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Pilots and Boom Operators Attend Upgrade Training

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Wendy S. Ohl, PA
  • 185ARW
Since 2001, the use of the KC-135 refueling tanker has increased dramatically as a result of the Global War on Terrorism, homeland defense, and the loss of forward operating bases. With the increase in demand, the Air National Guard (ANG) has been tasked with more and more missions requiring Guard tanker units to deploy to overseas locations in support of the military missions worldwide.
When any unit deploys to another base, there are slight changes in how they function and do their daily work. When the 185th Air Refueling Wing (ARW) found out they were deploying to this spring, they looked at possible issues that might arise during the long deployment. One of those issues was the difference in aircraft the ANG fly versus the Active Duty.

The 185th ARW has recently completed a conversion from the KC-135E to the KC-135R Block 30 airplane. To meet the constant demands of global power projection however, continuous upgrades are required to keep KC-135s viable and effective. Currently, the ANG is in the process of upgrading all Block 30 KC-135R's to the new Block 40 standard. The Active Duty has already completed this conversion for all their aircrews, as well as the majority of their aircraft.

"The biggest difference between the two planes is in avionics. The radios and navigation systems have been upgraded, and a new SATCOM capability has been added. These systems allow for a whole new way of communicating with Air Traffic Control, as well as better integrating our aircraft into current command and control systems," Lt. Col. Ed Sauley, 185th Operations Group Commander, stated. "With a Block 40 tanker, it would be possible for Higher Headquarters to re-task that aircraft while it's airborne anywhere in the world. That added capability falls right in line with a basic warfighter's mantra - Flexibility is the Key to Airpower."

Although the 185th ARW is not scheduled to convert to the Block 40 KC-135R model for over a year, Col. Brian Miller, commander of the 185th ARW, decided to start the 185th aircrew through training a little early. "This will allow our pilots and booms an increased flexibility when deploying to Manas AFB. Since we deploy as a part of the Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) mission, along side of the Active Duty, we may have a situation when we need to fly Block 40 aircraft. Our pilots and boom operators need to have this upgrade training to fulfill the mission," said Sauley.

"Fairchild AFB worked with us to rearrange simulator schedules in order to get these pilots trained for this deployment," stated Sauley. "We couldn't have done it without their help."

The remaining pilots and boom operators will be trained as the mission requires in preparation for the local upgrade to the KC-135R Block 40.