Airborne Launch Control System
The United States' Airborne Launch Control System (ALCS) is a method of assured command and control of nuclear weapons, specifically ICBMs and SLBMs. With land-based ICBMs, the ALCS has the unique capability to retarget and launch the missiles without the interaction of the missile combat crew (MCC).
In the mid-1960s, United States civilian and military leadership became concerned about the possibility of a decapitating attack from the Soviets, destroying any land-based communication links to the nuclear forces of the Strategic Air Command. One solution to the communication problem was placing radio equipment on board an aircraft, and allow it to fly over the United States and use radio broadcasts to pass along information . This concept would allow communication to missile launch crews to pass along Emergency Action Messages (EAMs), but would not duplicate the missile combat crew's function of actually launching the missiles. The key characteristic added to ALCS (versus other communication methods such as ERCS) was giving the airborne crews the same degree of access to the launch facilities as the underground missile crews.
Minuteman launch facilities contained an ultra high frequency (UHF) receiver, that would pick up commands from the ALCS; the destruction of the launch control center or the hardenend intersite cable system would not prevent retaliation.
ALCS' first generation equipment was declared operational on 31 May 1967.
A test of the ALCS, both ground and air components, is called a GIANT BALL.
ALCS assisted Launches
- This list does not contain any launches after the intial Test and Evaluation phase of the system.
The ALCS mission has been held by multiple aircraft during the last 60 years:
- EC-135 - performed LOOKING GLASS mission for the Strategic Air Command
- E-6 Mercury - performed TACAMO mission for the US Navy and Air Force
The Airborne Launch Control System Flight of the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron provides training and crewmembers for two ALCS positions on board the E-6B Mercury.
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- Post Attack Command and Control System
- TACAMO - "Take Charge and Move Out" mission of the E-6 Mercury
- Operation Looking Glass - EC-135 aircraft mission
- Emergency Rocket Communications System - used shared UHF equipment at Launch facilities
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- George Washington University's "USAF Ballistic Missile Programs 1967-1968", September 1969, pg 17
- George Washington University: "United States Ballistic Missile Programs: 1964-1966", March 1967, pg 7
- [File:GIANT%20BALL%20Checklist.pdf GIANT BALL Checklist]