The US Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) has announced the completion of the flight deck upgrade of the first Turkish KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft.

Named ‘Block 45’, the modification programme involves full remodelling of the aircraft’s flight deck.

As part of the programme, new liquid crystal displays, radio altimeter and other computer module updates were added, and some 63 parts were replaced with analogue instruments. Work was carried at Field Aerospace in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, US.

After the completion of the upgrade, the modified aircraft returned to Turkey.

US Air Force Legacy Tanker Division Mobility and Training Aircraft Directorate foreign military sales (FMS) programme manager James Conley said: “Turkey is a key ally in a very strategically important part of the world.

“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.”

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The US Air Force’s (USAF) KC-135 fleet is also receiving the Block 45 modification.

According to Directorate’s Block 45 programme manager John Wilson, the USAF KC-135 fleet has seen an increase in aircraft availability due to the modification.

Wilson said: “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.

“Prior to Block 45, our analogue autopilot averaged 500 flight hours between failures.  Now, we’re averaging 49,000 flight hours between failures.”

Before upgrading the aircraft, the directorate worked with the Air Force Security Assistance and Training (AFSAT) Squadron to coordinate Block 45 training for four Turkish Air Force (TuAF) pilots.

A total of seven Turkish KC-135R Stratotankers will undergo the programme.

Currently, second Turkish KC-135 is in the process of receiving a new modification. The remaining five in the fleet are expected to receive the update by 2023.