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USAFs Airlift
Now and the Future

HE UNITED States Air Forces

airlift capability is in the
hands of Air Mobility Command
(AMC). The command is responsible for providing the necessary
lift to resupply the USAF other
branches of the US Department of
Defense, as well as civilian organisations involved in humanitarian
and emergency relief operations.
AMC is midway through a
re-equipment programme to
improve the reliability of elderly
aircraft types and enable it to
be fully effective for at least the
next two decades. The majority
of the US Air Force aircraft are
ageing and in fairly urgent need
of planned replacement. The
average age of the USAF fleets is:
The figures are subjective, as
some of the more elderly types
in the airlift/tanker/bomber role
have been upgraded with modern

66 OCTOBER 2014 #319 66

technology to enhance capabilities.

Air Force Special Operations
Command (AFSOC) is the
golden boy of the procurement
budget, closely followed by AMC.
Although AMC is ostensibly the

USAF fleet average age



Age (years)










Reconnaissance &



Special Operations













5,435 25.2

USAFs active duty components

provider of worldwide airlift
and aerial refuelling, it also has
responsibility for the operations
of the transport and tanker
assets of the Air National Guard
(ANG) and Air Force Reserve
Command (AFRC), which become
part of AMC when mobilised.
AMC was formed on June 1, 1992
when Military Airlift Command
was renamed. The primary
purpose of this re-flagging was
to shed secondary missions,
such as search and rescue, and
concentrate on core duties. Aerial
refuelling was assigned to AMC
following the decommissioning of
Strategic Air Command. Tankers
have a secondary function of
passenger and cargo delivery.
Headquarters AMC is at Scott
AFB, Illinois. For many years, the
15th and 21st Air Forces, located

at Travis AFB, California, and Joint

base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst,
New Jersey, respectively, were
responsible for overseeing
operational units, divided roughly
geographically. On October 1,
2003, AMC reformed the 18th Air
Force (Air Force Transportation)
at Scott AFB, and redesignated
the two existing numbered
Air Forces as the 15th and 21st
Expeditionary Mobility Task
Forces (EMTF), respectively.
An over-riding requirement to
send personnel and equipment
to combat areas including the
Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan,
as well as humanitarian aid to
nations in Africa and the Caribbean,
following natural disasters and
emergencies, brought about the
change. The Air Mobility Warfare
Center (AMWC) was formed on
May 1, 1994 to prepare airlift and

05/09/2014 12:24


Branch: USAF Air Mobility Cmmd

Role: Troop Transport, Aerial
Refuelling, Strategic Airlift

Bob Archer describes

the operational fleet of
the USAFs Air Mobility
Command a force thats
making do with transports
both old and new in a
challenging, unfamiliar world.

The primary purpose of this re-flagging was to shed

secondary missions, such as search and rescue
aerial refuelling units for combat
operations. It evolved into the
USAF Expeditionary Center on
March 4, 2007, to more effectively
coordinate and prepare forces
before deployment to areas such
as the Middle East and Africa. The
end of US combat operations in Iraq
enabled the 15th and 21st EMTFs
to be deactivated in March 2012.

suited to theatre resupply. The

remaining two heavyweights
are the McDonnell-Douglas (now
Boeing) KC-10 Extender and
Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker which,

although primarily conducting

refuelling, are equally adept at
performing resupply. These five
aircraft types are the backbone
of AMCs global mission.

Aircraft and
Transport Fleet

AMC, and its ANG and AFRC

related components, operate
a mixed feet of about a dozen
transport types, along with
two distinct air-refuellers.
The C-5 and C-17 can best be
described as strategic airlifters,
with intercontinental range.
The Lockheed Martin C-130
Hercules, while possessing
trans-oceanic range, is more 67

Above: A C-27J belonging to the 175th AW, Maryland ANG. The Wing was one
of the first to receive the C-130J, before switching to the C-27J in
February 2012. The premature withdrawal of the Spartan has resulted in the
unit reverting back to the C-130J. All images Bob Archer collection unless stated
Top: Rarely seen operating at such a low altitude, a C-17A 06-6165 from the
436th Airlift Wing (AW) flies a practice mission over Fort Indiantown Gap,
Pennsylvania in early February.

Airlift and Air

Refuelling Total
Aircraft Inventory

The USAFs Total Aircraft

Inventory (TAI) at the end of Fiscal
Year (FY) 2013 (September 30,
2013), represents the most recent
detailed list of AMCs assets. It
is divided into the active duty,
Air National Guard, and Air
Force Reserve components:
Other AMC assets, most of
which have a specialised role,
are presented on page 69, even
though the majority are outside
of the remit of this article.
Note that the figures for tankers,
within the total USAF fleet,
presented at the beginning of
the article, includes HC-130J/N/P
variants of the Hercules, which are
assigned to Air Combat Command
and AFSOC, and are not part of
the overall AMC operation.

