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Hammer ACE
May 2000


The Air Force Communications Agency's Hammer ACE (Adaptive Communications Element), located at Scott AFB, Ill., is the Air Force's special purpose, quick reaction communications unit supporting:

Worldwide emergency and disaster response forces

Aircraft and nuclear mishaps/investigations

Civil disaster relief operations

Military exercises and communications equipment testing/evaluation

Hammer ACE is flexible, adaptable, and designed to support communications needs of on-scene commanders--Anytime…Anyplace…

Personnel and Resources

There are 10 people assigned to Hammer ACE. Team specialties include a mixture of satellite/wideband communications (SATCOM) and ground radio maintainers.

All real world communications support is funded by AFCA. Support for exercises

and communications equipment test/evaluation is funded by the supported unit.

Hammer ACE deploys a three person team, worldwide, within three hours of notification. A standard communication package contains the following equipment/capabilities:

- Half-duplex UHF tactical satellite communications (TACSAT)

-- Worldwide phone patch via Hammer ACE Ground Entry Point located at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.

- International Maritime Satellite (INMARSAT) terminals

-- Provide secure worldwide commercial telephone access

- Data Transmission

-- Laptop computer used for situation reports, public affairs releases, and E-mail connectivity

- Still Frame Color Video System

-- Enables image transmissions from the mishap site

- Land Mobile Radio (LMR) Network

-- Secures intra-site communications from media/public

-- 12 Saber IIIs, 1 base station, and 1 repeater

- Facsimile (FAX)

- Ground-to-Air Communications

* All Hammer ACE systems: UHF satellite, ground-to-air, FAX, LMRs, and INMARSAT are securable up to Top Secret. Power requirements are extremely flexible. Systems operate with commercial power, lithium batteries, vehicle batteries, solar panels, and portable generators.


Key events that highlighted the need for this capability:

The 1980 Titan II missile explosion in Arkansas revealed the lack of secure communications from a disaster site to Headquarters, Strategic Air Command. This allowed public-media monitoring of operational communications from on-site radio networks.

A 1981 Air Force Functional Management Investigation of disaster response forces cited the need for rapidly deployable, secure communications and encouraged full development of such a capability for the Air Force.

Even before the incidents, however, Major General Robert T. Herres, the commander of Air Force Communications Command, had considered establishing a small, elite, and highly flexible, specialized communications unit. Shortly after the Titan II explosion, General Richard H. Ellis, the commander of Strategic Air Command, discussed the issue of specialized communications with Herres and expressed interest in such an effort.

Encouraged by this interest, Herres took his concept to his staff. He told them it was his goal to provide the Air Force with a quickly deployable team of communications experts who could support such contingencies as aircraft disaster recovery efforts, hostage crises, nuclear accident clean-up activities, and quick restoral of communications operations.

To further enhance the special communications unit's flexibility, mobility, and responsiveness, Herres stressed that it use commercially available equipment. This would enable the unit to obtain replacement parts or new equipment more quickly, without going through the normal military procurement channels. In short, the vision called for a unit that would offer an array of special communications services for not only the Air Force, but the Department of Defense as well.

Missions of interest:

Deployable Communications