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603rd Air Control Squadron "Scorpions"

In the European Theater, the U.S. Air Forces in Europe operates two Theater Air Control Systems in support of NATO ground forces. The 603rd Air Control Squadron is one of those TACS elements.

The 603rd ACS has the responsibility of exercising decentralized command and control of airborne assets. The specified mission of the 603rd ACS is to operate a mobile unit capable of providing radar control and surveillance within a designated area, to collect, display, and disseminate information of aerial activity and to provide radar coverage for the control of air forces. The squadron is further tasked to provide radar control for friendly aircraft in an offensive role against ground targets, and in a defensive role against airborne threats, as directed.

The 603rd ACS's original roots came from the 705th Signal Aircraft Warning Company and the 555th Signal Aircraft Warning Battalion. On June 6, 1944, the 555th SAWB crossed the English Channel and the unit received a commendation from Brig.Gen. James McCauley for identifying and reporting enemy aircraft, which resulted in the destruction of one ME109 and the dispersing the remainder of the aircraft. The 603rd ACS was officially activated on Dec. 31, 1945 under the Army Air Corps. The original name of the squadron back then was the "logrollers". The unit was under the operational control of the 501st Tactical Control Group. On May 25, 1948 the unit was realigned to report to the 7400th Air Force Communications Wing and on Dec. 1, 1948 it was re-designated the 603rd Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron, under direct control of the 7402nd Aircraft Control and Warning Group. Its mission was to provide early warning radar and direction-finding network to support tactical air operations to USAFE and to provide navigational aids to friendly aircraft.

The main force of the unit's capabilities was witnessed during the Berlin Airlift. On June 10, 1949 the 603rd ACWS realigned under the 501st Aircraft Control and Warning Group, and on Nov. 18, 1960 it was again realigned under the 86th Air Division where it remained until it was once again inactivated on June 25, 1965. Re-designated as the 603rd Tactical Control Squadron on June 29, 1973, the unit was again officially reactivated, this time subordinate to the 601st Tactical Control Group. On Sept. 29, 1986 the unit was deactivated. 

The unit was then reactivated in 1991 and moved to Aviano Air Base, Italy. In recent history, the 603rd ACS has played a major role in the Balkans by supporting Operations Deny Flight, Deliberate Force and Allied Force. In 2004, the unit deployed to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom where direct mortar fire killed Airman 1st Class Antoine Holt and injured many others. In 2005, the unit then deployed to Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan, for eight months and returned to Afghanistan in 2006-2007 for another eight-month deployment. 

In January 2008, the unit deployed to Ghana and Tanzania to provide aerial surveillance in support of President George W. Bush's historical five-day visit to Africa. The unit also directly supported two other Presidential trips to Slovenia and Romania in the spring of 2008, and provided long-haul communications to the 510th and 555th Fighter Squadrons' two weapons training deployments in Slovenia and Bulgaria. Most recently, the 603rd ACS deployed as "Pyramid Control" for an eight-month deployment to Southwest Asia, providing air surveillance and early warning for six countries in the Arabian Gulf region. During this rotation, "Pyramid" brought online a next-generation air control weapon system, allowing the unit to provide air battle management simultaneously to two separate theaters.