#319 OCTOBER 2014


05/09/2014 12:24


Major Aircraft
The AMCs five
major aircraft types
(C-5, C-17, C-130,
KC-10 and KC-135),
have completed an
upgrade programme;
are in the process of
modernisation or are
being replaced:

Lockheed Martin
C-5 Galaxy

The C-5 is the largest airlifter in

the fleet, designed to carry all
manner of outsized loads over
intercontinental range. A total
of 81 C-5A variants were initially
ordered between 1966 and 1970,
followed by 50 improved C-5B
models purchased between 1983
and 1987. The requirement for
the C-5 is undiminished, despite
it having the lowest reliability
rate for transport aircraft in the
USAF, often little more than 50%.
Avionics are now antiquated
and engines fuel inefficient.
Between 1980 and 1987, 76
C-5As received a major wing
modification to extend the service
life by a further 30,000 hours.
Wing cracks had restricted load
capacity. Lockheed Martins
upgrade proposal was to produce a
version designated the C-5M Super
Galaxy which featured two basic
improvement packages. The first
was an avionics modernisation
programme (AMP) which replaced
the aircrafts avionics with
modern, digital technology. The
AMP began in June 2002, but the
original number to be improved
was reduced from 111 to 79,
as a cost-cutting measure.
The second was a reliability
enhancement and re-engining
programme (RERP), replacing the
four General Electric TF39-GE-1C
turbofans with F138-GE-100
powerplants, from the same
manufacturer. The new engines
deliver 22% more thrust, 30%
shorter takeoff distance, and a
58% faster climb rate, while also
reducing fuel consumption. The
first conversion emerged from
Marietta, Georgia, on June 6,
2006 and, following a protracted
evaluation, the initial production
version joined the 436th Airlift
Wing at Dover AFB, Delaware, on
November 15, 2010. A significant
milestone was reached on
December 23, 2013 with the delivery
of 87-0036, the 16th conversion.

68 OCTOBER 2014 #319 68

A C-17A 97-0048 from the 445th AW waits for its cargo to be added at NAS North Island, California alongside a C-5A
70-0445 from the 433rd AW. Both aircraft were supporting a US Navy exercise in April.

This benchmark enabled initial

operational capability (IOC) to be
declared for the C-5M with the
436th AW on February 21, 2014.
The IOC also marked completion
of the qualification test part of the
operational test and evaluation
(OTE), clearing the path to full
service entry. The remainder
of the conversions are due for
completion by 2017. The 436th AW
is scheduled to receive 18 airframes,
with further C-5M conversions
joining the 60th Air Mobility Wing,
the first of which, 87-0042, was
flown from Marietta to the units
base at Travis AFB, California,
on May 8, 2014. Deliveries were
expected to switch to the Air Force
Reserves, with the remaining 16
initially planned to join the 439th
AW at Westover Air Reserve Base,
Massachusetts. That plan appears
to have changed, with the latter

unit now expected to receive half

that number; the remainder joining
the 433rd Airlift Wing at Joint Base
San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, as
the formal training unit (FTU).
Headquarters AMC is reported to
be happy with the modifications.
It occasionally operates the C-5
in a surge-type environment,
when small number of Galaxies
fly a similar mission in reasonably
quick succession. During this
style of sortie, mission capable
rates (MCR) of between 80 and
90% have been achieved. Official
annual MCR figures for the C-5 tell
a different story. The C-5A had a
42% MCR in FY 2009, rising to 67.2%
in FY 2013, when significantly
lower numbers of this variant
remained in service. Those with
the worst performance record
were the first to be retired. The
C-5B MCR was 61.4% in FY 2009,

increasing to 70.4% in FY 2013.

In contrast, the expensive C-5M
programme achieved 54.3% in
FY 2009, but had only risen to
60.8% by FY 2013 considerably
poorer than the hugely unpopular

TUSAF AMC Inventory


Active ANG AFRC Total
























C-130J-30 66

















Sub-total 551






The C-5 had the dubious

reputation of the lowest
reliability rate transport
aircraft in the USAF
An 80ft (24m) US Navy boat is loaded aboard a C-5
at NAS North Island in 2012. No other US military
aircraft could accommodate such a huge load.

05/09/2014 12:24

Branch: USAF Air Mobility Cmmd

Role: Troop Transport, Aerial
Refuelling, Strategic Airlift

The first C-5M, 86-0025 with a DayGlo instrumented nose extension at Edwards AFB, California, during evaluation.

C-5A. Teething problems did

little to improve matters.
The USAF initially intended
to apply AMP and RERP to the
entire fleet of C-5s. The number
was reviewed several times and
reduced to 52, comprising a single
C-5A, both C-5Cs and 49 C-5Bs,
with the remainder of the fleet
being gradually retired. The
first retiree, serial 70-0458, was
flown to the USAFs Aerospace
Maintenance and Regeneration
Group (AMARG) at Davis-Monthan
AFB, Arizona, for storage and
reclamation on November 11, 2003.
A total of 49 had been withdrawn
by April 9, 2014. Current plans
envisage a further eight in FY
2014, eight more in FY 2015 and
the final six in FY 2016, bringing
the total to 71, with missing
examples either being scrapped
after completion of test work,

or earmarked for preservation.

