Approximately 16 general and flag officers, led by the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, took part in an airborne emergency action officers exercise and Strategic Deterrence Conference at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., Aug. 6-9.
Gen. C. Robert Kehler, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, is responsible for the global command and control of U.S. strategic forces to meet decisive national security objectives. In this capacity, the general frequently calls upon his leaders to participate in group exercises that ensure the nuclear deterrence mission is conducted in a safe, secure and effective manner.
The Airborne Command Post was initiated by U.S. Air Force’s Strategic Air Command in 1961, nicknamed the “Looking Glass.” The network of specially equipped alert aircraft would launch with an airborne emergency action officer and supporting battlestaff to utilize network communication assets and “mirror” the capabilities in ground-based command centers.
The Airborne Command Post’s airborne emergency action officers are general or flag officers who will take command of U.S. strategic forces in the event that the ground command centers were degraded or destroyed. In addition, the Airborne Command Post provides a secondary launch capability for the nations’ ICBM force. This system, the Airborne Launch Control System, is operated by the world’s only airborne ICBM launch control officers.
In 2008, then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz began to set important nuclear enterprise guidance and policies in place, one of which was building the airborne emergency action officers force. Today, there are approximately 30 general and flag officers trained and certified in the airborne emergency action officers mission.
ICBM ground units are located at Malmstrom AFB, Mont.; F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo.; and Minot AFB, N.D. The 625th Strategic Operations Squadron, located at Offutt AFB, Neb., also includes a number of unique missions: Airborne Launch Control System training, operations, testing and evaluation; the Strategic Automated Command and Control System; ICBM targeting and targeting system operations; and ballistic missile engineering and trajectory analysis. Along with their counterparts in the underground launch control centers across the Great Plains, Airborne Launch Control System crews are on alert 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to execute the nuclear mission.
“Nuclear deterrence and global strike operations require great trust in, and responsibility from, 20th Air Force personnel every day,” said Maj. Gen. Michael J. Carey, 20th Air Force and Task Force 214 commander. “Ensuring all personnel are qualified on the aircraft and weapons systems they operate and work on is vital to the reliability of the nuclear forces, and means that we are ready to respond at a moment’s notice.”