Grissom receives RTIC system, training

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Elise Faurote

A KC-135R Stratotanker and its F-16 escort glide through a dense cloud cover, heading for its drop point. It carries much-needed water and supplies for the citizens of a war-torn city. But with fog obscuring their view, and enemy surface-to-air missile sites littering the countryside below, the stakes are high for the pilots and aircrew who must carry out their mission with accuracy and precision.

Suddenly, crews receive a message on their data link system, an enemy SAM directly in their path 434 miles ahead. The tanker’s pilots quickly communicate the situation to the friendly fighter flying with them and plot a new course to safely avoid the threat lurking under the fog and still deliver the humanitarian aid.

This is an example of the capabilities of the Real Time Information in the Cockpit, or RTIC, data link system. RTIC allows pilots and aircrews to see where they are in relation to other aircraft and ground forces, giving them the ability to distinguish between friend and foe – all of which can be accomplished without having visual contact with them. John “Mooch” Carroll, 46th Test Squadron Link 16 fielding team contractor explained that RTIC is the equipment that allows pilots and aircrew to join a Link 16 network, a secure data link exchange network used by U.S. government agencies.

Shawn Moore, 46th Test Squadron Link 16 field engineer contractor, said RTIC and Link 16 network data provides the pilot and aircrew situational awareness of everything happening within a battlespace, which is something they did not have before.

For the first time, the 434th Air Refueling Wing is equipping its tanker fleet with this RTIC system. With this new capability comes the need for crews to understand how to utilize it. This brought Carroll and Moore to the Hoosier Wing to help familiarize pilots and crews.

“What we’re showing them is how to operate the systems and how to program RTIC to join a Link 16 network," said Carroll.

According to Moore, this training familiarizes crews with situations they would face in a mission or day-to-day training and how to use the RTIC system in different circumstances, from coordinating with F-16s that need refueling to avoiding SAM sites.

“They can see friendlies that are out there and they can see enemy aircraft or enemy ground threats that are out there that have been designated by other sensors on other aircraft,” explained Moore.

This system puts crucial information at crews’ fingertips and allows them to communicate that information effectively back and forth between aircraft or back to their command station.

“We’re excited about it,” said Tech. Sgt. Jerry Palmer, 434th Operations Support Squadron Link 16 unit training manager. “The aircrew and our maintenance team have been amazing. Crew Comm is leading the way as far as crypto and making sure things are perfect. It’s been great.”

The capabilities of RTIC and the Link 16 network will help to protect crews by knowing exactly where and what they are facing. Grissom currently has one aircraft with the equipment installed and is preparing to equip the rest of its fleet over time.