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Guard, Reserve Test Center links mobility to 'boots on ground'.

In the Southern Arizona desert, three C-130s rumble over the saguaros and airdrop training bundles to a waiting combat controller. On the surface, it looks like a routine mission just like countless others performed on a regular basis.


However, this particular airdrop was unlike any other ever done in that it was conducted digitally with a tactical data link known as the situational awareness data link. It marked the first time that a C-130 aircraft, in cooperation with a joint terminal attack controller on the ground, used digital technology to work as a team.

The mission, which took place May 7, was part of an operational utility evaluation conducted by the Air National Guard/Air Force Reserve Test Center out of the Tucson International Airport to showcase the capabilities that a tactical data link brings to the mobility fight.

The Air Force Reserve's 910th Airlift Wing from Youngstown-Warren Air Reserve Station, Ohio, along with two Air National Guard units, participated in the evaluation. The mission served as the first step in fulfilling a combined Guard and Reserve requirement developed at the annual ANG/AFRC weapons and tactics conference where reserve component war fighters expressed the need for digital capabilities on mobility aircraft.

SADL is already available on all regular Air Force A-10s and all block 30/32 F-16s for the close-air support role, allowing Airmen in the air and on the ground to work more effectively together.

"The digital map display allowed me to track the location of the aircraft as it made its approach to the drop zone," said Senior Master Sgt. Nick Lowe, a combat controller assigned to the AATC. "This allowed me to better deconflict inbound C-130s from other air traffic near the drop zone and prepare myself to receive the airdrop package. The potential effect SADL has on airlift operations is huge."

Installing SADL on C-130s means aircrews and combat controllers will be able to coordinate airdrops more effectively due to the range of the SADL network, the accuracy of position reporting and the ability to achieve all of this digitally without cumbersome voice communications.

Introducing this capability for C-130s and combat controllers in the field brings mobility aircrews into the common operational picture. Based on SADL's low cost, rapid distribution and compatibility, it's proving to be a functional alternative to more costly systems.

By Maj. Matt Baugher

(Major Baugher is assigned to the Advanced Airlift Tactics Training Center.)
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Title Annotation:Round the Reserve: A brief look at what's happening throughout Air Force Reserve Command
Author:Baugher, Matt
Publication:Citizen Airman
Date:Aug 1, 2009
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