965th AACS brings future to AWACS with DRAGON Mod at Red Flag

The 965th Airborne Air Control Squadron from Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., put new equipment to the test during Red Flag 22-2 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

Red Flag 22-2 ran March 4-18, 2022.

The 965th AACS was one of 14 units from across the coalition core function forces that took part in Red Flag-Nellis 22-2. The exercise provides realistic combat training that saves lives while increasing combat effectiveness, by providing aircrews the experience of multiple, intensive air combat sorties in the safety of a training environment.

A U.S. Air Force E-3A Sentry aircraft awaits its crew during Red Flag 22-1 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Red Flag gives aircrews an opportunity to experience advanced, relevant, and realistic combat-like situations in a controlled environment to increase their ability to complete missions and safely return home. It also prepares maintenance personnel, ground controllers, space and cyber operators to support those missions within the same tactical environment. (Air Force photograph by Meagan Hannon)

This exercise was especially monumental for the 965th, as they were the first to use the highly anticipated DRAGON modification to the E-3’s Airborne Warning and Control Systems flight deck.

“The upgrade is a force multiplier, enhancing lethality while quickening decision making for combat commanders,” said Tech. Sgt. David Stocks, 965th AACS Nebula flight chief.

This has been a long-term project, and it is now in its final stages of deployment. The DRAGON mod, an update to the avionics displays to more modern glass equipment, is coupled with a communications network upgrade to the aircraft’s data-link system. Together they bring a higher degree of situational awareness to the front of the jet, as well as enhanced survivability due to their ability to display the air and threat picture with greater clarity.

Lt. Col. Terrance Allen, 965th AACS commander, recently spoke to the success of the trial run overall and the teamwork it took to get there.

“This is a team effort,” said Allen. “The 965th gets the unique opportunity to be the first to utilize DRAGON and CNU at an exercise, but we are here due to the hard work of teams across the 552nd ACW and greater Air Force.”

He went on to say, “We are fortunate to have the best maintenance squadron, the top operations support squadron, partners within the training group and Detachment 6 helping us work through syllabi execution, as well as our sister operations group squadrons who work with us daily to ensure maximum training on the jets.

“The 965th is just a small part of an entire 552nd ACW effort to ‘Bring the Future’ to AWACS. It is a total force effort, from active duty to our civilian partners, which has enabled our great success.”

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