Air Force News

Block 30 modifications to begin on Pacer CRAG KC-135s

Released: 12 Oct 1999

by Damon Stevenson
Air Mobility Command Public Affairs

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFPN) -- In order to maintain an aging KC-135 fleet, Air Mobility Command has developed a new "block 30" program to perform additional modifications to the airplanes at the same time they get Pacer CRAG modifications.

Hailed as the "glass cockpit," the designation Pacer CRAG comes from the chosen name "Pacer" and the acronym for Compass Radar and Global Positioning System.

Pacer CRAG upgrades allow the aircraft to fly with just a pilot, co-pilot and boom operator. The upgrades are new avionics systems including four multifunctional displays, two flight management systems and color weather radar.

Some additional modifications under the block 30 program include:

-- Enhanced ground proximity warning system, which uses aircraft position and a digital terrain database to provide look-ahead awareness to the aircrew.

-- Reduced Vertical Separation Minima, which equips the fleet to operate in reduced vertical separation airspace. This includes an additional digital air data computer, new digital altimeters and digital airspeed indicators.

-- Navigation and safety modification, which installs a flight data recorder, cockpit voice recorder and emergency locator transmitter.

"What we have done here is bring a large package of modifications together, essentially into a single modification, and termed this the block 30 airplane," said Capt. Richard Moore, block 30 program manager for AMC's plans and programs directorate. Block 30 production begins in October, and the first roll-out of a production aircraft will be toward the end of December.

Moore said this program is very important because it will reduce the amount of time that each aircraft is unavailable to the KC-135 fleet.

"In the KC-135 world, we have a significant problem with aircraft availability," Moore said. "This program will help us keep as many aircraft available to the warfighting CINCS (commanders-in-chief) as possible."

Moore said that, in the past, all modifications were done independently, and a program, funding line and schedule had to be built for each modification. Block 30 will eliminate the time it takes for each airplane to go through each modification by consolidating all modifications under one program.

"By going to the block modification concept, we can take the airplane apart one time, put several modifications in it, and then put it back together one time," Moore said. "It only processes in and out of the unit one time, it only goes to one location for the modification, it gets multiple things done at the same time, and then it goes home."

One advantage to block 30 is that it will simplify aircrew and maintenance training because maintainers and operators can be trained on several modifications at one time and place. Another advantage is that it simplifies technical order production because there can be one technical order change that accounts for all of the modifications.

The first prototype airplanes have been produced and have gone through maintenance testing, ground testing and flight testing, and they have passed, Moore said.

"All deficiencies have been identified and corrected, and the production kits have been shipped out to the field," Moore said.

"The 22nd Air Refueling Wing and the 350th Air Refueling Squadron at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., did the developmental work, the operational testing, and helped us develop the technical orders," Moore said. "They did so much of the hard work, and without them this would never have happened."

AMC is charged with maintaining the KC-135 fleet until 2040 -- when the last airplane is supposed to leave the fleet. By that time the airplanes will be 80 years old.

"If we are going to maintain these aircraft until 2040, we have to take care of them and make significant upgrades," Moore said. "This is what this program is all about." (Courtesy of AMC News Service)


* KC-135 Stratotanker
* Air Mobility Command
* McConnell Air Force Base, Kan.