Of the 49 retired so far, the first
13 were salvaged of all useable
parts and scrapped. Subsequent
retired aircraft are being placed
in Type 1000 storage, by order of
Congress. It means they are held
as a flyable reserve and could be
returned to service if necessary.
This storage requires regular
time-consuming and expensive
inspections and the air force is
anxious for Congress to concede,
enabling aircraft to be scrapped.

Boeing C-17
Globemaster III

The C-17 is the most versatile and

successful strategic airlifter ever to
enter USAF service. It is capable of
flying intercontinental ranges and
landing on improvised airstrips
with little or no navigational
aids. The C-17 was designed to

be capable of performing both

strategic and theatre airlift, which
have both been key capabilities
during operations into the Middle
East for the last 20 years. It is the
only airlifter capable of both, direct
air-land or air-drop of outsize
cargo into a tactical environment.
The C-17 was the first military
transport to feature a full digital
fly-by-wire control system.
The C-5 has frequently required
extensive maintenance to
generate a single sortie but the
C-17 has achieved a significantly
better reliability rate, despite a
utilisation tempo far in excess of
that envisaged when initial orders
began. Deliveries to Air Mobility
Command started in June 1993
and continued until the 223rd
example emerged from Boeings
facility at Long Beach, California,
in September 2013. The C-17

joined AMC, Pacific Air Forces, Air

Education and Training Command
for aircrew conversion, as well as
the Air National Guard and Air
Force Reserve Command. The C-17
has achieved a remarkable safety
record despite a high utilisation
rate and thousands of sorties into
Middle Eastern combat zones.
To date, only one has been lost,
and that was attributed to pilot
error, whilst practising for an air
show. Another was extensively
damaged in a landing accident at
Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan,
in August 2005. It was repaired
and returned to service.
Various enhancements have
been applied to the C-17 during
its 20 years-plus of manufacture,
resulting in older aircraft having
different specifications to newer
examples. These included extra
fuel tanks to increase range. It

Air Mobility Command Units

The Air Mobility Command unit structure is as follows:
Air Base Wings
87th ABW

Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey

628th ABW Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina

319th ABW Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota
Air Mobility Wings
6th AMW

MacDill AFB, Florida

KC-135R, C-37A

60th AMW

Travis AFB, California

C-5B/C, KC-10A, C-17A

305th AMW Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey KC-10A, C-17A

375th AMW Scott AFB, Illinois

C-21A, C-40C Active Associate*,

KC-135R Active Associate*

Airlift Wings and Groups

19th AW

Little Rock AFB, Arkansas


43rd AG

Pope Field, North Carolina

C-130H Active Associate*

62nd AW

Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington


89th AW

Joint Base Andrews, Maryland

C-20C, C-32A, C-37A, C-40B,


317th AG

Dyess AFB, Texas


436th AW

Dover AFB, Delaware


437th AW

Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina


Tanker Wings
22nd ARW

McConnell AFB, Kansas


92nd ARW

Fairchild AFB, Washington


* = Active Duty Associate. These active duty units have no aircraft of their own, but are
assigned to a reservist squadron with AFRC aircraft. 69

#319 OCTOBER 2014


05/09/2014 12:24


Above: An LC-130H, 73-0490, of the 109th AW, New York ANG takes off from a remote location on the Greenland ice
cap in July 2010. Despite their unique tasking of arctic supply, the activities of the Wing are incorporated into the role
of the 618th Tanker Airlift Control Center, located at Scott AFB.

is the intention of AMC to bring

all aircraft up to an identical
specification. Two upgrades,
which will be incorporated during
major overhaul, are a new version
of the onboard inert gas generation
system, which will make fuel
tanks safer, and a common
configuration fuel system, with
the same tankage installed in
each aircraft. It is anticipated
all aircraft will be identically
configured to Block 18 standard
towards the end of the present
decade. Major overhauls are
carried out by the Warner-Robins
Air Logistics Center at Robins AFB,
Georgia, and sub-contracted to
Boeing at its giant San Antonio,
Texas, facility. High utilisation
rates in recent years means the
number of C-17s undergoing major
overhaul at present is almost 40 at

any given time. This will reduce

to fewer than 25 at a time by 2017.
Investigation by AMC has revealed
a service life extension program
(SLEP) will not be necessary, as
the C-17 will be able to achieve
its projected lifespan into the
2040s in its present configuration,
with just minor modifications.

Lockheed Martin
C-130 Hercules

The C-130 has been the backbone

of the tactical aircraft capability
since the second half of the 1950s,

although those original airframes

have long since been consigned to
history. Evolution began with the
C-130A, proceeded through the B
and E models, before the H version
was introduced. Technological
innovations were applied to the
basic design, which resulted in
the C-130J which, while similar in
appearance to previous variants,
features newer powerplants as
the most visual difference. The A,
B and E models have all now been
retired from USAF service, leaving
the C-130H variant in relatively

Airlift Squadrons
The list below details the number of airlift squadrons authorised for the last three years.




