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Looking Glass After A Nuclear War  
User currently offlineDFWJIM1 From United States of America, joined Sep 2011, 279 posts, RR: 0
Posted (11 months 1 week 21 hours ago) and read 5693 times:
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I was watching the movie "By Dawn's Early Light" on YouTube and I noticed that the Looking Glass aircraft had a major role in the movie. During the Cold War if a full scale nuclear conflict broke out and the United States and the Soviet Union were destroyed what would be the role of the Looking Glass aircraft after hostilities stopped? Would Looking Glass attempt to fly to Central/South America if there was enough fuel on board for continuation of the United States government? Or was the Looking Glass mission pretty much considered a one way trip in the event of full scale nuclear war?

Thanks for your responses.

22 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineBladeLWS From United States of America, joined Dec 2005, 403 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (11 months 1 week 19 hours ago) and read 5633 times:

IIRC there was talk at some point of returning bombers and other aircraft landing on the dry salt lakes of Nevada for refueling and what not.

Besides that if there was a strike that did take out all suitable US landing fields I'd think they would try to make it to the nearest ally, I'm thinking Canada.


User currently offlinerc135x From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 2, posted (11 months 1 week 19 hours ago) and read 5621 times:

This is a good question.

The LOOKING GLASS was part of the Post Attack Command and Control System (PACCS) which included a variety of different airborne platforms designed to ensure command and control functions before, during, and after a national emergency (not just a nuclear war). Aside from the GLASS there were two back-up airplanes (EASTAUX and WESTAUX), two radio relay planes, and one or two airborne launch control centers (ALCCs).

The GLASS was originally considered to provide a redundant function of the SAC underground command post---to launch the US Triad if the president and national command authorities (including down the chain the CINCSAC) were "decapitated." After SIOP-62 the role of the GLASS expanded to include "controlling" not only the key major attack options (MAOs) but the myriad selective attack options (SAOs) normally available to US commanders should they be incapacitated.

"After" a nuclear exchange, or even multiple exchanges, the GLASS would remain airborne until it ran out of fuel (assuming it had already been refueled in flight multiple times). It would then land at specified post-SIOP recovery bases and attempt to regenerate for further mission tasking related to war management. The LOOKING GLASS itself had no "continuity of government" function. That was reserved for the NIGHT WATCH EC-135Js at Andrews and later the E-4s at Offutt, hence their disparaging sobriquet of "Doomsday Planes". Incidentally, the operational airborne duration for the E-4 was 96 hours. This limit was not due to fuel or engine oil but because after that point the toilets overflowed and there was no water or rations left.

Details about the continuity of government are among the most classified topics and it is very compartmentalized, so few people know the whole picture.

All this begged the question of what a post-SIOP world would be like, but this brief summary was the intent.


User currently offlineUltimateDelta From United States of America, joined Sep 2007, 2131 posts, RR: 6
Reply 3, posted (11 months 1 week 19 hours ago) and read 5607 times:

Quoting rc135x (Reply 3):
The GLASS was originally considered to provide a redundant function of the SAC underground command post

On a somewhat related question, as I understand it, the EC-135H did more or less the same thing for USAFE. Is that an accurate description?

As an aside, I've always been fascinated with the EC-135, so it's great to see a thread covering it!



Midwest Airlines- 1984-2010
User currently offlinemoose135 From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 2328 posts, RR: 10
Reply 4, posted (11 months 1 week 18 hours ago) and read 5566 times:

Quoting rc135x (Reply 2):
This is a good question.

And I knew you would have a good answer...
 

Thanks for that detailed look back in time!



KC-135 - Passing gas and taking names!
User currently offlinerc135x From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 5, posted (11 months 1 week 8 hours ago) and read 5386 times:

Quoting UltimateDelta (Reply 3):
the EC-135H did more or less the same thing for USAFE. Is that an accurate description?

Yes.

All CINCs and Theater Commanders with nuclear weapons release authority had an airborne command post. The aircraft type varied over time, so for ease of explanation we can stick with the height of the EC-135 era and the primary type assigned to each unit. The CINCLANT and CINCPAC missions had a higher priority for executing SLBM launches and only a secondary mission to launch ICBMs. That mission was primarily for the GLASS and AUX jets, with the ALCCs guaranteeing the capability. To be clear, the intent was for ICBMs to be launched by ground-based crews and the SLBMs to be launched by the boomer crew. In the event the "silo" crews were killed or lost connectivity with their flights of ICBMs the GLASS (and AUX and ALCC) had two fully qualified missile launch officers on board to "turn the key" in a backup role.

