Directorate leads KC-135 upgrade for Turkish Air Force

  • Published
  • By Brian Brackens
  • Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Public Affairs

The first of seven Turkish KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft recently returned to Turkey after receiving a major flight deck upgrade at Field Aerospace, Oklahoma City.

The upgrade, termed “Block 45,” completely remodeled the inside of the aircraft’s flight deck, with new liquid crystal displays, radio altimeter, computer module updates, autopilot, and a digital flight director, replacing approximately 63 parts to include analog instruments which are considered high-maintenance or obsolete altogether.

“Turkey is a key ally in a very strategically important part of the world,” said James Conley, a foreign military sales program manager within the Mobility and Training Aircraft Directorate’s Legacy Tanker Division, which is leading the effort to upgrade the Turkish KC-135 fleet. “Block 45 makes it so much easier for pilots to operate the aircraft and notice malfunctions faster. It also helps with sustainment of the aircraft in the long run.”

In fact, the U.S. Air Force’s KC-135 fleet – which is also receiving the Block 45 modification – has seen an increase in aircraft availability due in part to the mod, said John Wilson, the directorate’s Block 45 program manager.

“Taking out old antiquated gauges and systems and bringing them up to date [with Block 45] has saved us thousands of [maintenance] hours a year,” Wilson said. “Prior to Block 45, our analog autopilot averaged 500 flight hours between failures. Now, we’re averaging 49,000 flight hours between failures.”

Prior to completing the update on the aircraft, the directorate worked with the Air Force Security Assistance and Training Squadron to coordinate Block 45 training for four Turkish Air Force pilots, so they would be fully qualified to fly the modified aircraft back to Turkey.

“With the ability to provide aerial refueling, aeromedical evacuations, and carry up to 83,000 pounds of cargo, the KC-135 is a key asset, and we – in partnership with Field Aerospace – are working hard to complete the updates and return the aircraft to Turkey as quickly as possible,” Conley said. “I’m thankful for the support of all of the folks involved in the success of this program, to include members of our Block 45 Turkey Air Force FMS Acquisition team.”

A second Turkish KC-135 is currently undergoing the new modification, with the remaining fleet expected to receive the update no later than 2023.