Active duty



















high numbers, with 57 active

duty, 122 ANG and 84 with AFRC.
The C-130J was not initially
popular with the USAF; with most
orders placed by export customers.
The Royal Air Force and Royal
Australian Air Force were the
launch air arms to acquire this new
version. The USAF did place small
orders, although these were for
the reserves in both the airlift and
specialist roles. Seventeen were
ordered between 1994 and 2005 as
the C-130J, but it was the stretched
C-130J-30 that offered an improved
capability, with a significant
increase in payload. Again, the
reserves were the first to receive
this version, beginning in 1999. The
successful introduction of both
variants eventually convinced the
active duty to begin replacing older
Hercules. The first active duty
C-130J-30s joined their respective
units in 2004. Subsequently the
units had 66 at the end of FY 2013,
while the ANG and AFRC had 16
and ten, respectively. The C-130J
features Rolls-Royce AE 2100 D3
turboprop engines driving Dowty
composite propellers. Internally,
a fully digital avionics suite is
featured, along with a head-up
display for both pilots. The
advanced avionics has removed
the necessity for a navigator.
The C-130H will probably
continue in service for the
remainder of the decade, as at
least one third have had wing

Above: Seven C-130J Hercules transports taxi in after landing during the Joint Forcible Entry exercise on June 21, 2014, at Creech AFB, Nevada. The aircraft
supported airmen and soldiers from Nellis AFB to provide enhanced service interaction, while also demonstrating the types ability to move heavy equipment and
troops at short notice. USAF/1st Lt Stephani Schafer


OCTOBER 2014 #319 70

05/09/2014 12:24

Branch: USAF Air Mobility Cmmd

Role: Troop Transport, Aerial
Refuelling, Strategic Airlift

Water sprays from the from modified

cargo ramp of a C-130H from the
145th Airlift Wing, North Carolina.
The aircrew were demonstrating the
Modular Air Fire Fighting System
over a remote part of California.

refuelling types, with the expense

of spare parts, maintenance
and procedures in triplicate.
Divesting AMC of the expensive
KC-10 could potentially make
great savings, easing the budget
pressure on acquiring and
operating the new refueller.
Should the decision be made,
the KC-10 fleet will take four
years to retire from service,
beginning in 2015 or 2016.
In July 2011, Rockwell Collins
was awarded a contract to
replace the elderly displays with

systems integration and avionics

for the KC-10 communication,
navigation, surveillance/air traffic
management (CNS/ATM) cockpit
modernisation programme. This
programme provides technology
to ensure the KC-10 meets current
and future CNS/ATM requirements,
allowing it to operate in commercial
airspace throughout the world.
These new capabilities will
potentially allow the aircraft to
use conventional airways, in so
doing arriving at its destination
more quickly, enhancing mission
effectiveness and saving fuel.

boxes replaced, extending their

lives beyond 2020. The C-130J will
provide the long-term theatre
airlift capability, with 104 due to
have entered service by the end
of 2014. The 15ft (4.8m) fuselage
extension, which created the
stretched C-130J-30, will continue
to be the airlift version of choice,
as the additional capacity is
achieved with little extra running
costs. The USAF has an eventual
requirement for 265 of this version,
although the number of aircraft
authorised at present is 134.
Major overhaul, known as
programme depot maintenance
(PDM), of earlier C-130s is
accomplished every four or five
years but the C-130J benefits from
advanced technology, requiring
a 12-year inspection at this
anniversary, followed five years
later by a full PDM overhaul. AMC
now needs to decide on the precise
number of new aircraft to acquire
over the remainder of this decade,
taking into consideration the
future airlift requirements of the
US Army, its main Department
of Defense (DoD) customer.

has reviewed plans, with several

types considered for premature
retirement as a method of funding
more important aircraft, such as
the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning
II fighter. The A-10, U-2 and KC-10
have all become frontrunners on
the proposed retirement agenda.
Budgetary problems, brought
about by the recent sequestration
issue, are at the heart of the
retirement debate. Acquisition
of the new Boeing KC-46 tanker
would present AMC with three
different versions of aerial

KC-10 Extender

On 10 March 2014 the USAF announced additional structural changes. Most will involve reductions, although there are a small
number of additions. The details are as follows; in state order for aircraft types appropriate to this feature (the full list was presented in
AFM for May 2014 page 5)

The KC-10A was initially planned

as a refueller to long-distance
deployments of bomber, fighter and
attack aircraft and to accommodate
support personnel and equipment
to the final destination. The 60
USAF Extenders were among
the final examples of the DC-10
produced. Every major airline
has long since replaced its DC-10s
with more modern equipment
but the USAF continues to use
59 surviving aircraft, within two
frontline Wings. Although the
aircrafts 1960s technology is fairly
expensive to operate, remarkably
high reliability rates are being
achieved, with quoted figures of
78.1% in 2009, rising to 87.1 % in
2013. All too frequently cells of
deploying attack/fighter types are
unable to complete deployments
as scheduled due to a KC-10 being
unserviceable, making it not as
popular as the KC-135. Congress 71

Boeing KC-135

Three aircraft types, which either

began production or saw the
majority produced during the
1950s, remain in service. The
Boeing B-52, Lockheed Martin
C-130 and the KC-135 all have
longevity of service. The C-130 has
been superseded by an advanced
version but the two other types
remain effective through

An Air Force Reserve Command C-130H fires off a salvo of decoy flares while on a sortie over Afghanistan. Such
procedures became common place during the campaign.

