TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. – Reserve crews operating a KC-135R Stratotanker from the 507th Air Refueling Wing here returned Dec. 4, 2017, from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, following testing of the Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures system recently installed on the aircraft.
The LAIRCM system modification detects and deflects incoming missiles. To date, the 507th ARW has the only KC-135R in the Department of Defense configured to use the LAIRCM system, according to Maj. Jason Thomas, National Guard Bureau A5 Mobility Modernization Program manager.
The Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve Command work together through the Air National Guard-Air Force Reserve Test Center, also known as AATC, Thomas said.
The primary mission of AATC is to modernize the Guard and Reserve legacy fleet.
“It’s our job to find out what the modern warfighter wants through our Weapons and Tactics Conference,” he said. “We reach out to industries so we can find commercial solutions to purchase and then integrate onto our aircraft.”
According to Thomas, the LAIRCM-configured KC-135R was flown to Eglin AFB in order to utilize the Multi-Spectral Sea and Land Target Simulator, which is designed to replicate incoming infrared missiles.
“We are integrating LAIRCM with the KC-135R so that the aircraft can provide its own protection,” Thomas said.
During testing, the KC-135R made multiple passes in various conditions and configurations over the simulator to test the LAIRCM system’s response during each pass. However, not every trial involved the simulator.
According to Lt. Col. Justin Brumley, AATC director of mobility, the LAIRCM-configured KC-135R flew a circuitous route over land, sea and coastal areas in a variety of environments to see how well the system operated outside of hostile conditions.
“Overall, we’re trying to be operationally representative of what the aircraft and the LAIRCM system is going to encounter in the world,” Brumley said. “It’s important the system acts the way we expect it to act.”
The goal is to have a system that is flexible, inexpensive and protects some of the Air Force’s most valuable assets, according to Brumley.
Currently, the KC-135R Stratotanker’s primary mission is to provide aerial refueling support worldwide. The secondary mission is to transport cargo and facilitate aeromedical evacuation missions.
The 507th Air Refueling Wing is the largest flying unit in the state of Oklahoma and performs daily missions around the world, refueling U.S. and NATO aircraft.
“Without the 507th ARW and the support of Tinker AFB, we wouldn’t have gotten this far,” Brumley said. “The testing of the LAIRCM configuration on the KC-135R is the culmination of years of work, so it’s great to finally see it happen.”