"Historically, strategic airpower only meant nuclear deterrent,"
says Maj. Craig Scherzberg, a B-52 instructor pilot with the 25th Strategic
Training Squadron at Ellsworth AFB, S. D. "But the conventional mission
is increasing in importance. With the threats we are facing out there, we have
got to get smarter at this business all the way around."
Strategic Air Command crews will get smarter by making use
of the staff and facilities at the Gen. Curtis E. LeMay Strategic Warfare
Center (SWC), activated last August at Ellsworth. The SWC's purpose is
simple: to teach aircrews to wring maximum combat power from B-52s, FB- 111s,
The SWC, when it becomes fully operational in 1992, will
consist of six main activities—the tactics and intelligence directorates, the
Strategic Weapons School, the Strategic Training Center, the 1st Electronic
Combat Range Group, and aircraft maintenance support. Developmental, academic,
and operational advanced bomber crew training thus will be combined in one
state-of-the-art learning center.
"We are here to concentrate on preparing SAC and its
crews for anything they could be called on to do," explains Col. James
McKeon, Commander of the 99th Strategic Weapons Wing, the SWC's unit designation.
"We have a staff selected on the basis of talents and experience. They
are ... enthusiastic people who are not constrained by 'This is how it's always
been done before.' I'm really excited about the whole thing."
Three Main Branches
Tactics were formerly developed at SAC Hq. at Offutt AFB,
Neb., and were taught at the SAC Tactics School at Nellis AFB, Nev. Detachment
1 of the 99th SWW will stay at Nellis to keep tabs on Tactical Air Command's
tactics work, but both the developers and the tactics school will move to
Ellsworth by 1991.
The 99th SWW staff will work to improve bombing techniques,
especially those pertaining to low-level flight, and develop new ones. Other
areas to be enhanced include threat detection and identification capabilities
in target areas and survivability of aircrews. An in-house intelligence unit
will update the tactics branch on what potential aggressors are doing in air
defense and electronic countermeasures.
"We will be able to get tactics information out to the
operators in a much more timely manner than we do now," says Colonel
McKeon. "With intel[ligence] and operations next to each other, we will be
able to get the crews who are training here to test things for us. We can then
analyze the new tactics and quickly get the information out to the field."
SWC's second major branch, the Strategic Weapons School, is
in the early stages of development. This graduate-level school will use classroom
instruction to teach operations and tactics—including those developed across
the street by the Strategic Tactics Development Center (STDC)—to competitively
selected individuals, who will then instruct other crews at their respective
A graduate of the weapons school will become the
acknowledged expert in his squadron or wing in such matters as instructor
techniques, aircraft capabilities, planning, employment, and execution. The
curriculum would require a minimum of fifty-five training days and fifteen
flying sorties. Classroom training will cover bombing techniques and threat
study, while the flying training will concentrate on weapons delivery and
defeating enemy air defenses. Plans call for the weapons school to be in full
operation next summer.
SWC's third main branch, the Strategic Training Center,
supervises the hands-on portion of aircrew training. Already up and running
at near full speed, the training center eventually will come into direct
contact with every bomber crew in SAC. The training center, once it becomes
fully operational next July, will see six B-52G/H, two B-1B, and two FB-111A
crews deploy to Ellsworth every week. In addition, two B-1 crews from Ellsworth
will participate in exercises every seven days.
Actual air training is conducted by the 25th Strategic
Training Squadron, whose lineage dates back to the 25th Aero Squadron formed in
World War I. The 25th STS's main tasks are to design challenging scenarios for
crews flying along the fourteen low-level training routes that make up the
Strategic Training Route Complex (STRC) and to debrief crews to enhance their
performance in weapons delivery and survivability.
Over the Plains
The STRC routes cover a 250,000-square-mile area spread over
parts of North and South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana. The routes are
intertwined, permitting many variations in flight paths, so crews don't get
overly familiar with any one route. These ribbons of restricted airspace allow
bomber crews to drop to as low as 400 feet, though efforts are made to avoid
farms and other areas where aircraft noise provokes complaints.
Despite such courtesies, there can be no doubt that the
crews are training for war. Training attacks have to be made at low altitude,
using terrain-masking to minimize the chance of detection by enemy radars.
Dashing in at low altitude also gives SAM and other antiaircraft artillery
crews less time to track and shoot at aircraft as they pass overhead. Along the
routes, ground threats are simulated by technicians operating the AN/MST-T1A
Multiple Threat Emitter System (MUTES). This equipment can imitate the signals
of ninety different threat radars, although only five types of emissions can
be sent out at one time.
For a variety of reasons, no live drops are made on the STRC
runs. Instead, the simulated drops are assessed and scored by radar.
A ground-based AN/TPQ-43 Seek Score radar, which tracks the
subject aircraft, makes known the plane's position relative to the target.
Meanwhile, equipment on board the aircraft emits a tone. When the navigator on
a B-52 "releases" the weapon, the tone is broken. Ground observers
know what type of weapon is being simulated, and, because the bomb's ballistic
properties are also known, they can establish where the bomb falls relative to
the target. The system, though not 100 percent accurate, has a small margin
MUTES, Seek Score, and the AN/MSR-T4 Threat Reaction Analysis
Indicator System—which records and measures aircrew response to threats
emitted by MUTES—are always located close to each other. All of the radars are
mobile and are located at twelve (six permanent and six migratory) radar bomb
scoring sites along the STRC.
