The E-6 utilized by the TACAMO community is the Navy’s largest aircraft. Nicknamed Mercury, the E-6 was built for the Navy by Boeing as a replacement for the invincible EC-130 Hercules that had provided 30 years of faithful service. The initial model, the E-6A, was a dedicated airborne communications relay platform whose sole mission was to communicate with ballistic missile submarines.
The E-6A completed a modification to upgrade the communications equipment, adding Airborne Command Post capabilities. The modified aircraft, the E-6B, replaced the EC-135 in performing the “Looking Glass” mission flown for over 29 years by the U.S. Air Force. The expanded role of TACAMO provides the President and the Secretary of Defense direct command and control capability with America’s “nuclear triad” of nuclear missile submarines, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and strategic bombers.
With the additional mission tasking came increased training requirements. The TACAMO community was required to expand its training program to include all aircrew positions. Formerly known as the Naval Training Support Unit, and established as a fleet replacement squadron on 11 February 2000, VQ-7 is the aircrew training command of Strategic Communications Wing 1. The goal of the VQ-7 Roughnecks is to provide a constant flow of highly qualified aircrew to TACAMO’s operational squadrons, VQ-3 and VQ-4.
VQ-7 accepts students from initial entry, advanced training pipelines, or from other U.S. Navy fleet platforms. These students are tasked with completing four to twelve months of rigorous training, ensuring proficiency in their respective aviation specialties. Only after mastering their syllabus and passing final evaluations will they be sent to the operational squadrons to serve as aircrew on the E-6B.
To accomplish this training and provide the fleet with the best possible product, an elite handpicked corps of instructors and staff work nearly around the clock. VQ-7 uses a myriad of tools to execute aircrew training, including classrooms, laboratories, E-6B aircraft, full motion high fidelity flight simulators, weapons systems trainers, and various computer-based training aids. In addition, as the E-6B model manager, VQ-7 is charged with ensuring training and operational standardization among all users of the E-6B aircraft weapons system.
The foundation of an effective force is always solid training, and training begins, and continues, with the Roughnecks of VQ-7. Adapting daily with the ever-changing threat to our nation’s defenses, the professionals of VQ-7 stand ready to train the next generation of our country’s servicemen and women.