CINCSAC - EC-135C LOOKING GLASS (originally COVER ALL) -- 2nd ACCS, Offutt AFB
NCA - EC-135J NIGHT WATCH - 1000th ACCS ==> 1st ACCS, Andrews AFB
USAFE - EC-135H SILK PURSE - 10th ACCS, RAF MIldenhall
CINCLANT - EC-135P SCOPE LIGHT - 7th ACCS, Langley AFB
CINCPAC - EC-135J BLUE EAGLE - 9th ACCS, Hickam AFB

Other PACCS units included

CINCSAC - EC-135C AUXCAPs and EC-135A/G, 4th ACCS, Ellsworth AFB
CINCSAC - EC-135L/G Radio Relay, 70th AREFS, Grissom AFB, IN

Occasionally airframes were swapped between units as aircraft rotated through PDM. For example, TAC briefly operated an EC-135C SCOPE LIGHT while their P model was out of service.

Quoting BladeLWS (Reply 1):
IIRC there was talk at some point of returning bombers and other aircraft landing on the dry salt lakes of Nevada for refueling and what not.

Besides that if there was a strike that did take out all suitable US landing fields I'd think they would try to make it to the nearest ally, I'm thinking Canada.

Post SIOP bombers were not expected to return to CONUS if they survived their strike missions. A Loring AFB B-52, for example, might recover in Afghanistan after its strike. The goal was to deploy the resources to regenerate the airplane for future missions. Sometimes this meant just gas to get it elsewhere for rearming. The underlying assumption was there would be no bases left in CONUS. KC-135s would offload all their fuel to their executed bomber and hopefully land in places like Thule AB to regenerate, but with standpipe fuel only (that which cannot be offloaded) the tankers were likely consigned to a cold funeral over the North Atlantic or northern Canada.

Amusingly, original warplans like OFF TACKLE and PINCHER called for a *30 day* campaign against the USSR. By 1960, this had become a *30 minute* campaign.

Edit: Corrected typo

[Edited 2013-10-29 06:36:56]

[Edited 2013-10-29 06:38:47]

User currently offlineUltimateDelta From United States of America, joined Sep 2007, 2131 posts, RR: 6
Reply 6, posted (11 months 1 week 4 hours ago) and read 5209 times:

Quoting rc135x (Reply 5):
All CINCs and Theater Commanders with nuclear weapons release authority had an airborne command post.

I knew that much, but thanks for the info on the specific variants! I've always had a harder time telling the ECs apart than the RCs...haha.



Midwest Airlines- 1984-2010
User currently offlinebennett123 From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2004, 7635 posts, RR: 3
Reply 7, posted (11 months 1 week 4 hours ago) and read 5184 times:

Does raise the sobering question, "what would they comeback to?".

User currently offlineDFWJIM1 From United States of America, joined Sep 2011, 279 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (11 months 6 days 23 hours ago) and read 5005 times:
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I think it would be difficult to come back to Canada since it would probably be a nuclear wasteland too.

User currently offlinechecksixx From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 1099 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (11 months 6 days 14 hours ago) and read 4846 times:

Quoting bennett123 (Reply 7):
Does raise the sobering question, "what would they comeback to?".

Not much...no government, or if there were any survivors of the initial attack, there would be limited to no communication capabilities. Many would die from radiation after initial strikes.

Threat of nuclear war is the biggest deterrent to nuclear war. Everyone knows the effects.


User currently offlineMax Q From United States of America, joined May 2001, 4552 posts, RR: 19
Reply 10, posted (11 months 6 days 14 hours ago) and read 4844 times:

Fascinating stuff, I understand the E4B could be refuelled in flight to allow several days in flight but could it really go 96 hours without oil replenishment ?



I imagine it has larger that standard engine oil capacity and, perhaps some method of replenshing oil internally ?



The best contribution to safety is a competent Pilot.
User currently offlinebennett123 From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2004, 7635 posts, RR: 3
Reply 11, posted (11 months 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 4828 times:

rc135x

One point that does surprise me is the bit about the toilets.

Surely they could design a toilet that "dumped" the waste, even if it meant coming down to about 8,000 feet and switching off the pressurisation.


User currently offlineNBGSkyGod From United States of America, joined May 2004, 819 posts, RR: 1
Reply 12, posted (11 months 6 days 11 hours ago) and read 4780 times:

Quoting rc135x (Reply 5):

Great breakdown of all the assets, but you left out the Navy's E-6B TACMO planes. Which as I understood it was also capable of commanding a SLBM launch but also ICBM launches as they also carried launch officers.



