By Staff Sgt. Jessica Montano, 55th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 15, 2021
Maj. Blake Hehemann, 38th Reconnaissance Squadron tactical coordinator, talks to Capt. Vadim Olshansky, 55th Operations Group mission crew commander Cobra Ball, about using the new flight simulator inside the Martin Bomber building at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, on June 11, 2021. The new simulator will allow Airmen to train and maintain their worldwide mission as the base recovers and rebuilds from devastation flooding that occurred in 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Charles J. Haymond)
Senior Airman Christopher Cavazos, 97th Intelligence Squadron airborne cryptologic language analyst, pushes a button on the communication panel while other 97th Intelligence Squadron ACLA members use the new flight simulator inside the Martin Bomber building at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, on June 11, 2021. During flooding in 2019, Offutt lost $234 million of information technology and approximately $700 million in facilities on base. (U.S. Air photo by Charles J. Haymond)
A new mission crew simulator, called a Mission Crew Training System or simply MCTS, was revealed at Offutt Air Force Base May 12.
This critical enabler will help the 55th Wing fully reengage its worldwide mission after being severely curtailed when the March 2019 flood destroyed all the Offutt-based mission crew simulators used by 55th Operations Group crews.
“These were a major part of the equipment that was lost on base,” said Lt. Col. Chris Conover, the 55th Wing Flood Recovery program manager. “We lost $234 million of information technology and approximately $700 million in facilities on base.”
Since 2019, only one mission crew simulator has been restored.
“Since the flood, we have been training with one MCTS 24 hours a day, 5 days a week,” said Maj. Pat Tracy, 55th OG Commander’s Action Group director. “We had Airmen come in at 2 a.m. to do basic skills training events, and some Airmen were sent on temporary duty to Texas and geographically separated units to train.”
The construction of a second simulator will double mission compartment training capacity, and take strain off instructors and students.
The 55th Wing has the largest operations group in the Air Force and hosts the 338th Combat Training Squadron, which is the largest training squadron in Air Combat Command.
“Having a second simulator will allow aircrew to perform initial, requalification and continuation training on the latest technology and keep pace with our adversaries and advancing technologies,” Tracy said.
The 55th Operations Group has worked closely with the RC-135 Program Management Office since September 2020 to finalize installation of this critical training device.
“Our [55th Operations Group] Airmen have lent support where we could as the 55th Civil Engineer Squadron renovates spaces on base that have been abandoned for the last decade,” said Col. John Litecky, 55th OG commander.
“This is a small piece of the operations group’s larger flood rebuild project,” Litecky added. “We are still working on mission planning spaces and recouping mission IT systems.”
Long term, operations group personnel will transition to the Operations Campus, which is one of eight campuses the Offutt Flood Recovery Project Management Office is currently planning as part of the overall flood recovery effort.
“This new simulator is just a stop-gap solution,” Litecky said. “The Operations Campus is the long-term, sustainable solution for the 2,900 men and women of the 55th Operations Group.”