Airborne Launch Control System (ALCS)
Airborne Launch Control System (ALCS). By the mid-1960s, improved accuracy of Soviet ballistic missiles was increasing the vulnerability of buried Minuteman launch control centers (LCCs), so the Airborne Launch Control System (ALCS) was created to provide a survivable launch capability for most of our country’s ICBM force. The first attempted launch of an ICBM (Minuteman II) by means of ALCS was successfully conducted at Vandenberg AFB on 17 April 1967. Initial operational capability was achieved on 31 May 1967 and the ALCS was eventually installed aboard all EC-135 aircraft assigned to Ellsworth AFB and Minot AFB, as well as on the Looking Glass at Offutt AFB. Full operational capability was reached in June 1968. The ALCS crews at Ellsworth were assigned to the 68th Strategic Missile Squadron, flying on aircraft belonging to the 28th Air Refueling Squadron (AREFS), and the crews at Minot were under the 91st Strategic Missile Wing, flying on 906 AREFS aircraft. A reorganization in 1970 placed all ALCS crews and aircraft in the 2 Airborne Command and Control Squadron (ACCS) at Offutt and the 4 ACCS at Ellsworth. In the very early 1980s, the ALCS was also briefly carried on the E-4B National Emergency Airborne Command Post (NEACP, referred to as “Kneecap”). The first ICBM launch was conducted from that platform on 1 April 1981 by a 2 ACCS crew. However, before long the ALCS equipment was removed and the E-4B reverted solely to its NEACP role. (The NEACP was redesignated the National Airborne Operations Center—NAOC—in 1994.) Introduction of the Peacekeeper ICBM necessitated changes to the ALCS and in June 1987, the first Common/Pacer Link-modified EC-135 was placed on alert. The end of the Cold War resulted in closure of the 4 ACCS and the moving of ALCS Operational Readiness Training (ORT) from Ellsworth to Offutt, the sole remaining ALCS base of operations. The Cold War’s end resulted in an 85-percent reduction in the number of ALCS-qualified aircrew members, and on 1 June 1992, USSTRATCOM assumed the Looking Glass/ALCS mission when SAC was inactivated. Exactly two years later, ORT became the ALCS Combat Crew Training School (CCTS) and, on April 1st, its faculty was transferred from the 2d ACCS (which by this time had become an Air Combat Command unit) to the Headquarters Staff of the Air Force Space Command. On 20 July 1994, the 2d ACCS was redesignated as the 7th ACCS and in the late 1990s the EC-135s were replaced by Navy E-6B aircraft, each configured with the ALCS. Around the same time, the ALCS CCTS and other related functions at Offutt became the 625th Missile Operations Flight, which eventually became the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron. Specific dates are contained in the narrative for the patches illustrated in this album.