Located near Forsyth, Conrad, and Havre in Montana, Powell,
Wyo., Dickinson, N. D., and Belle Fourche, S. D., the permanent radar sites
are manned by two Air Force officers and some sixty enlisted personnel
assigned to the 1st Electronic Combat Range Group. Representatives from Martin
Marietta and General Dynamics are also present to train blue-suiters to operate
and maintain the radar equipment.
Low-level flight, of course, is inherently dangerous. With
the addition of ground threats, even though they are simulated, the
environment becomes stressful indeed. Crew members' reactions to these situations
and their degree of cooperation are almost as important as putting bombs on
"The whole crew has to get involved when flying a
mission," maintains Maj. Randy Jameson, a B-52 instructor radar navigator
with the 25th STS. "Historically, the crew was compartmentalized. The
pilots could react to threats, but that was it. But now, because the number of
threats in combat will be so great, all six people have to know what's going
on. For example, a pilot can turn to avoid a SAM site, but he needs to tell me
so I can make corrections to my bomb calculations. Otherwise, we'll miss the
How the Crews Improve
The STRC is a valuable training tool because every action,
reaction, radio transmission, and emission from both aircraft and ground units
is recorded. After each of the three sorties that transient crews fly during
their week at Ellsworth, the 25th STS instructors give them a thorough
debriefing and replay the mission.
"We're not here to evaluate the crews that come
in," says Major Jameson. "We say, 'Here is what you did, and here is
how we think you can do better.' What we want is for them to learn and
In each of the eight debriefing rooms in the STC building is
a large screen with a graphic symbol generator. The record of the mission can
be displayed from several perspectives. Crews can see their overall route, if
they wish, or just a part of it in greater detail. They can see the radar
track. They can take a broad, comprehensive view of the flight. Or, because
different images can be cast simultaneously onto four different sections of
the screen, they can view a combination of any of these. The rooms also contain
two VCRs for watching videotape recorded from the aircraft or from a
The mission-debrief system's Digital Vax mainframe computers
have an artificial-intelligence-based subsystem, permitting crews to play
"what if" with the mission. Instead of showing events as they
occurred, the computer can take the terrain and threat data and show what would
have happened if the crew had chosen another attack axis or had performed a
different evasive maneuver.
Unlike events at the Air Force's Fighter Weapons School
course or the Navy's Top Gun program, STC training sorties are not rigidly
structured and don't always get progressively harder. Crews can fly a completely
"canned" profile, in which everything is known in advance. Or, says
TSgt. Tim Ruening, an instructor gunner with the 25th STS, "we can throw
some surprises at them if they have progressed." Even reflies of the same
profile can be arranged, if the crew or instructors think it is necessary.
"The talent level is different across the
command," notes Colonel McKeon. "We develop different scenarios to
fit the talent level. The same basic things will happen each week at the
Center, but at different levels of intensity. The one-week type of operation we
run allows us to get the training done and keep maintenance to a minimum."
"We have a unique relationship here, in that none of
the aircraft we service belongs to us," says Maj. Christine Nelson,
Commander of the 28th Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Ellsworth.
Also unique is the fact that the 28th CAMS must keep two types of aircraft
(B-52G/H and FB-111) repaired and flying, though neither type is assigned to
With help from Air Force Logistics Command, Major Nelson
and her staff looked at the types of parts that the two aircraft need most frequently
and laid in a supply. Her spares stock even includes replacement engines, and
it has been necessary for the unit to install some. Maintenance for transient
B-1Bs is handled by Ellsworth's 28th Organizational Maintenance Squadron.
What's in the Works
The 99th SWW is the third active wing at Ellsworth, a first
for a SAC base. New facilities built for the wing include the STC, a futuristic
$5.4 million structure that houses the debriefing rooms, mission-planning
rooms, a large squadron-briefing room, the STRC range control center, an
intelligence and weather section (with all the attendant equipment), and
offices and locker rooms for the 25th STS instructors and visiting aircrews.
Other new construction includes a companion building to the
STC that will house the STDC and the wing's executive offices and a third
building that will serve as quarters for the crews that come in to train.
Groundbreaking for the STDC building will occur this winter, and work is under
way on the crew quarters.
An integral system soon to be installed at the STC will be
a Route Integration Instrumentation System, which will enable the STRC range
control center to use a series of land lines to direct scenarios and monitor
aircraft in real time. The system will also allow the operations staff and
radar sites staff to change a mission profile much more rapidly. GTE is
installing this system for operational use in a few months.
Though the STRC is designed to train one bomber crew to
penetrate a target area, drop its bomb load, and survive a return trip, plans
are being made to include other aircraft in the missions. In some, fighters
will participate as adversaries. In others, the "fast movers" will
join the bombers to create a force package that attacks a target.
Plans are even being made to include the Northrop B-2A
Stealth bomber in the STC curriculum. Though still in the earliest stages, the
current plan is to have the B-2 crews fly the STRC from home base at Whiteman
AFB, Mo., return to base, and then get the debrief information over the
telephone and the mission data from installed computer terminals or some other
The underlying concept of the Strategic Warfare Center is
summed up well by Colonel McKeon. "We may get all the buildings and computers,"
he says, "but we will never reach full-up capability, because we are
dealing with ideas. You take the talent and intellect of the crews we have in
Strategic Air Command, and there is no limit to what we can do here."
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Memorial Day is a time to remember all those who died fighting for their country, just like A1C William Pitsenbarger, an Air Force pararescueman who took part in more than 250 rescue missions before he was killed at the age of 21. His selflessness and valor in the Vietnam War earned him an Air Force Cross and, eventually, a Medal of Honor.
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