Friday, September 26, 2014

Countdown To Looking Glass

Docudrama uses fictional reports of a crisis in the Middle East, which leads to a nuclear confrontation between the US and the USSR. "Looking Glass" is the code word for the Strategic Air Command's control plane which is to be used in the case of nuclear war.

Mention the similarities between the story and today's Geo-political situation.

Starring: Scott Glenn, Michael Murphy, Helen Shaver, Patrick Watson. 

Operation Looking Glass

s the code name for an airborne command center operated by the United States. It provides command and control of U.S. nuclear forces in the event that ground-based command centers are destroyed or otherwise rendered inoperable. In such an event, the general officer serving as the Airborne Emergency Action Officer (AEAO) on Looking Glass assumes by devolution the authority of the National Command Authorities and can command execution of nuclear attacks. The AEAO is supported by a battle staff of approximately 20 people, with another dozen responsible for the operation of the aircraft systems.

The Looking Glass was initiated by the U.S. Air Force's Strategic Air Command in 1961 and operated by the 34th Air Refueling SquadronOffutt AFBNebraska. In August 1966 the mission transferred to the 38th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, the 2d Airborne Command and Control Squadron in April 1970, to the 7th Airborne Command and Control Squadron in July 1994, and to the U.S. Navy in October 1998.

The Strategic Air Command began the Looking Glass mission on February 3, 1961, using EC-135C[1] From the Airborne Command Post (ABNCP) conception aircraft based at its headquarters at Offutt AFBNebraska backed up by aircraft flying with the Second Air Force / 913th Air Refueling Squadron at Barksdale AFB Louisiana, Eighth Air Force / 99th Air Refueling Squadron at Westover AFB, Massachusetts, and Fifteenth Air Force / 22d Air Refueling SquadronMarch AFB, California.

EC-135 Looking Glass aircraft were airborne 24 hours a day for over 29 years,[2] until July 24, 1990, when "The Glass" ceased continuous airborne alert, but remained on ground or airborne alert 24 hours a day. The one break in the schedule occurred March 4, 1980, when a 1st Airborne Command and Control Squadron E-4 operated a combined Nightwatch / Looking Glass mission, Scheduled for an eight-hour mission, it ended up flying a double (16 hours) due to bad weather at both Offutt and Ellsworth.

The airborne command post is referred to as Looking Glass because its mission "mirrors" ground-based command, control, and communications located at the USSTRATCOM Global Operations Center (GOC) at Offutt Air Force Base. It has also been called the "Doomsday Plane," since its role would only be necessary in the event that the ground nuclear command centers at Offutt, the National Military Command Center, and Site R were destroyed. The Looking Glass is equipped with the Airborne Launch Control System, capable of transmitting launch commands to U.S. ground-based ICBMs in the event that the ground launch control centers are rendered inoperable.

At DEFCON 2 or higher, the Looking Glass pilot and co-pilot were both required to wear an eye patch, retrieved from theirEmergency War Order (EWO) kit. In the event of a surprise blinding flash from a nuclear detonation, the eye patch would prevent blindness in the covered eye, thus enabling them to see in at least one eye and continue flying. Later, the eye patch was replaced by goggles that would instantaneously turn opaque when exposed to a nuclear flash, then rapidly clear for normal vision.

The Looking Glass is also designed to help ensure continuity and reconstitution of the US government in the event of anuclear attack on North America. Although the two types of aircraft are distinct, the Doomsday Plane nickname is also frequently associated with the E-4 "Nightwatch" Advanced Airborne Command Post mission and aircraft.

The Looking Glass was the anchor in what was known as the World Wide Airborne Command Post (WWABNCP) network. This network of specially equipped EC-135 aircraft would launch from ground alert status and establish air-to-air wireless network connections in the event of a U.S. national emergency. Members of the WWABNCP network included:

  • (1) Operation "Silk Purse" for the Commander in Chief, U.S. European Command (USCINCEUR), based at RAF Mildenhall in the United Kingdom;
  • (2) Operation "Scope Light" for the Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Forces (CINCLANT), based at Langley AFB, VA;
  • (3) Operation "Blue Eagle" for the Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command (USCINCPAC), based at Hickam AFB, HI; and
  • (4) Operation "Nightwatch" which supported the President of the United States and were based at Andrews AFB, Maryland. In the early 1970s the E-4B aircraft replaced the EC-135s on this mission.

The Eastern Auxiliary (EAST Aux) and Western Auxiliary (West Aux) Command Posts were also part of the WWABNCP ("wah-bin-cop") network and were capable of assuming responsibility for Looking Glass as the anchor. The West Aux 906th Air Refueling Squadron was based at Minot AFBNorth Dakota and moved to the 4th Airborne Command & Control Squadron at Ellsworth AFBSouth Dakota in April 1970 and the East Aux mission 301st Air Refueling Squadron was based at Lockbourne AFBOhio and moved to the 3rd Airborne Command & Control Squadron at Grissom AFBIndiana in April 1970. After 1975 East Aux would be assumed from the Looking Glass backup ground alert aircraft launched from Offutt AFB.

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