Structrual Changes


19th AW at Little Rock AFB plus ten C-130J in FY 14, minus 12 C-130H in FY 15


60th AMW at Travis AFB minus four C-5B/M in FY 15 to the Backup Aircraft Inventory (BAI) 452nd AMW at March ARB
plus eight KC-135R in FY 15


302nd AW at Peterson AFB minus four C-130H in FY 15, and close active duty association


436th AW at Dover AFB minus four C-5B/M in FY 15 to the BAI 166th AW at New Castle County Airport to close active
associate unit

District of Columbia 89th AW at Joint Base Andrews minus five C-20B


6th AMW at MacDill AFB plus eight KC-135R in FY 18


154th Wing at Joint Base Pearl-Harbor-Hickam minus four KC-135R in FY 15, and close active associate unit


175th Wing at Martin State Airport, Baltimore plus eight C-130J in FY 18


127th Wing at Selfridge ANGB, plus eight KC-135R/T in FY 17

North Carolina

440th AW at Pope Field minus ten C-130H in FY 14 (erroneously quoted as C-130J)


507th ARW at Tinker AFB plus four KC-135R in FY 16

South Carolina

437th AW at Joint Base Charleston minus eight C-17A in FY 15/16 to the BAI


62nd AW at Joint Base Lewis-McChord minus eight C-17A in FY 15/16 to the BAI


153rd AW at Cheyenne Airport minus four C-130H in FY 15, and close active associate unit

Note: The 16 C-17As and eight C-5s will be withdrawn and placed into the Backup Aircraft Inventory (BAI). These will not be retired for
storage at Davis-Monthan AFB. Instead these will be removed from flying status at their home station. The operating budget will be
reduced accordingly, although funds are made available to maintain the C-5s/C-17s in flyable condition.

#319 OCTOBER 2014


05/09/2014 12:24


Right: High over California KC-135Rs

from the 452nd AMW, March Air
Reserve Base, are often tasked with
refuelling test aircraft from nearby
Edwards AFB. On just such a sortie
KC-135R 58-0052 refuels the eighth
prototype of the F/A-22A Raptor over
a barren mountain range.
Above left: A 927th Air Refuelling
Wing KC-135 soars overhead after
refuelling a C-17 Globemaster III on
July 1, 2014. USAF Airman 1st Class
Clayton Cupit
Left: Tech Sgt Joe Parker, a
boom operator with the 336th Air
Refuelling Squadron, refuels an
F-35A Lightning II from the 58th
Fighter Squadron at Eglin AFB,
Florida. USAF/MSgt John R Nimmo Sr.

modernisation programmes. A
total of 729 standard tankers were
produced, although retirements
and attrition have reduced this
number to 354 KC-135R models
and 54 designated as the KC-135T.
The active duty has 134 and 30
of each variant, respectively,
while the ANG has 154 KC-135Rs
and 24 KC-135Ts. The remaining
66 KC-135Rs are with AFRC. It
is not difficult to understand
that the reserves, which operate
the lions share of the KC-135
fleet, have well in excess of
half the aerial refuelling task.
The KC-135Rs average age
was 51.9 years at the end of
FY 2013, while the KC-135T
averaged 53.6. Despite their age,
the tankers remain effective
with an MCR averaging around
the 80% mark. The continued
success of these elderly aircraft
is due to investment in upgrade
programmes. Enhancements
have been the Pacer CRAG
(Compass, Radio and Global
Positioning System) replacement
of the old analogue cockpit
arrangement with a new,
state-of-the-art digital glass
instrument layout, linked to a GPS
and a traffic collision avoidance
system (TCAS). Installation of
CFM International CFM56 engines,
designated in military parlance as


OCTOBER 2014 #319 72

the F-108-200, have revolutionised

the tankers capability.
More recently, the ROBE
system, which is an abbreviation
for Roll-on, Beyond-Line-ofSight, has been fitted to 40
KC-135s. ROBE was developed
by Northrop Grumman and
introduced during the early
2000s, as a pallet-mounted suite
of electronics carried aboard
tanker and cargo aircraft to
enhance battlefield command and
control by automatically relaying
communications via satellite.
To ensure the KC-135 remains
an effective tanker and airlifter,
the air force awarded Rockwell
Collins an engineering,
manufacturing and development
(EMD) contract in September 2009
to modernise the fleet to Block

45 standard. The programme

will upgrade the flight deck with
the latest generation autopilot,
flight director, radar altimeter
and electronic instrument
display. The EMD phase involved
22nd ARW KC-135T 60-0343 and
KC-135R 63-7987 being modified to
establish the production baseline
for the remainder of the fleet. The
two aircraft had been modified
by the end of 2012 and were
being evaluated by the 412th Test
Wing at Edwards AFB, California,
during the first weeks of 2013.
A second upgrade involved the
171st Air Refueling Squadron at
Selfridge ANGB, Michigan, which
has overseen the evaluation
of the large aircraft infrared
countermeasures (LAIRCOM)
system, known as Guardian.