"I use multi-billion dollar military satellite systems to find tupperware in the woods."
User currently offlinerc135x From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 13, posted (11 months 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 4739 times:

Quoting bennett123 (Reply 11):
Surely they could design a toilet that "dumped" the waste, even if it meant coming down to about 8,000 feet and switching off the pressurisation.

I would have thought so too....

Quoting NBGSkyGod (Reply 12):
but you left out the Navy's E-6B TACMO planes. Which as I understood it was also capable of commanding a SLBM launch but also ICBM launches as they also carried launch officers.

Absolutely correct. My TL;DR summary focused on the PACCS system and did not include the EC-130Q or E-6 TACAMO assets. I believe that after they pulled the plug on all the EC-135s the E-6s became the sole redundant aircraft in the Triad command-and-control system.

Quoting checksixx (Reply 9):
Threat of nuclear war is the biggest deterrent to nuclear war. Everyone knows the effects.

The greatest challenge to the MAD deterrent theory of nuclear weapons is that increasingly there are potential combatants who don't care about the effects of nuclear weapons or even if they are killed. Their goal is to attack and destroy their enemy with no regard for the consequences. This is certainly not the forum to discuss this in detail, but the deterrent effect of nuclear weapons only works against a rational state actor, not suicidal people or groups capable of acquiring an atomic device.


User currently offlineMax Q From United States of America, joined May 2001, 4552 posts, RR: 19
Reply 14, posted (11 months 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 4482 times:

Quoting bennett123 (Reply 11):


Surely they could design a toilet that "dumped" the waste, even if it meant coming down to about 8,000 feet and switching off the pressurisation.

This would require a major mod to the airframe, furthermore you probably don't want to depressurise in an area of widespread radiation poisoning, as you'd expect after an attack.


I suspect the E4B, in addition to EMP hardening has an air filtration system designed to keep out as much radiation as possible.



The best contribution to safety is a competent Pilot.
User currently offlineafterburner33 From New Zealand, joined Aug 2012, 70 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (11 months 5 days 10 hours ago) and read 4297 times:

I would have thought it would have depended on what sort of 'war' there had been.

If it had been a limited counterforce exchange, then a lot of infrastructure (particularly civilian infrastructure) would still be intact as the counterforce targeting would have been for ICBM silos, sub bases, air bases, and the like.

However if there had been a major city-busting countervalue exchange, there probably wouldn't be whole lot left to come back to ... and most of it would be irradiated.


User currently offlinewindy95 From United States of America, joined Dec 2008, 2738 posts, RR: 8
Reply 16, posted (11 months 5 days 2 hours ago) and read 4167 times:

Quoting rc135x (Reply 2):
It would then land at specified post-SIOP recovery bases and attempt to regenerate for further mission tasking related to war management
Quoting rc135x (Reply 5):
Post SIOP bombers were not expected to return to CONUS if they survived their strike missions. A Loring AFB B-52, for example, might recover in Afghanistan after its strike. The goal was to deploy the resources to regenerate the airplane for future missions

Correct. All SIOP aircraft had a post attack destination. Which is why we kept cold and warm weather gear in our EWO bags.

Quoting rc135x (Reply 5):
like Thule AB to regenerate, but with standpipe fuel only (that which cannot be offloaded) the tankers were likely consigned to a cold funeral over the North Atlantic or northern Canada.

Always aasumed as a 135 guy that I would be using my cold weather gear if we even had the choice to land somewhere. But it was assumed by most that the bombers would get everything they could take and leave us to find a place to ditch.



OMG-Obama Must Go
User currently offlineMrBuzzcut From United States of America, joined Jan 2008, 64 posts, RR: 0
Reply 17, posted (11 months 4 days 18 hours ago) and read 4032 times:

Quoting windy95 (Reply 16):
Correct. All SIOP aircraft had a post attack destination. Which is why we kept cold and warm weather gear in our EWO bags.

Not to pry much, and I'm not asking anybody to divulge any classified info, but did the crews even know their mission under the SIOP, or was that something that even the crews didn't know unless it was the real thing?

My studies of the cold war lead me to believe that the crews launched, and and went to a certain point, and if it was the real thing, then they were told where they were going, but that may be just legend...just looking for whatever clarification can be given in the most general terms.


User currently offlinemoose135 From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 2328 posts, RR: 10
Reply 18, posted (11 months 4 days 17 hours ago) and read 4021 times:

Quoting MrBuzzcut (Reply 17):
Not to pry much, and I'm not asking anybody to divulge any classified info, but did the crews even know their mission under the SIOP, or was that something that even the crews didn't know unless it was the real thing?

