A legacy of service over the Nevada Test and Training Range

Nearly twenty years ago, supporting military training exercises at the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR) had a very different appearance than it does in present day. Mainframe computers processing display data relied on 14-inch aluminum hard drive platters in oversized cartridges to load executable programs, and display systems used monitors made up of large, cumbersome cathode ray tubes.

During that era, the Aircraft Instrumentation Subsystem (AIS) in use, also referred to as an instrumentation pod, was nomenclature P4NS. This P4 version of Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation (ACMI) pod was the state-of-the-art technology used to transmit aircraft positional data for training during the Red Flag mission, the U.S. Air Force’s largest combat training exercise.

At that time, Pod 1776 was flying sorties on a daily basis. Favored for its patriotic serial number, at one time or another, it was flown on every type of fighter platform that transitioned the NTTR airspace. Having provided telemetry data for various training missions, it served numerous Weapons School and Red Flag aircrew members dependably until retired in 2015. In fact, at retirement, the asset had nearly 4,000 hours of time in flight. This would likely equate to in excess of 3,000 simulated combat sorties.

Upon the integration of the instrumentation’s successor, the P5 pod, the P4NS assets were removed and turned in for disposition. However, there was one exception—the single P4NS Pod 1776 was withheld. Even though there was no specific reason in mind, the members of the pod shop felt it should be preserved because of its special insignia and significant enumeration.

Since that time, new systems have been integrated, and technological advancements have surged. On the surface, the tools used to support military training have capabilities far different from those used more than four decades ago. Nevertheless, Pod 1776 remained in the corner of the hangar as a testament to the foundation of air combat training, almost as if it knew that it was destined for greater glory.

“Favored for its patriotic serial number, at one time or another it was flown on every type of fighter platform that transitioned the NTTR airspace.”

Several months ago, the P5 pod shop was approached by personnel of the 414th Combat Training Squadron (CTS) with a special request from the Smithsonian Institution. The curator of the National Air and Space Museum had reached out to the 414th CTS (Red Flag) hoping to acquire a piece of history depicting the Red Flag training exercise and how the Air Force prepared fighter pilots for combat when the exercise was still in its infancy. It was then that Integrits teammate Chad Russ, P5 Ops and Pod Shop Manager, realized that Pod 1776 could have a permanent place in history. “According to the curator,” shared Chad, “the Air Force will be allotted a location at the Smithsonian Museum for an exhibit consisting of articles that would display the equipment and technology used during the early training sorties and how they advanced the education of our aircrew members.” In preparation, Chad and his crew have removed all of the electronic components from the internal case so they may send Pod 1776 to its final resting place in the Smithsonian.

The Air Force Red Flag Heritage Display is scheduled to be unveiled within the next two years, giving museum guests a glimpse of insight into how our military became equipped to execute real-world operations with the highest possible probability of success and survival. JT4 would like to thank all of its employees and teammates for their tireless efforts in supporting Red Flag and other large force exercises (LFEs) that are so critical to the lethality and survivability of our Warfighters!

Pod 1776 loaded on Strike Eagle F-15E at Nellis AFB.
Pod 1776 rests proudly under our Nation’s colors.
Pod 1776 on an Aggressor Blue Viper, ready for a training mission.
Pod 1776 end cap display showing 3,968 flying hours of service over NTTR to the U.S. Air Force.