News | Dec. 19, 2023

Teamwork Delivers New Capabilities in Support of E-6B Mercury’s Nuclear–Deterrence Missions

By Airborne Strategic Command, Control and Communications Program Office

Extensive teamwork and coordination recently delivered new communications equipment for aviators conducting missions in support of our nation’s nuclear command, control and communications.

The equipment will allow the E-6B Mercury to conduct troubleshooting, maintenance, security requirements and upgrades from the ground, saving flight hours, fuel and money. The result is a greater number of mission-capable aircraft, ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.

Bringing the six-year project to fruition was a joint effort by the Airborne Strategic Command, Control and Communications Program Office, Strategic Communications Wing One, L3Harris, the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center and the “Take Charge and Move Out” (TACAMO) Weapons School.

The team completed installing and testing the communications equipment in April 2023, and delivered the capability to the fleet the following month, marking the occasion with a ribbon-cutting on May 3, 2023.

“It was a proud moment for all involved and a great accomplishment for the team,” said Laura Young, who was the Integrated Product Team Lead for the program office's Wideband Systems during the project. “Together we have completed a monumental achievement in providing this critical network connection. Thank you to all who provided support in making this happen.” 

The E-6B Mercury is a communications relay and strategic airborne command post aircraft. It executes the TACAMO mission, connecting the president and secretary of defense with naval ballistic missile forces during times of crisis, and the Looking Glass mission, which facilitates the launch of U.S. land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles using an airborne launch control system.

It is flown by Navy Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadrons 3 and 4 (VQ-3 and VQ-4) out of Tinker Air Force Base.

The E6-B Mercury fleet has been undergoing upgrades, dubbed Block II, including the installation of a Multi Role-Tactical Common Data Link (MR-TCDL). With the installation of that system, the fleet recognized an ability to connect the data link from the transient flight line would improve mission effectiveness.

“Delivering enhanced capabilities to the fleet is what we do,” said Capt. Adam Scott, Program Manager. “The fleet identified an operational need, and we came together with industry to deliver a solution that will save flight hours and ensure our aircraft and warfighters are always mission-ready.”

In addition, as part of this project, the program office engineering team collaborated with fleet personnel at the TACAMO Weapons School and Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 20 to identify and implement additional improvements that would simplify the operational requirements for sailors sitting at the MR-TCDL terminal onboard the aircraft.