March 6, 2010 (by A1C Allison M. Boehm) - The 77th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron became the first squadron to use a new satellite communication capability for F-16s in Operation Iraqi Freedom Feb. 19, 2010.
Capt. Adam Thornton, 77th EFS instructor pilot and flight commander, uses a new satellite communication capability to communicate with an F-16 pilot during a flight. F-16 pilots can now communicate beyond the line of sight to command and control agencies in Iraq. [USAF photo by SrA. Brittany Y. Bateman]
This capability allows F-16 pilots to communicate using four geosynchronous satellites 22,300 miles above the equator.
F-16 pilots can now converse beyond the line of sight to command and control agencies in Iraq
Previously, pilots were relied on line of sight radio capability to communicate. With that, a straight line between the transmitting and receiving end was needed for successful communication, and it was limited by range, mountains and other obstructions.
Now with the satellite communication system high above the earth, the line of sight is no longer an issue.
"The new capability allows us to communicate with joint-terminal air controllers in the field from long distances over a very secure and reliable means," said Maj. Donald Freud, 77th EFS assistant director of operations. "It also allows us to communicate with command and control agencies hundreds of miles away when other communication means are unreliable. It is a force multiplier allowing for more centralized control, decentralized execution lending better battlespace awareness by the Combined Air Operations Center."
In its short use, the new frequency has proved beneficial to the aircrew. Members of the 77th were able to pass along word that an incoming sand storm was about to hit the area a pilot was flying in. The pilot was able to land early and safely due to the timely transmission of information.
"The capability is important because it allows us to talk to all control agencies and our operations from anywhere in Iraq at any altitude," said Capt. Weston Killian, 77th EFS assistant chief of scheduling. "In any part of the country, we can change a simple channel and talk to them whereas before that was not possible."
Pilots are also now able to radio in their mission status to the control and reporting center, report estimated landing times to their squadron and brief what condition their jets are in without having to go through multiple agencies.
"It is a benefit to me to be able to get in touch with the people I need to get in touch with more quickly and not being limited by range whatsoever," said Captain Taylor Blevins, 77th EFS chief of safety. "It's really like a one-stop-shop for passing and receiving any information. Things can happen quickly--this system saves time and simplifies the problem for allowing you talk to multiple people on the frequency safely and quickly. We can get answers to questions, data and intel or approval to put bombs on target very quickly. When and if it does get bad, this will be an added bonus."