Fairchild tests KC-135 basic aircrew endurance with 24-hour duty period, completes phase two preparation for Mobility Guardian 2023

  • Published
  • By 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

The 92nd Air Refueling Wing deployed personnel and KC-135 Stratotankers with crews from the 6th ARW MacDill Air Force Base, Florida to execute a Phase 2 Lead Wing exercise Feb. 13-17, in Roswell, New Mexico, in preparation to be lead tanker wing at Air Mobility Command’s capstone exercise, Mobility Guardian 2023.

The Phase 2 prep exercise emphasized aircrew endurance, dynamic air refueling concepts, testing of a variety of the KC-135 mission sets, and included an advanced 72-hour endurance event.

“We have to practice like we’ll fight,” said Col. Chesley Dycus, 92nd ARW commander. “This exercise pushed the limits on the tools we have at our disposal to accomplish complex missions, ensuring our ability to rapidly project global mobility, and endure throughout geographically dispersed areas with limited communications.”

Fairchild tested basic crews’ ability to complete a 24-hour flight duty period. Without a waiver, basic crews, comprised of two pilots and one in-flight refueling specialist, are only allowed to operate on a 16-hour flight duty period and are limited to 12-hour flight-duty periods when they are unable to use auto-pilot.

The KC-135 crew endurance testing was conducted with a basic crew flying for a 24-hour duty period. The crew consisted of experienced instructor pilots, who had issued and previously tested ground-tested go-pills. They were authorized to use any and all anti-fatigue measures to complete the 24-hour duty period without auto-pilot.  At advanced stages of the crew endurance test, a safety and flight medicine observer were each on board to evaluate fatigue levels and ensure the safety of the crew.

“Every day, we are learning new lessons that we want to apply in combat, so this mission-generation exercise is a chance to test our capabilities at a tempo and scale that approximates combat operations,” said Gen. Mike Minihan, Air Mobility Command commander.

For the remainder of the 72-hour mission, crews conducted 16-hour flight duty periods to test key Agile Combat Employment concepts for the KC-135 such as: hot pit refueling, concurrent servicing, mission type orders, and contingency based authorities.

“Air Mobility Command is the joint force maneuver,” Minihan said at the Air Force Association’s Air and Space & Cyber Symposium, Sept. 21, 2022. “We are the meaningful maneuver. There is too much water and too much distance for anyone else to do it relevantly, at pace, at speed, at scale. Everyone’s role is critical, but AMC is the maneuver for the joint force. If we don’t have our act together, nobody wins. Nobody is in position. Nobody is lethal.”

Three aircraft from the 92nd ARW as well as crews from the 6th ARW MacDill AFB, Florida and the 22nd ARW, McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, participated in the three-day exercise, and was supported by total force elements from Key Field (Meridian) Air National Guard Base, Mississippi and Cannon AFB, New Mexico.

As the world’s Super Tanker Wing, Fairchild continues to refine tactics, techniques and procedures oriented on the Mobility Air Force’s full range of mobility readiness capabilities needed for today’s steady state operations and tomorrow’s high-end fight.

“The crews from Fairchild and our partners have my utmost respect and admiration,” said Col. Chesley Dycus, 92nd ARW commander. “We’re changing the paradigm here- the lessons learned during this exercise, and our readiness will only improve the wing’s ability to support Mobility Guardian in 2023 and demonstrate our unrivaled capabilities in complex environments.”

This exercise is an example of how the 92nd ARW is engaged, postured, and ready with credible force to assure, deter, and defend in an increasingly complex security environment.