|Tinker Home to High Frequency Global Communications |
Tinker Home to High Frequency Global Communications
By Ami Bui, Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center Public Affairs.
Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma -- January 18, 2001 (AFPN) -- Tinker Air Force Base's High Frequency Global Communications System Program Office is making it easier for aircraft equipped with high frequency communications equipment to communicate from anywhere around the globe.
The SPO is installing new systems to create a state-of-the-art automated high frequency network to communicate by voice and data with any HF-equipped aircraft. Fourteen stations worldwide will support the effort.
Responsible for worldwide high-power HF communications, the SPO makes sure ground-based high frequency radio stations have the most efficient connectivity to communicate with Department of Defense aircraft anywhere in the world. Recently the office officially recently stood up as a new division under the airborne accessories directorate here.
"Despite the fact many consider HF radio to be 'old hat,' HF and satellites are the only long-haul communications modes available," said Col. Ceasar Sharper, SPO director. "Satellite communications are very expensive and become congested during global crises.
"Today, HF competes favorably with satellites for many kinds of communications due to its very low operating cost and technology improvements during the past several years that make HF nearly as easy to use as a telephone," he said.
The HFGC system is used primarily to support four different missions, Sharper said.
"The primary mission, or global mission, is command and control for mobility air forces such as Air Mobility Command's C-17 (Globemaster IIIs) and (KC-135 Stratotankers)," Sharper said.
The system also supports the presidential special airlift fleet, the chief of staff and other special airlift missions known as Mystic Star missions.
"As they are out flying to other countries, operators make sure they have an open line of communication established on our HF network," Sharper said.
A third mission is System of Telecom Information for American Air Forces. This is a Spanish-speaking communication network among all North, South and Central American air forces that provides administrative and logistics support for the system of cooperation among the American air forces.
The fourth mission the division is managing is the Defense Communications System High Frequency entry, which provides HF entry port for global communications by regional commanders.
The office is a communication system acquisition program office, according to Phil Woodring, deputy director.
"This is not something traditionally found at an air logistics center such as Tinker," he said. "The preponderance of our activity is acquiring a new system for the Air Force, not just the modification and sustainment business."
The system program director and system sustainment functions were previously located at McClellan AFB, Calif., while the acquisition segment of the SPO was located at Tinker.
"Because of the Base Realignment and Closure the two functions merged, and the McClellan faction joined the 25 Tinker people," Woodring said. "Effective this past June, we formally became part of the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center."
Some of the equipment the division sustains dates back to the 1950s, "but much of that older equipment has already been retired and we're down to very few of our stations still operating with it," Woodring said.
All of the old equipment will be out of business by the end of fiscal 2002, Woodring said.
"The new string of equipment allows the continuation of the same missions the (old ones) had, which provided the communications infrastructure so aircraft can talk to the ground and vice versa," Sharper said.
"Our equipment also provides significant manpower savings," he said. "This efficiency and effectiveness of the new system means the Air Force can save more than 255 manpower billets and use those billets for other purposes. This equipment has a higher availability rate, which means it rarely breaks."
To further enhance HF Global Communications, the division developed an airborne e-mail capability that allows messages, maps and other communications to be sent to or from aircraft via HF and the worldwide network. Today, communication between ground and aircraft must occur by voice over the radio, which often ties up critical command and control communication circuits.
This new technology insertion will be operationally introduced first in the E-3 Sentry (airborne warning and control system) fleet.
The new system will be produced and installed by December 2001, Woodring said.
"HF e-mail is a mission enabler to allow the warfighter to be able to communicate air tasking orders, a quick response capability that is not easy for them to do today," Sharper said. "The information pathway will be encrypted for classified material.
"Bottom line is that our system can support voice conversations and HF e-mail capabilities at the same time," Sharper said. "Because of the technology, the e-mail has a much longer transition range. In the future, our customers will be able to send or receive e-mail with the attachments to or from any equipped aircraft in the world." (Courtesy of Air Force Materiel Command News Service)