The US Air Force (USAF) has received a Block 45 upgrade to its Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) first KC-135 Stratotanker.
Four of the eight military aerial refuelling aircraft operated by 507th Air Refuelling Wing are being upgraded as part of a $910m modification programme.
The upgrade improved the flight deck that provides flight crews with an updated autopilot and digital panels that eliminate analogue instrument gauges by consolidating the outdated controls onto one large LCD screen.
The analogue components have been removed and the dials have been placed on one screen which can be rearranged by the pilot as needed.
The 465th Air Refueling Squadron completed the first flight of the upgraded jet.
Flight crews in the 507th Operations Group will undergo two four-hour blocks of flight simulator training at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, to fly the upgraded aircraft.
507th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron guidance and control technician staff sergeant Daniel Swinehart said that the elimination of older technology saves maintenance hours by cutting down on troubleshooting time. It also provides a highly reliable system by reducing the amount of avionics components that could potentially fail.
Swinehart further added: "Rather than us trying to troubleshoot and figure out what’s wrong with the system, the system is now better able to tell us exactly what’s wrong with it and what we need to replace.
"Instead of analogue gauges trying to talk with digital signals, it’s all digital now, so we don’t have to convert from one to the other."
Image: Two pilots in the cockpit of an aircraft. Photo: courtesy of US Air Force photo / Tech. Sgt. Lauren Gleason.