I can only talk to the tanker side of the house, but yes, we had a full mission plan - maps, routes, timing, where and when to rendezvous for A/R, and destination info. It was all there in the navigator's bag that stayed with the airplane. I'm sure it was the same for the B-52 guys.



KC-135 - Passing gas and taking names!
User currently offlineVenus6971 From United States of America, joined Dec 2004, 1443 posts, RR: 0
Reply 19, posted (11 months 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 3967 times:

As a KC-135A and EC-135H crew chief we were told that we were expendable and give all the fuel necessary for the bomber to fly north and to peal off then flame out then bail out.


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User currently offlinerc135x From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 20, posted (11 months 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 3897 times:

Quoting MrBuzzcut (Reply 17):
Not to pry much, and I'm not asking anybody to divulge any classified info, but did the crews even know their mission under the SIOP, or was that something that even the crews didn't know unless it was the real thing?

My studies of the cold war lead me to believe that the crews launched, and and went to a certain point, and if it was the real thing, then they were told where they were going,

Moose135 is right. All SAC crews had (usually) weekly target and mission study, typically on the first day of their alert cycle.

For tanker crews it was pretty simple: launch procedures, routes, receiver type and offload, recovery procedures, etc. There was also a test given on command and control procedures such as practice decoding of emergency action messages (EAMs) and other critical procedures. If you flunked it they took away your birthday.

For bomber crews they added detailed mission routing, threat data, and weapons release information. Each sortie had a SIOP strip chart, which was a scrolled map about 25-50 miles either side of the route showing turn points, navigation points, threats, and other key information. Pilots studied routing, fuel management, low-level, and egress/recovery procedures. EWs studied the specific threats (SAMs, AA, counter-air) along the route and the electronic threat (frequencies, etc). The B-52 Radar Nav studied radar images of the target to be able to bomb at night or in bad weather. With the addition of sophisticated weapons beyond mere gravity drop bombs (like the addition of the AGM-28/GAM-77), the Radar Nav also studied release points to back up automated systems.

Full copies of the sortie's mission were kept in sealed boxes in each alert airplane. When the horn blew crews would decode a message sent by the SAC command post and act accordingly. In peacetime it was usually start engines and report, or sometimes taxi and cross the threshold in a simulated launch. In the event of a real launch, the airplanes would fly their assigned routes. At some point along the way the bomber missions would be executed, which authorized them to proceed to their targets. If they were not executed, they would proceed to and hold at their "fail safe" points and await instructions. This allowed the NCA to demonstrate resolve with a bomber *launch* but not attack and hopefully defuse the crisis at hand.

During the 1950s and early 1960s, this was all very real. Crews did not know if the horn was a practice or the start of WW3.


User currently offlinewindy95 From United States of America, joined Dec 2008, 2738 posts, RR: 8
Reply 21, posted (11 months 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 3881 times:

Quoting rc135x (Reply 20):
During the 1950s and early 1960s, this was all very real. Crews did not know if the horn was a practice or the start of WW3.

The first telltale sign you looked for after the klaxon went off was as you ran out of the facility you looked to see if the Wing King and the fire trucks had already been pre positioned outside waiting and watching.



OMG-Obama Must Go
User currently offlinewindy95 From United States of America, joined Dec 2008, 2738 posts, RR: 8
Reply 22, posted (11 months 4 days 3 hours ago) and read 3796 times:

Quoting rc135x (Reply 2):
"After" a nuclear exchange, or even multiple exchanges, the GLASS would remain airborne until it ran out of fuel (assuming it had already been refueled in flight multiple times). It would then land at specified post-SIOP recovery bases and attempt to regenerate for further mission tasking related to war management. The LOOKING GLASS itself had no "continuity of government" function. That was reserved for the NIGHT WATCH EC-135Js at Andrews and later the E-4s at Offutt, hence their disparaging sobriquet of "Doomsday Planes". Incidentally, the operational airborne duration for the E-4 was 96 hours

Another bit of info on keeping the Looking Glass and other assets like it airbrne 24/7 was the refuelling mission that helped keep it up on it's mission. This was always a high priority mission for the Tankers and would always require a spare aircraft or a "hot" spare. The fuel had to get to them so we had to prepare a spare for every refuelling that had them as a reciever. We even had some missions that had a taxi spare and then a manned spare sitting on the ramp. The E-4's and EC-135's needed their fuel.



OMG-Obama Must Go
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