The first Air Force Reserve Command KC-135 tankers will soon begin Block 45 cockpit upgrades to extend the fleet’s service life for several decades until they are replaced by the KC-46, AFRC announced. The upgrade adds an additional glass cockpit display for engine instrumentation, a radar altimeter, advanced autopilot, and flight director, to replace obsolescent systems. “These upgrades significantly improve reliability, reduce maintenance actions, and provide supportability beyond 2030,” Legacy Tanker Division senior avionics engineer Daniel Witt said in a release. “We also get updates on the software that will allow us to continue to support the KC-135 in the future,” he added. The first AFRC KC-135, from the 507th Air Refueling Wing at Tinker AFB, Okla., is slated to enter the modification line at Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex next month. The Air Force completed the first Block 45 upgrade in 2013, and plans to retrofit some 400 tankers under the $910 million program through 2026. Rockwell Collins is the prime contractor for both Block 45 and air traffic management upgrades completed in 2011.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.