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Stratotanker pod upgrade points towards ABMS

14th April 2021 - 12:04 GMT | by The Shephard News Team


KC-135 Stratotanker at Roland R Wright Air National Guard Base in Salt Lake City. (Photo: USAF/Master Sgt Amber Monio)

Modified KC-135s will play their part in developing a military Internet of Things for the US.

The US Air National Guard (ANG) Air Force Reserve Test Center (AATC) in Salt Lake City is modifying two KC-135 Stratotankers with new communications systems, sensors and defensive pod equipment to support the USAF Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS).

For the new project, AATC plans to use Multipoint Refueling System (MPRS) outer mould-line pods with an internal open-architecture, to deliver additional space for a host of ABMS and defensive technologies.

‘The KC-135 open-architecture pod, tentatively called the Gladiator Pod, is expected to be equipped on a few KC-135 aircraft by fiscal year 2023 for flight testing,’ the USAF announced on 11 April.

It added: ‘With these modifications, the KC-135 will be able to act as a data node and host within ABMS while also having the ability to protect the tanker with limited fighter support.’

To date, 20-KC-135s have been modified with wing-mounted MRPS pods for refuelling operations with USMC, USN and allied NATO aircraft.

Lt Col Jeff Gould of the Utah Air National Guard said: ‘Gathering, correlating and fusing off-board aircraft data is critical to creating former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisitions Dr Roper’s “military internet of things”.’

The USAF also noted in the same announcement that specialised equipment was added to the real-time information in the cockpit (RTIC) infrastructure on the KC-135. In a recent test at China Lake, this allowed the KC-135 to receive data from the Kratos Unmanned Tactical Aerial Platform-22.

Ground and flight testing for the RTIC programme continues at Salt Lake City until May 2021. 

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The Shephard News Team


The Shephard News Team

As part of our promise to deliver comprehensive coverage to Premium News and Defence Insight …

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