The US Air Force has selected Rockwell Collins for the engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD) phase of the KC-135 block 45 cockpit upgrade programme.

The KC-135 Stratotanker offers core aerial refuelling capability to the US Air Force and enhances its capability to accomplish primary missions while providing refuelling support to air force, navy, marine corps and allied nation aircraft.

Under the contract, the refuelling tanker’s flight deck will be fitted with the latest generation autopilot, flight director, radar altimeter and electronic engine instrument display to increase navigational capabilities of aircraft.

The Block 45 upgrade will also include replacement of obsolete components with the latest digital avionics technology for increased safety, efficiency and reliability.

The digital avionics technology will enable the KC-135 in meeting current and future communication / navigation / surveillance and air traffic management requirements allowing it to operate in commercial airspace.

The contract also includes replacing the aging analog engine instruments with a large format colour electronic engine instrument display.

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Two prototype aircraft will be modified during the EMD phase which will establish the production baseline for 415 additional aircraft to receive the block 45 upgrade.