OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Nebraska | Offutt will soon be one of the first bases to replace a legacy Klaxon alert system that has been used here since the early 1970’s.
The system plays a vital role in notifying Offutt alert aircrews who must be ready to respond to worldwide threats at a moments notice.
“It’s an alert system that when activated at one of the few activation points…it sets off horns or lights,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel Wyman, 55th Communications Squadron C4 project manager. “When that goes off, it lets people on alert know they need to get back to their plane because it’s going to be taking off.”
Many Offutt personnel have probably heard the system being tested at the Offutt Field House. There are two separate alerting systems with different tones and lights. One is used for the aircrews who operate the E-4B National Airborne Operations Center and the other notifies aircrews who operate the E-6B Airborne Command Post.
The current system uses the base’s old telephone cabling infrastructure that has been modified and expanded many times since the first Klaxon system was installed more than 40 years ago. It is often susceptible to false alarms and is difficult to maintain.
“Right now, the only successful way to test it is to set the whole system off,” Wyman said. “It’s not an efficient testing system – there’s no monitoring, there’s no logging.”
He added that it is difficult to get parts or support for it. In many cases they’ve had to be creative and cannibalize other equipment just to keep it functioning.
In addition to being inefficient, the legacy system also posed a safety hazard to those who maintain the system as electrical current is used to trigger multiple devices across the base over telephone wiring.
“We have overloaded what the original system was built for and what it’s technically supposed to be able to handle,” Wyman said.
Wyman said his office has been working with the 55th Wing program analysts and other agencies over the past two years to get the system designed, approved and funded. When the system is done, new alert horns and lights will be installed in 33 buildings across the base.
It will incorporate the latest technology and will operate on the base network, allowing technicians to easily test, troubleshoot and maintain the system. They also designed it to be easily expandable.
“It’s future proof,” Wyman said. “We made it so that when we do upgrades on base, this system will still be good.”
Jeffrey Noe, a program analyst from the 55th Wing plans, programs and requirements office, said the new system should be viable for some time.
“The technology is more in line with the communications infrastructure of today,” Noe said. “I think it will give us a reliable system through at least 2030.”
The cost to replace the Klaxon system is $730K. Contractors are currently installing the system and it is expected to be fully functional by January, 2018.