General ALCS questions

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General ALCS questions

Postby Weapons Loader on Sat Dec 29, 2007 10:34 pm

Good afternoon, everyone, I'm new to the forum and one of the few without any ICBM experience. However, I'm a weapons guy on B-1 bombers at Dyess AFB, and a SAC buff. Therefore, anything in the realm of nukes/bombers/missiles intrigues me. Here are some questions about ALCS I couldn't find answers to;

When was ALCS introduced? Which systems were compatible with ALCS?

In a wartime scenario, what kept the Looking Glass from launching the missiles without the missile crew's approval/participation?

What was the ALCS capable of besides missile launch? Was there any security, status, or re-targeting capability in ALCS?

When did launch authority pass from the LCC to the ALCS?
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Re: General ALCS questions

Postby PASMAN II on Sat Dec 29, 2007 10:50 pm

Those are good questions, but I have a better one:

How do weapons guys remove tactical nukes from the WSA and load them on a bomber without anyone knowing it?

(Provide step by step details, please.)
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Re: General ALCS questions

Postby Weapons Loader on Sun Dec 30, 2007 12:05 am

Hmmmm...we ALL tried to figure this one out at Load Barn. However, The B-1 lost its nuclear committment in 1997, so I have no nuclear experience. Plus as a weapons loader(2W1) we're seperate from ammo (2W0), who are the ones who work in the WSA building/storing/maintaining munitions. However, I spoke with some co-workers who loaded B-52s in the 80s and 90s, and here's my theory (just a theory, BTW, never loaded a B-52 or been to Minot)

First, I talked to a chief here at Dyess who loaded AGM-129 Advanced Cruise Missiles (the munitions involved in this incident, NOT AGM-86 ALCMs!!!!!) at K.I .Sawyer AFB, MI in 1988-89 when they were super, ultra, oh-my-God, unbelievably TOP SECRET. He said there is no way of verifying the ACM has had its warhead removed unless you remove a panel off of the missile and actually take a peek. Why not do this every time an ACM is handled? Think about it. It's a panel probably held on by a few dozen screws, and then continual removal/installation of this panel over the years may compromise the stealthiness of the missile through wear and tear. A maintenance pain in the ass. So, better to document and track which ACMs are loaded or empty, segregate the two in the WSA, and make damn sure which is which is the mean time. Maybe this feature had been fixed by 2007, but I didn't know anyone with any recent ACM experience.

Secondly, there's the human element. As we all know, there is literally a TO, AFI, or AFOSH Std how to do (or not do) every effing thing in the Air Force from food handling in the base chow hall to handling nuclear weapons in the WSA. As such, we are always told (especially in maintenance) to use or TO even if we're just closing an aircraft panel secured by one phillips-head screw. Sometimes, things appear so easy, or we've done the task hundreds of times we bypass the TO usage. As a result, there are things we do without the book because "I know what I'm doing so I'm above the book" or, We've done it the WRONG way for as long as I've been here, but it works on a day to day basis, and as long as we know how to demonstrate the right way during an exercise, evaluation, or ORI, we're cool.

Thirdly, how many times have you gotten into trouble because the guy before didn't do his job right, and you trusted the dude, and YOU caught the heat for it? In this case (here's the theory) the B-52 Aircraft Commander trusted his Radar Navigator to properly power-up and status the loaded AGM-129s, which would have told him if warheads were present. Well, he didn't. He only statused the other pylon of missiles, which had its warheads removed. He assumed the weapons load crew team chief had done his job correctly to ensure warheads were not present, so no need to go the extra step. "Late take-offs are a no-no, let's just get in the air." The Weapons Load crew team chief saw a pylon of ACMs being towed to his loading spot by Ammo without a convoy of Security Forces accompanying it, so he assumed warheads were not present. The Ammo guys in the truck towing the pylon were told by the guys in Munitions Control that warheads were not present, so they carried on. Lastly someone in Munitions Control/WSA probably saw this NUCLEAR pylon sitting amongst EMPTY pylons awaiting to have its warheads removed, and assumed the job had already been done.

Moral of the story is, when you make an assumption, youre making an ass outta yourself, and umption. Ammo may have documented the missiles in the "system" as being empty, which lead to the lack of Security Forces escort out of the WSA, which added to the appearance of unloaded ACMs on a pylon. This caused the weapons load crew team chief to not go the extra step to verify the missiles were empty, and he documented them as empty in the Aircraft Forms, which led the Radar Navigator to believe the missiles were empty. Again, the lack of Security Forces at the B-52 when the flight crew showed up caused them to assume everyone up to this point had done their job correctly, and no warheads were present.

