The US Air Force (USAF) has revealed plans to begin the first Block 45 upgrades to its Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) KC-135 Stratotankers.

The decision will see KC-135 Stratotankers operated by 507th Air Refuelling Wing receiving the upgrades valued at $910m in February.

Legacy Tanker Division senior avionics engineer Daniel Witt said: "These upgrades significantly improve reliability, reduce maintenance actions, and provide supportability beyond 2030.

"We also get updates on the software that will allow us to continue to support the KC-135 in the future."

The KC-135 Stratotanker Block 45 upgrades, which is the third series of major modifications designed to extend the tankers service life to 2030, will involve retrofitting the new KC-135 Block 45 upgrade at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex.

The upgrade will include a complete revamp of the interior of the flight deck with new liquid crystal display or LCD panels.

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"These upgrades significantly improve reliability, reduce maintenance actions, and provide supportability beyond 2030."

Additionally, the upgrade will include the replacement of the radio altimeter, auto pilot, digital flight director besides computer module renewal.

Legacy Tanker Division chief colonel Martin O’Grady said: "The modification to the KC-135 is important for several reasons.

"The upgrade allows for more efficient air traffic management activities, improves system safety by creating key system redundancy and reduces the logistics footprint with utilisation of more reliable avionics components."

The USAF has already commenced the modernisation of roughly 400 KC-135s and expects it to be completed by 2026.
Currently, the USAF still has about 550 KC-135 Stratotankers in service.

Image: KC-135R Stratotanker at Tinker Air Force Base. Photo: courtesy of Air Force Photo / Maj. Jon Quinlan.