Boeing KC-46 Pegasus

The programme to introduce

a replacement for the KC-135
began during the first years of the
present century. To circumvent
the usual protracted purchasing
system, the USAF wished to lease
100 KC-767s from Boeing. The plan
created a political storm, with
the air force electing instead to
buy 80 KC-767s and lease 20 more.
This also ran into difficulties,
amid accusations of corruption
and the entire programme
was placed in abeyance.
The air force was later authorised
to go ahead with a programme
to determine which aircraft was
the most ideal from a selection
of existing airframes, although
in reality only Airbus (EADS) and
Boeing had such airframes. Airbus

Above: A KC-135R taxies through the wash rack, also known as the bird bath, after a mission in August 2014 the
Stratotanker is assigned to the 134th ARW of the ANG. USANG/Tech Sgt Jonathan Young

05/09/2014 12:25

Branch: USAF Air Mobility Cmmd

Role: Troop Transport, Aerial
Refuelling, Strategic Airlift

Present situation shows the airlift

resources to be in reasonably good

Air Force Reserve Command - units reporting to AMC

when mobilised


94th AW

Dobbins ARB, Georgia C-130H

302nd AW

Peterson AFB, Colorado C-130H (including Modular Airborne Firefighting


315th AW**

JB Charleston, South Carolina C-17A

349th AMW** Travis AFB, California C-5A/B/C, C-17A, KC-10A

403rd Wing

Keesler AFB, Mississippi C-130J, WC-130J (Hurricane Hunters)

433rd AW**

JB San Antonia-Lackland, Texas C-5A/B formal training unit

434th ARW

Grissom ARB, Indiana KC-135R

439th AW

Westover ARB, Massachusetts C-5B

440th AW

Pope Field, North Carolina C-130H

445th AW

Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio C-17A

446th AW**

JB Lewis-McChord, Washington C-17A

452nd AMW

March ARB, California C-17A, KC-135R

459th ARW

JB Andrews, Maryland KC-135R

507th ARW

Tinker AFB, Oklahoma KC-135R

512th AW**

Dover AFB, Delaware. C-5M, C-17A

514th AMW** JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey C-17A, KC-10A

908th AW

Maxwell AFB, Alabama C-130H

910th AW

Youngstown ARS, Ohio C-130H

911th AW

Pittsburgh Airport., Pennsylvania C-130H

914th AW

Niagara Falls Airport., New York C-130H

916th ARW

Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina KC-135R

927th ARW**

MacDill AFB, Florida KC-135R

931st ARG**

McConnell AFB, Kansas KC-135R

932nd AW

Scott AFB, Illinois C-40C

934th AW

Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport., Minnesota C-130H

** Classic associate, with aircraft owned by the active duty units, but jointly operated by
the AFRC. 73

(EADS) teamed with Northrop

Grumman to produce the KC-30
(designated KC-45 by the USAF),
based upon the A.330 Multi-Role
Tanker, and planned to create
a new production facility for
construction and maintenance
in Mobile, Alabama. In February
2008 the Northrop Grumman
proposal was accepted. Protests
by Boeing led the Defense
Department to cancel the
agreement in September 2008,
stating the programme would be
reinstated in 12 months. Northrop
Grumman pulled out, leaving
EADS and Boeing as the two
contenders. The two submitted
final tenders on February 10, 2011.
Boeing was awarded the contract
a fortnight later on February 24.
Boeing began preparations
to construct four development
aircraft having achieved its goal
of a firm contract for the first 18 of
the 179 total order. First flight was
due to take place in late 2014. After
an initial short period of company
test-flying, the first aircraft will be
evaluated by the 412th Test Wing
at Edwards AFB, California, which
is the flying component of the Air
Force Flight Test Center. The USAF
is reluctant to introduce its new
aircraft without completing the
usual, lengthy test and evaluation
process, although the Boeing 767

airframe is a highly proven design

in the commercial sector and a
small number of tankers have
been in service with overseas
air arms for a number of years,.
Testing will include all manner
of scenarios including operations
in extreme climates, both very
hot and very cold. The primary
duty of aerial refuelling will be the
foundation of the test programme.
Each receiver type will need to be
appraised to ensure parameters
are defined for safe operations,
once in service. These will vary
from the new, small F-35 through
all types of bomber and airlifter up
to and including the C-5M. While
testing is continuing, Boeing was
to deliver seven Low Rate Initial
Production (LRIP) examples in FY
2015, followed by 12 in 2016, and
15 manufactured annually from
2017 until 2027. On May 8, 2014 the
House Armed Services Committee
defence authorisation bill for FY
2015, deducted US$226.3 million
from the programme, reducing
the LIRP from seven to six aircraft.
The cut will no doubt have a
knock-on effect in future years.
The 97th Air Mobility Wing
at Altus AFB, Oklahoma, is
well advanced producing the
relevant course structures and
paperwork necessary to begin
the first training classes. The