A miracle of failures. I feel especially bad for the colonels (Wing, Group, and Squadron CCs) that got screwed because at their level they didn't do anything directly hands-on to contribute to this mess. Neither were they involved in the chain of events in a capacity to stop it. They just got fired out of tradition. Sh-t does roll uphill occasionally.
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Re: General ALCS questions

Postby PASMAN II on Sun Dec 30, 2007 12:13 am

Pretty damn good answer, WL. (I'd previously heard similar details). I can't think of some unclassified ways of answering your question, so I'll leave it to an ALCS crewmember to do!
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Re: General ALCS questions

Postby Weapons Loader on Sun Dec 30, 2007 12:48 am

That's cool. I was just curious what would happen if a Patton-like CINCSAC was on Looking Glass or TACAMO.
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Re: General ALCS questions

Postby PASMAN II on Sun Dec 30, 2007 12:56 am

Just remember, even though your answer above runs pretty close to the most current "official" version, many people don't accept it. I think the missing AGM-129 incident smacks of missing important details... from the President all the way down to the lowest ranking AGM-129 weapons loader. There are many checks and balances, too many to be a chain of "coincidences" IMHO.
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Re: General ALCS questions

Postby Weapons Loader on Sun Dec 30, 2007 2:12 am

I think its plausible because, a loaded ACM looks just like an unloaded ACM. Once an ACM has its warhead removed, it isn't subject to the same security, control, and attention-to-detail as a loaded missile. "Hey, ammo delivered this preloaded pylon without SF escort. Why should I take the extra 10, 20, 30 minutes to check for warheads before I upload?" or "Well, loaders documented the AGM-129s are without warheads in the aircraft forms, so why take the extra 10, 20, 30 minutes to power-up the other pylon and check for warheads?" (I don't know why, but late take-offs are a bad thing in the Air Force). Maybe that put pressure on the flight crew? I just can't believe that enough people from the WSA to the B-52 skipped enough steps for the aircraft to actually get in the air.

Why would we covertly transport live ACMs in the first place?
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Re: General ALCS questions

Postby PASMAN II on Sun Dec 30, 2007 4:41 am

"Plausable" is okay for everything but nukes. Many people don't buy the logic of "everybody else signed off on it" because the team at Barksdale had the presence of mind and time (10-20-30 minutes) to check the AGMs after the bomber had been parked for ~36 hours. There is definitely something fishy about this whole deal.
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Re: General ALCS questions

Postby SAC Killer on Sun Dec 30, 2007 4:56 pm

Weapons Loader wrote:That's cool. I was just curious what would happen if a Patton-like CINCSAC was on Looking Glass or TACAMO.


There was at least one "Patton-like" CINCSAC. I'm thinking of Gen. Curtis LeMay. Both Patton and LeMay recommended attacking Russia (for different reasons). Neither got permission, and neither attacked on their own. Now if Gen. Jack D. Ripper had gone nutzo in Looking Glass rather than on the ground... :?
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Re: General ALCS questions

Postby hockey85 on Sun Dec 30, 2007 4:57 pm

Weapons loader,
the quick answers to your questions are:

ALCS was introduced sometime in the late 1960's. It is compatible with MM and was compatible with PK as well. It was not compatible with Titan II.

Missile crews could prevent the ALCS from launching their missiles by a series of checks and balances. I don't think I can go into more detail than that here.

ALCS can launch the MM, could launch and retarget the PK.

Launch authority moved from the LCC to the ALCS when the LCC's were destroyed or could no longer perform their mission.
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Re: General ALCS questions

Postby njh621 on Sun Dec 30, 2007 6:05 pm

Titan II could however, receive messages from the ALCS, via the 487L. However, this is no point in having the backup system (UHF receivers at the LFs) for Titan II like MM does; if the LCC goes then the silo is probably toast as well.

To quote T.O. 21M-LGM25C-1:

"The 487L survivable low frequency communication system (SLFCS), as
incorporated in Titan II Weapon System, provides a reliable and survivable communication
system for Command and Control Communications...Titan II sites have only receiving facilities.
The signals are transmitted from remote SAC transmit-receive (T/R) facilities. These sites can
also receive from an airborne command post" (PDF Page 112 of Section 1, TO Page 1-102).
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Re: General ALCS questions

Postby Weapons Loader on Sun Dec 30, 2007 9:30 pm

Thanks, hockey85. When I first read about the ALCS I thought about what if the LCC and ALCS got in a "tug-o-war" for launch authority, and even if ALCS did rightfully launch the missiles after the LCC(s) was destroyed, did they just hope and pray (or at least verify) that the crew had them targeted before they got vaporized?

