2016. U.S. Strategic Command’s E6-B serves two purposes: a communication relay to submarines and an airborne command post. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class J.T. Armstrong)

Members of Team Minot look at a U.S. Navy E6-B Mercury during a tour at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Sept 19, 2016. U.S. Strategic Command’s E6-B serves two purposes: a communication relay to submarines and an airborne command post. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class J.T. Armstrong)

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.
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