TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
The 726th Air Control Squadron, a geographically separated unit of the 552nd Air Control Wing, impressed at recent training exercise, Red Flag 19-2. Better known by their call sign, Hardrock, the unit became the first to fully integrate the new generation of Control and Reporting Center into their training, the TYQ-23A.
Red Flag is a training exercise that helps prepare wingmen for their first 10 combat sorties prior to heading on their first combat deployment held quarterly at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada. While Red Flag is best known for sorties, it also tests units’ integration capabilities to ensure they have what is required to Fly, Fight, and Win as a team.
One of the main integration opportunities is with the Control and Reporting Center. Typically during this exercise, CRC units operate from the Range Operations Center at Nellis AFB. These CRCs have a similar controller interface to one they might see while deployed, but does not accurately replicate the CRC Radar, Radio, and Datalink capabilities. The next-generation CRC, the TYQ-23A, does replicate all of these, but had not been introduced to Red Flag yet.
Hardrockers decided to integrate TYQ-23A with the CRC’s full array of sensors and communicators to better equip and prepare the Airmen for what a real deployment would be like.
“Our unit is what defines the heart of the Air Force,” stated 726th ACS Commander Lt. Col. Richard Barber. “We integrate as Communication, Maintenance, and Operations to meet mission requirements. The team members who aren’t talking on the radio once our site is set up are truly the heroes of this exercise, because they are the ones who sharpen the spear so it can be thrown into combat.”
To integrate, the unit packed and mobilized 337 short tons of equipment and personnel from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho to a small town in the Nevada Desert. This mobilization took a total of 30 squadron-owned and maintained 5-ton trucks and 6 flatbed commercial vehicles from the 366th Logistics Readiness Squadron.
Hardrock set up their self-sustained command and control system, consisting of communications, radar, datalinks, and mobile Tactical Operations Center within 72 hours of arriving at their operating site including 99 feet of copper grounding rods and 7,000 feet of electrical cabling. They were fully mission capable and in command of the world’s most realistic aerial combat training as it raged over the Nevada desert.
Not only did the Hardrockers field the TYQ-23A for the first time under a demanding combat load, but the unit also garnered the overall Outstanding Mission Commander award from Red Flag leadership among the other units who participated.
“We are set on being there when our nation calls. We want the ball in our hands when execution really matters in order to win! All of our success is due to the dedication of our Airmen to professionalism, attitude, accountability and teamwork,” Barber said.
The Hardrockers will rotate back to Air Force Central Command within the next year, but the experience and accomplishments at Red Flag 19-2 are preparing them for whatever mission our nation will call them to next.
“We couldn’t be more proud of what Barber and his Airmen accomplished at Red Flag,” said Col. John Bartoli, commander of the 552nd Air Control Group. “Fifteen hundred years ago, when faced with an impossible challenge, they called a few hundred Spartans. This time, we called the Hardrockers.”