21 Tankers Line Up for File-Breaking Launch as McConnell Practices ACE

Greater than 20 tankers lined the runway at McConnell Air Drive Base, Kan., on March 27 for the bottom’s largest mass launch of plane ever.

“The premise was basically a menace was inbound,” Col. George N. “Nate” Vogel, commander of the twenty second Air Refueling Wing, advised Air & House Forces Journal. “That was the state of affairs we gave ourselves, and we had restricted period of time to get people off the bottom. So the crew generated these jets over the course of about 48 hours, the maintainers did, simulating that we had indicators and warnings that conditions on the earth have been type of ramping up from a disaster standpoint. And so then we did a crew temporary at 7 a.m. for all of the crews, they stepped out to the plane after which the very first thing we did was we simply wished to get an image of of all of the plane generated, after which we did the formation launch instantly after that.”

Sixteen KC-46s and 5 KC-135s participated within the flush, with plane and Airmen from the twenty second Air Refueling Wing and the 931st Air Refueling Wing taking part. The launch was a part of the bottom’s Train Deadly Satisfaction, a weeklong effort to simulate the Air Drive’s plan for dispersing plane and crews to function from smaller bases.

As a part of that effort, roughly 100 Airmen from McConnell have spent the final week dwelling in a tent metropolis on base with restricted contact with the skin world—simulating what life could be like on the type of austere ahead working base the Air Drive envisions as vital to its idea of Agile Fight Employment, whereby small groups of cross-trained Airmen disperse from central “hubs” and function from smaller “spokes” to complicate an adversary’s concentrating on. 

The Airmen within the tent metropolis are a part of command and management and drive era parts, Vogel mentioned, and have spent the previous week doing simply that, however with considerably degraded communications and restricted contact with the skin world to simulate what may unfold throughout a battle.

Within the train, McConnell can be treating different bases because the “spokes” in that hub-and-spoke association, together with Fairchild Air Drive Base, Wash., MacDill Air Drive Base, Fla., and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. 

“We’ve been to 9 totally different spoke places from our deployed tent metropolis surroundings that has despatched them out to those locations,” Vogel mentioned.

To drive Airmen to make their very own choices based mostly on commander’s intent, Vogel mentioned his crew has taken away communication choices over time and compelled the command-and-control factor within the tent metropolis to depend on solar energy relatively than present infrastructure. They’re not at all times capable of keep in contact with tankers relying on the place they fly, however the aircrews ”know what authorities they’ve, and we count on them to make choices and execute,” he mentioned.

Deadly Satisfaction is McConnell’s first large-scale base train. Past the mass launch of plane and the tent metropolis, Airmen have additionally carried out an aeromedical evacuation mission, a number of air refueling missions over land and sea, and night time missions. 

On prime of that, the train has included two endurance missions. One concerned a KC-46 flying for twenty-four hours straight, whereas the opposite had one other KC-46 fly for roughly 20 hours earlier than touchdown and taking off once more with out turning off the engines.

“We’ve been doing this stuff for whereas,” Vogel mentioned. “We’ve studied to get the very best Circadian rhythms and to see how the jet performs and vitamin and all that type of stuff. We simply see that as part of how battle might seemingly go sooner or later, so far as what could be required of us.”

Boundary-pushing flights have grow to be more and more widespread for the Air Drive’s tanker fleet. In Could 2022, a twenty second Air Refueling Wing crew flew for twenty-four.2 hours in a KC-46, setting an Air Mobility Command file and protecting greater than 9,000 miles. In October, one other McConnell KC-46 flew with no co-pilot as a part of a examine of restricted aircrew operations. And in November, a KC-46 from Pease Air Nationwide Guard Base, N.H., flew greater than 16,000 miles over 36 nonstop hours.

However, gathering 21 tankers for an elephant stroll is extremely uncommon. In September 2021, Fairchild Air Drive Base, Wash., set a base file by launching 20 KC-135s in a row. McConnell lined up 14 Stratotankers as a part of a simulated alert name in 2016, and extra just lately, carried out an elephant stroll with one KC-135 and 7 KC-46s in 2020. Seven KC-46s lined up at Pease in September 2021.