The 625th Strategic Operations Squadron held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, July 22, benchmarking the installation and operation of the unit’s long-awaited Virtual Airborne Processing Trainer.
“The new virtual trainer will equip air launch control system (ALCS) operators and trainees with the highest level of training fidelity to carry out survivable nuclear command and control,” said Capt. Evans Wright, 625th STOS intelligence officer and ALCS installation overseer.
ALCS officers operate aboard a Navy E-6 Mercury and provide the president of the United States with the means to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles from an airborne platform if needed.
When Offutt AFB flooded in March 2019, the unit’s traditional trainer was damaged, forcing the 625th STOS to seek alternate means of training. ALCS officers accomplished these tasks through the use of the Battle Staff Trainer, but the system is more geared toward airborne command post simulations and lacked ALCS functionality. Airmen also conducted hands-on training aboard the E-6 as well as traveled to Vandenberg AFB, California, to use a testing simulator.
“The new ALCS trainer means that our Airmen can once again accomplish training and become certified on the weapons system and remain proficient locally,” Wright said. “From what I’ve seen of the system, I know our operators will benefit greatly from the upgrade.”
The legacy trainer was a mock-up of the battle staff compartment, composed of bulky equipment. Whereas, the new ALCS trainer is 100% virtual in design and more closely resembles the battle staff compartment where ALCS Airmen work.
There are other benefits as well, such as mobility and testing capacity.
“The virtual trainer is much more agile than the legacy system, allowing us to easily move it anywhere with the correct dimensions and proper power source,” Wright said. “The ALCS trainer also has the added benefit of allowing us to stress the weapon system to a greater extent while quickly turning it around to conduct more tests.”
Stress tests allow ALCS operators to experiment how the weapon system will react when presented with various conditions without damaging the equipment, according to Wright.
The ALCS virtual trainer was installed in late June, a few months later than expected due to the nationwide COVID-19 health crisis.
“The safety of our Airmen, contractors and community remain a top priority as we continue to combat the spread of this virus,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Hlivko, 625th STOS commander. “Our mission does not stop, but we took every precaution available to limit the risk involved during delivery.”
With the installation and acceptance testing complete, the 625th STOS is ready to resume initial qualification training. On average the unit trains eight operators annually, with the first class in 2020 beginning this week.
“The Virtual Airborne Processing Trainer is a welcomed asset for our nuclear command and control professionals, it will increase our unit readiness, and our team is eager to put it to good use,” Hlivko said.