KC-135R to Receive Upgrades to Communication and Navigation Systems

  • Published
  • By Rich Murphy
  • 185th Public Affairs
Pilots and maintainers from the 185th Air Refueling Wing (ARW) in Sioux City, Iowa are preparing for an upgrade to the KC-135R Stratotanker. The unit expects to accept their first upgraded refueler on January 19, 2010.

According to Operations Officer Lt. Col. James Walker, this upgrade will improve the aircrafts power, navigation, and communications systems. He said, "This upgrade will allow us to better mesh with the active duty and carry out our missions around the world."

The "Block 40" upgrade includes enhanced integration of many of the aircrafts communication systems. Staff Sgt. Antonio Calamanco, an Avionic Technician for the 185th ARW, described the upgrade as a way to streamline communication between pilots, towers, and operations. He said, "It is like how we use text messaging on our personal cell phones. Except the pilot can send a lot more information and it is all automatic and integrated."

The upgrade also adds a satellite phone to the communication system. Walker said, "This upgrade gives us a much more sophisticated communication system and should improve our capability to communicate effectively and efficiently with our allies."

In addition to improvements to the communication system, the "Block 40" upgrade will improve the aircraft's navigation system. Calamanco said, "The older system takes a long time to get started and aligned. Now, a pilot can have his navigation system up and running much faster."

The upgrade also includes improvements to global positioning, fault detection, and pilot controls.

Rockwell International contractors are performing the upgrade at Kelly Airfield in San Antonio. The upgrade takes approximately 35 days. During this upgrade, the contractors replace wiring, circuit breakers, and components. The contractors will then run an extensive operational checkout on all of the systems before sending the aircraft back to Sioux City.

Once the aircraft returns to Sioux City, pilots, inspectors, and maintainers will conduct a thorough acceptance inspection before officially accepting the upgraded aircraft.

Both pilots and maintainers have been preparing for this upgrade since 2008, when many of them went through extensive training at Scott AFB and McConnell AFB.

Since most of the upgrades involve avionics, avionic technicians Calamanco and Staff Sgt. Donald Smith, who recently returned from a 2-week training session at McConnell AFB, will be responsible for training both the traditional and full time avionic maintainers for the aircraft.

Calamanco notes, however, that the upgrades should make avionic maintenance easier. He said, "Now the system is completely integrated and the fault indicators tell us exactly what we need to repair. This should be easier than what we currently have."

The entire 185th ARW fleet should be fully upgraded by the end of 2010.

According to Walker, "This upgrade is essential for us to continue to support our missions both at home and abroad."

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