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New experimental equipment enhances Airmen capabilities

  • Published
  • By Jonathan Snyder
  • 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska (AFPN) -- It's not uncommon for tactical air control party Airmen, navigating through miles of rugged terrain, to carry nearly a hundred pounds of equipment in order to call in an air strike. In fact, it is their mission to advise Army commanders about that capability and use of airpower to enhance combat operations.

Currently, there are 30 Airmen assigned to Det. 1, 3rd Air Support Operation Squadron, from Fort Richardson, Alaska, participating in Northern Edge 2008 and using this opportunity to test out new experimental equipment before it is used in future operations. The equipment is being evaluated during land navigation and close-air-support training in the Pacific Alaskan Range Complex.

A representative of the Air Force Research Lab at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, brought seven different items to be tested before they reach the front lines.

"The whole concept of this new technology is to make (the TACP) lighter, faster and more deadly," said Gregory Burnett, chief engineer with the AFRL.

This new technology decreases weight a total of 10-15 pounds and enhances the TACP's capabilities.

One new technology is the battery renewable integrated tactical energy system, which is a self-sufficient, light-weight generator capable of producing enough energy to power all their equipment, Mr. Burnett said. The TACPs also were equipped with a head-mounted display enabling them to see any potential threats downrange while being able to view information from a small, rugged MR-1 notebook that can store and send information directly to pilots in the air.

One TACP who had the opportunity to test out the new equipment during NE '08 saw first hand the effectiveness of the systems. While using it at this exercise he will better understand how it works and how to effectively use it.

"So far, I'm very impressed with the new equipment from the easy-to-use headset to the MR-1 small computer," Tech. Sgt. Sean Field said.

The goal of this equipment test at Northern Edge is to gain operator feedback so they can provide a better final product. After a full day in the field, he will have a chance to give his opinion on the new equipment.

"The cut of weight from carrying all those rechargeable batteries will help out a great deal when we are trekking up mountains in Afghanistan or walking through urban areas in Iraq," Sergeant Field said.

"This has been very successful. All the gear has been working as expected and everyone has been receptive to each technology," Mr. Burnett said.

With TACP input, the developers from AFRL are able to make further improvements to this technology, which will ultimately save lives and provide a force multiplier to commanders.