I can see how PK was able to be retargeted, since there was only 50 of them.

It makes sense that the Titan II wasn't ALCS compatible, given how close the silo and capsule were to each other.

Yeah, there will always be disbelief about the B-52 incident, given how stringent nuclear standards are. I bet words like Could, Should, May, Sometimes, etc. don't have a place in them, instead use Will, Shall, Must, Always and Never. For example, I was told during a monthly nuclear load evaluation on a B-1 bomber if you (B-1 jargon alert) removed the munitions handling trailer towbar before installing torque plate depressors on the weapons bay front bulkhead it was a FAIL just for being out-of-sequence, even though it really doesn't matter which happens first.
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Re: General ALCS questions

Postby AE on Mon Jan 28, 2008 1:04 am

The first attempted launch of an ICBM (Minuteman II) using the ALCS was successfully conducted at Vandenberg AFB on 17 April 1967. IOC was achieved on 31 May 1967. FOC was declared in June 1968.

While it's commonly thought that the ALCS could retarget only PKs, this is not true unless one is talking strictly about RDC (feeding new LAT-LON coordinates). Yes, the ALCS could program new target coordinates into a PK, but it could also command both PLCs (A & B) to the Minuteman as well as the PK. The PLC selects which preprogrammed target the missile will aim for (i.e., the airborne platform can select any pre-stored target in the missile's computer via PLC action so in the broadest sense of the term, the ALCS retargets via PLC action). So far as ALCS is concerned, the difference between Minuteman and Peacekeeper was that Minuteman-related launch commands are downlink only, whereas Peacekeeper allowed not only downlink capabilities but also provided for uplink status reporting, targeting, and limited startup/shutdown/control and test capabilities. That is to say, PK talked back to us but MM was mum; we could never be certain if our commands were effective for MM unless someone on the ground confirmed it--or we looked out the window and saw missiles rising above the earth! AE

P.S. ~ Forgot to mention that ONLY the Common ALCS (CALCS) could RDC the PK birds. When I first arrived at the 4 ACCS in 1989, most of the EC-135s still had the old Phase II ALCS weapon system. The Phase II's retargeting was limited to PLCs and it could not process uplinked data from the PK. When I transferred to the 2 ACCS in 1991, the conversion from Phase II to CALCS was mostly complete and we retired the last Phase II aircraft at Offutt shortly thereafter. The cool thing about the Phase II system was we didn't need the SIOP unlocks to enable the missiles, all we needed was radio access (RAMO/RADMO/328). And THAT is why letting the UHF timers run out was such a big no-no back in those days! Of course, we'd also need the cooperation of virtually everyone on the aircraft too, so even though the possibility existed, the probabilty was extremely low. Still, understandably, the NSA folks were REALLY happy to see the Phase II finally replaced by the CALCS.
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Re: General ALCS questions

Postby Cancellier on Mon Jan 28, 2008 12:32 pm

njh621 wrote:Titan II could however, receive messages from the ALCS, via the 487L. However, this is no point in having the backup system (UHF receivers at the LFs) for Titan II like MM does; if the LCC goes then the silo is probably toast as well.



OK, I have a question about this part. Did the ALCC birds have wires? I know the ABNCP configured birds did and I assume the PACCS birds did (maybe a bad assumption.)

Thanks,

Mike
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Re: General ALCS questions

Postby dekelley82 on Mon Jan 28, 2008 7:03 pm

Mike,

The straight "ALCC" aircraft did not have a TWA. Only the C model ABNCP ECs had them.

ALCS-equipped EC-135 PACCS aircraft operated by SAC:

A Model--basic ALCC aircraft--no wire--stationed at Ellsworth--now stationed at the Ellswoerth museum and the Offutt main gate. These were the original "Looking Glass" aircraft, until the C models were produced.
C Model--the battlestaff model flown at Offutt and Ellsworth for the SAC ABNCP/AUXCP role and had the TWA (trailing wire antenna). We had 4 at Ellsworth for the WAUXCP role.
G Model--similar to the A model--had more comm equipement, but not to the C model level. We had one at Ellsworth.

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