#319 OCTOBER 2014


05/09/2014 12:25


Above: When it enters service the KC-46A Pegasus will bring a widebody, multi-tanker role that promises to revolutionise the air mobility mission. Boeing

Wing is tentatively scheduled to

begin receiving initial aircraft in
FY 2016. Around the same time
the first active duty unit will
commence exchanging its KC-135s
for the new KC-46. The 22nd Air
Refuelling Wing at McConnell AFB,
Kansas, is expected to receive its
examples beginning in FY 2016,
with an eventual complement
of 36. The location of McConnell
AFB is extremely convenient, as
it is across the runway from the
large Boeing Wichita maintenance
plant. At the same time as the
active duty 22nd ARW, the AFRCs
931st Air Refuelling Group, which
is the associate unit in residence,
will also transition to the KC-46.
The National Guard Bureau
intends to transition one ANG unit
with 12 aircraft. Five locations
are being investigated:
All five are equipped with the
KC-135R/T at present. Once the
location is selected, infrastructure
improvements will need to be
made before the first aircraft
are delivered, tentatively in FY
2018. The New Hampshire ANG,
due to its location in the far
north-eastern USA, considers
itself to be the front runner. The
aircraft will be assigned directly
to the ANG, but with an active
duty associate unit being formed
to spread the operating budget.
Once deliveries are under way,
the second KC-46 basing schedule
will be decided. The 6th AMW at
MacDill AFB, Florida, and the 92nd
ARW at Fairchild AFB, Washington,
were in the running during the
first assessment period and will


OCTOBER 2014 #319 74

almost certainly be selected

later in the decade. Furthermore
additional ANG, and possibly direct
assignment to the AFRC, could
also be included in round two. The
final examples of the KC-46A are
due to be produced by FY 2028.

Tanker Airlift
Control Center

Day-to-day management of the

huge tasking of Air Mobility
Command is the responsibility of
the 618th Tanker Airlift Control
Center (TACC), at Scott AFB.
Formed on April 1, 2007 the unit
is AMCs operational branch
for planning, scheduling, and
directing a fleet of more than

1,300 mobility aircraft in support

of combat delivery and strategic
airlift, air refuelling and aeromedical evacuation operations around
the world. The 618th is the global
air operations centre responsible
for centralised command and
control of military and commercial
contract air mobility assets. The
Center is administered by active
duty and reserve personnel as the
ANG and AFRC units are included
within the scheduling missions
carried out daily. The organisation
was previously known simply as
the Tanker Airlift Control Center,
having become operational on
April 1, 1992 but was given a
numerical identity 15 years later.

Other Commands

Airlift within continental USA is

the direct responsibility of AMC,
elsewhere it is divested to the local
commands. Pacific Air Forces
(PACAF) has C-17As, C-130Hs
and KC-135Rs assigned to active
duty and reserve units, enabling
a degree of self-sufficiency
for its own operations. PACAF
could not hope to satisfy its full
requirements across such a vast
area and relies heavily upon AMC
for routine airlift. PACAFs airlift
and aerial refuelling assets are
based in Alaska, Hawaii, and
Japan (Okinawa). C-130Hs are
operated at Yokota AB, Japan,

A KC-10 Extender flies over

Afghanistan. The type was able
to refuel all the coalition aircraft
that were in theatre because it was
equipped with a refuelling boom
and a hose and drogue centreline
system. USAF/Staff Sgt Aaron Allmon

05/09/2014 12:25

Branch: USAF Air Mobility Cmmd

Role: Troop Transport, Aerial
Refuelling, Strategic Airlift

A trio of C-27Js from the Maryland, Mississippi and Ohio ANG units. All of the aircraft have now been withdrawn from
USAF service.

occasions when PACAF or USAFE

capability is available for AMC.

New Airlifter C-X

AMC will
liaise with Air
Force Materiel
for general
with the 374th Airlift Wing,
which is scheduled to upgrade
to the C-130J-30 in due course.
In Europe, the command is now
known as the United States Air
Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa.
The European element operated
almost in isolation, with just the
occasional Middle Eastern or
African sortie. To accomplish its
mission, the command has one
squadron of C-130J-30s stationed
in Germany, and one KC-135
squadron in England. In recent
years the involvement in Africa
has increased to become a priority
mission for the USA, with more
and more activities, particularly
by Special Forces. To enable
USAFE to fully complete its remit,
the C-130J-30s of the 86th AW
at Ramstein AB, Germany, have
been bolstered by the presence
of active duty and reservist
C-130s rotating from the USA.
In both cases the airlift and
aerial refuelling missions are
generated by the requirements
of US Pacific Command and US
European Command. Despite a
degree of independence, the 618th
TACC does have a small input
into daily missions, as there are
Option 1 - Forbes Air National
Guard Station, Kansas
Option 2 - Joint Base McGuireDix-Lakehurst, New Jersey
Option 3 - Pease Air National
Guard Station, New Hampshire
Option 4 - Pittsburgh Air National
Guard Station, Pennsylvania
Option 5 - Rickenbacker Air
National Guard Station, Ohio 75

