One Team, One Fight...Prepping for the KC-46 Arrival

  • Published
  • By Macy Hinds
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Altus AFB is slated to receive its first KC-46A Pegasus in November 2018. The new, well-equipped tanker aircraft increases in-flight refueling capabilities. The KC-46 can both receive and deliver fuel, allowing it to train with the other two aircraft assigned to Altus AFB: the KC-135 Stratotanker and C-17 Globermaster III. However, extensive preparation and planning go into making a base ready for a new aircraft; it doesn’t happen overnight and it certainly doesn’t happen alone.

“For the last two years, Altus AFB has been prepping for KC-46 arrival/student production by standing up the 1st KC-46 squadron, building the aircrew training system (classrooms and simulators) and hangars and bringing in instructor cadre,” explains Chief Master Sgt. Jason Hall, superintendent of the 56th Air Refueling Squadron at Altus AFB. “Multiple MAJCOM, base organizations and commercial corporations came together to start training and have crews ready before the first jet even touches the ramp at Altus AFB.”

Altus AFB activated a squadron dedicated to conducting initial and advanced aircrew training for KC-46 air refueling operations.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Darin Dial, operations officer assigned to the 56th Air Refueling Squadron said, “The 56th ARS was activated August 2016 and we have been preparing for the KC-46 since then.”

The KC-46 will bring 500-700 people to either fly, provide aircraft maintenance or deliver aircrew training system support. Beyond military and civilian personnel, the new aircraft also brings a need for infrastructure.

“New construction and infrastructure improvements to support the new airframe and subsequent training operations are underway, as is training of operations and maintenance personnel,” said Dial.

Nineteen building projects were planned in preparation for the arrival of the KC-46. Two simulator buildings, a hangar extension and multiple office renovations have been completed or are in the works to account for KC-46 training and the increase in personnel. Construction will continue for the next three years as the base and Aircrew Training Systems are built and upgraded to support world-class training for the next generation tanker.

Despite Air Force-level problems such as delays with Boeing to ensure the aircraft is up to standards, the training hasn’t stopped at Altus AFB. Training boom operators, maintenance personnel and pilots happens on the ground first. Approximately two-thirds of training happens on the ground. The training culminates in a qualification consisting of both open- and closed-book tests, simulator assessments and finally, an in-flight evaluation. This means Altus AFB has been preparing flight crews long before the KC-46 arrives. 

There are three types of simulators at Altus AFB used to train KC-46 aircrew: Weapon System Trainer, Boom Operator Trainer and Fuselage Trainer. The WST is used specifically to train pilots while the BOT is used only for boom operators. The FUT trains both pilots and boom operators as well as the maintenance crew.

“The KC-46 Fuselage Trainer trains boom operators on cargo, maintenance personnel on procedures and pilots on egress,” explains Hall. “Within days of government acceptance of the first FUT, the simulator was being employed to train the initial cadre of KC-46 instructors.”

The FUT at Altus AFB is the first one to be used in the Air Force and one more will soon be delivered. With Altus AFB being the first base with a utilized Fuselage Trainer, they have helped boom operators stationed at McConnell AFB by inviting them to Altus to get hands-on training and experience with the Formal Training Unit’s KC-46 FUT.

“In addition to training both instructors and aircrews, the 56th has worked with Flight Safety to develop coursework for incoming students,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Joyce, operations superintendent assigned to the 56th Air Refueling Squadron. “We have also teamed up with Boeing to rewrite technical manuals for the KC-46.”

Altus AFB is ahead of the game and isn’t slowed down by delays between Boeing and the Air Force.

“There were multiple reasons that the aircraft has delayed,” explained Joyce. “Some revolve around ensuring the aircraft passed its FAA certifications and ensuring the Remote Vision System and Air Refueling Boom were able to safely accomplish air refueling.”

Altus AFB personnel have continued to overcome setbacks, working as “one team, one fight” to make sure the base is ready come November.

“The men and women of Altus AFB have been punching outside their weight division and solving technical Air Force-level problems,” said Hall. “They’ve come together as a team to overcome obstacles that have caused delays. They have committed the last two years of their lives to be ready to produce world-class aviators on a new aircraft before that aircraft has even started initial operations test and evaluations.”

Dedicated Airmen at Altus AFB have been working hard to prepare for the new arrival. Altus AFB is fully-equipped and ready to welcome the KC-46 in November.