Military News

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Block 45 moves closer to mission-ready

by Senior Airman David Bernal Del Agua
22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

5/19/2015 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- Seven of McConnell's KC-135 Stratotankers received Block 45 upgrade, moving closer to operational missions and bringing the 59-year-old aircraft new technology.

The Block 45 upgrade addresses critical aircraft equipment and safety of flight issues including a new auto pilot, a new radio altimeter and an LCD screen that replaces analog gauges as well as other minor changes.

In July 2013, the first Block 45 training mission was flown from McConnell.

"The last big thing we did with the Block 45 was force development evaluations, which was in the middle of 2014," said Capt. Travis Neal, 22nd Operations Support Squadron outgoing chief of Block 45 training. "Ever since then, we've been training pilots, booms and navigators on the Block 45."

The training continued into 2015, and it's now moving to the next phase.

"We've got over half the active duty folks and almost all of the reserves trained on the Block 45," said Neal. "Most of our mission so far has been focused on getting the crew force trained up, and we're getting to the point where we're going to start using it for operational missions."

Operational missions are scheduled to ensure the aircraft's new updates are up to par with Air Force requirements.

"The first operational Block 45 mission is a total force integration effort to Hawaii to increase our aeromedical evacuation capability," said Lt. Col. Joseph Markusfeld, 22nd OSS assistant director of operations. "This will show we have gone from the test room to having enough confidence in the airplane to send it out on the road to get the mission done."

The Block 45 upgrade brings the KC-135 closer to modern industry standards in avionics and pilot capability.

"The KC-135 is going to be here past 2040," said Maj. John Sciuto, 22nd OSS incoming chief of Block 45 training. "The Block 45 is the future of the tanker fleet for the U.S. Air Force. Every KC-135 will eventually be flying with the Block 45 upgrade and it is gratifying to know that the first seven are here and we're continuing to add more."

Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, is scheduled to open the Block 45 pipeline for the basic training Airmen in 2018.

"It is a little of a paradigm shift," said Markusfeld. "We're going from 1960s technology to closer to industry standards when it comes to auto pilot and a lot of other mechanisms. It is a great time to be part of this change in the way we fly our aircraft."

(Editor's note: Information from an article by Airman 1st Class Jose L. Leon was used in this story)

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