General Paul J Selva, Commander

US Transportation Command
is looking beyond the next two
decades. He wishes to avoid
the command having to fund
replacement programmes for
the three major airlifters (C-5,
C-17 and C-130J) which could
conceivably come to the end of
their service lives around the
same time. The conceptual C-X
aircraft could feasibly replace
both the C-17 and C-130 with a
single design. The future plans
of the US Army, particularly the
rapid movement of personnel,
equipment and heavy weapons,
will have a major impact on
future airlift considerations. One
significant factor is for an airlifter
able to function within congested
airspace, similar to that of Western
Europe, and/or a combat arena
such as that found in Afghanistan
and Iraq in recent years. Improved
stealth characteristics could
also be a factor. It is highly
unlikely a large airlifter would
be unmanned, as the prospect
of a robotic craft transporting
troops to a combat zone verges on
science fiction. With little more
than five years before the end
of the present decade, AMC will
gradually liaise with Air Force
Materiel Command for general
requirements. Additionally the Air
Force Research Laboratory will be
involved with theoretical analysis
of the appearance and capability
based on perceived characteristics.
The success of General Selva
in guiding AMC operationally
through the tortuous period of
sequestration was rewarded with
promotion to the Commander
of US Transportation Command
on May 5, 2014. USTRANSCOM is
the organisation responsible for
directing and formulating policy
for all military-based ground,
sea and air transportation and
General Selva can now continue
his quest to devise long-term
plans for transportation for all
three services, as well as the
necessity to contract with
the commercial sector.

Air National Guard - units reporting to AMC when



101st ARW

Bangor Airport, Maine KC-135R

103rd AW

Bradley Airport, Connecticut C-130H

105th AW

Stewart ANGB, New York C-17A

107th AW

Niagara Falls Airport/ARS, New York C-130H - reserve associate (RA), MQ-9
(planned 2014)

108th Wing JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey KC-135R

109th AW

Schenectady County Airport, New York C/LC-130H

113th Wing JB Andrews, District of Columbia C-38A, C-40B

117th ARW

Birmingham Airport, Alabama KC-135R

120th FW

Great Falls Airport, Montana C-130H

121st ARW

Rickenbacker ANGB, Ohio KC-135R

123rd AW

Louisville Airport./AGS Standiford Field, Kentucky C-130H

126th ARW

Scott AFB, Illinois KC-135R

127th Wing Selfridge ANGB, Michigan KC-135T

128th ARW

General Mitchell Airport, Wisconsin KC-135R

130th AW

Yeager Airport, West Virginia C-130H, RC-26

133rd AW

Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport/ARS, Minnesota C-130H

134th ARW

McGhee Tyson Airport, Tennessee KC-135R

136th AW

NAS JRB Fort Worth, Texas C-130H

137th ARW

Will Rogers ANGB, Oklahoma KC-135R - reserve associate

139th AW

Rosecrans Memorial Airport, Missouri C-130H

140th Wing Buckley AFB, Colorado C-21A

141st ARW

Fairchild AFB, Washington KC-135R - reserve associate

143rd AW

Quonset State Airport/Quonset ANGB, Rhode Island C-130J

145th AW

Charlotte/Douglas Airport, North Carolina C-130H MAFFS

146th AW

Channel Islands ANGS, California C-130J, MAFFS

151st ARW

Salt Lake City Airport, Utah KC-135R

152nd AW

Reno/Tahoe Airport May Field, Nevada C-130H

153rd AW

Cheyenne Airport, Wyoming C-130H, MAFFS

154th Wing Joint Base Pearl-Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii C-17A, KC-135R classic associate
155th ARW

Lincoln Airport, Nebraska KC-135R

156th AW

Luis Munoz Marin Airport, Puerto Rico C-130H

157th ARW

Pease Intl. Tradeport ANGS, New Hampshire KC-135R

161st ARW

Sky Harbor Airport, Arizona KC-135R

164th AW

Memphis Airport, Tennessee C-17A

165th AW

Savannah Hilton Head Airport, Georgia C-130H

166th AW

New Castle County Airport, Delaware C-130H

167th AW

Allen C. Thompson Field/Jackson Airport, West Virginia C-5A (C-17 planned


168th ARW

Eielson AFB, Alaska KC-135R

171st ARW

Pittsburgh Airport/ARS, Pennsylvania KC-135R/T

172nd AW

Allen C Thompson Field/Jackson Airport, Mississippi C-17A

176th Wing JB Elmendorf-Richardson Alaska, C-17A classic associate, C-130H,

179th AW

Mansfield Lahm Airport, Ohio C-130H

182nd AW

Greater Peoria Airport, Illinois C-130H

185th ARW

Sioux Gateway Airport/Col. Bud Day Field, Iowa KC-135R

186th ARW

Key Field, Mississippi KC-135R

189th AW

Little Rock AFB, Arkansas C-130H

190th ARW

Forbes Field, Kansas KC-135R

#319 OCTOBER 2014


05/09/2014 12:25