BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --
Bombers are synonymous with Eighth Air Force, but “The Mighty Eighth” has a role within the intercontinental ballistic missile leg of the U.S. nuclear triad as well.
This week, Airmen of the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., participated in a Simulated Electronic Launch Minuteman test, or SELM, by providing both ICBM targeting operations and airborne launch operations through the use of the Airborne Launch Control System (ALCS) aboard a Navy E-6B Mercury.
ALCS operators, test engineers and weapons officers spent weeks in preparation coordinating with multiple agencies, training crew, targeting operations and testing mission planning before actual execution with the intent of improving nuclear surety.
“SELMs allow testing and validation of ICBM crew procedures in an operational environment while providing a great opportunity for multiple organizations to work together toward common objectives and validate ALCS operability with fielded ICBM forces,” said Lt. Col. Brian Lane, 625 STOS commander.
The 625 STOS is responsible for the operation of the ALCS weapon system, a major component to SELM testing as well as ICBM targeting operations used to configure SELM sorties.
“This SELM test was focused on the ICBM Cryptography Upgrade (ICU II) program, which will significantly improve nuclear surety and force security once fielded by the Air Force,” Lane said.
According to the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, the ICU II program will equip the ICBM enterprise with a secure, rapid code change capability while reducing the footprint of maintenance, security and operations during critical code change phases.
So how do SELMs work?
For this iteration, the prep for the simulated missile test began by removing two launch control centers and six ICBMs from their day-to-day alert mission configuration. The selected centers and missiles create an isolated SELM “mini-squadron”. While in this configuration, test commands are transmitted from isolated launch control centers and the airborne ALCS, but do not communicate with other on-alert operational ICBM sites. Test commands are sent throughout the isolated SELM squadron to assess everything from routine activities through issuance of the first stage ignition.
“This was the first operational test of the ICU II program,” said Capt. Jason Guthner, 625 STOS chief of weapons and tactics, who participated in the SELM. “What this allows us to do is employ an aging weapons system in new and exciting ways. Ultimately, it proves that the ALCS is safe, secure and reliable.”
Although the 625 STOS held a major role within the test, SELM participates span the entire ICBM enterprise to include U.S. Strategic Command, Air Force Global Strike Command, the U.S. Navy, 20th Air Force, 90th Missile Wing and defense industry partners.
On average, Air Force Global Strike Command conducts two SELMs annually to evaluate the readiness of the Minuteman II weapon system by assessing the end-to-end reliability of the ICBM force, including the ALCS and targeting operations provided by the 625 STOS.
“It is truly an honor for the 625 STOS to work with the 576th Flight Test Squadron, the 90th Missile Wing, AFGSC, our industry partners, and our close friends at the U.S. Navy’s Strategic Communications Wing 1, who operate and maintain the E-6B Mercury,” Lane said.