FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. --
For the past 50 years, the KC-135 Stratotanker’s role has transitioned from serving as a strategic alert response to a constant state of readiness in global operations. At Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, a group of professional KC-135 pilots, navigators and in-flight refueling specialists undergo advanced agile training to graduate as tactical experts in planning and execution of integrated air and space power to support global operations and expand mobility capabilities.
509th Weapon Squadron (WPS) students executed their first temporary duty assignment March 13-17 in Roswell, New Mexico, where five KC-135 pilots and three in-flight refueling specialists attending WPS Weapons Instructor Course and Advanced Instructor Course were tested on the threats and tactics phase of the course.
Prior to their mission to Roswell, the students developed tactical approaches and departures (TADs) which are tailored to counter specific threats to the tanker. They first practiced their techniques in a simulator to check for safety, verify flyability, and refine the procedures.
During their three-day training mission in Roswell, they not only practiced their approaches and departures, but worked with intelligence cadre. Students performed hands-on training and gained perspective as the aggressor using simulated man-portable air defense [missile] systems (MANPADS). Using this training and newly gained perspectives, students are then assessed on the procedures they would use to mitigate threats.
“This first-hand experience lends tremendous credibility to graduates when briefing leadership on expected courses of action or when teaching aircrews tactical maneuvers,” said Lt Col James Lamb, 509th WPS Assistant Director Operations. “In addition to being graded on the ability to fly their TADs, the students are also expected to take sufficient notes to effectively reconstruct the sortie, analyze the mission objectives, debrief the mission, and produce instructional fixes for areas which did not meet mission objectives.”
The weapons instructor course is roughly 23 weeks long and contains over 400 hours of academic instruction, during which the student will plan and execute flying and ground missions to gain experience in tactical planning and execution. The graduates of this course are tasked with enhancing the overall tactical knowledge of the tanker force to maximize the Department of the Air Force’s offensive posture.
“The training we receive at the Weapons School is vastly different from standard KC-135 training as our flying is focused on operating the aircraft at it’s extremes,” said Capt. Chris Perkins, 92nd Air Refueling Squadron pilot. “The training we undergo at the Weapons School revolves around employing the aircraft in high threat combat environments. At the end of each phase, we are expected to not only execute, but demonstrate the ability to teach these concepts.”
The Weapons Instructor Course and Advanced Instructor Course graduates use their experiences to maximize combat effectiveness when integrating tankers into operational planning for current and future conflicts, solidifying air mobility’s state of readiness for all global operations.