An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News : Article View
NEWS | Aug. 20, 2021

Utah Air Guard demonstrates battlespace connectivity

By Maj. Ryan Sutherland, 151st Air Refueling Wing

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Air National Guard, in collaboration with Collins Aerospace, successfully demonstrated advanced communication, mission computing and sensor technologies to support JADC2 (Joint All Domain Command and Control) and ABMS (Advanced Battle Management) initiatives on a KC-135 Stratotanker at the Roland R. Wright Air National Guard Base.

The demonstration occurred during the Utah Air National Guard’s bi-annual Wingman Day and 75th Anniversary event, a fitting occasion as the Utah Guard celebrated its heritage while also positioning itself for the future.

The presentation showed how integrated technologies and joint connectivity could provide warfighters with actionable data and increased situational awareness to make informed, split-second decisions in evolving threat conditions against cyber-sophisticated adversaries.

“This feat was accomplished as part of a cooperative research and development agreement between Collins Aerospace and the Utah Air National Guard and has never been done before using Tactical Targeting Network Technology with the KC-135,” said Col. Douglas Foster, commander of the 151st Operations Group.

The demonstration showed a streaming connection between a mobile ground party, an airborne contracted aircraft, and the pride of our KC-135 fleet, aircraft 0275, the most advanced KC-135 in the Air Force inventory.

In July 2020, the Utah Air National Guard’s 151st Air Refueling Wing upgraded the first KC-135 with NATO-Standard Link 16 communication capabilities as part of its real-time information in the cockpit system (RTIC), bringing the aircraft into the 21st century and revolutionizing the tanker’s role in combat.

Aircraft 0275 is the first and only Block 45 RTIC modified KC-135 to date. Aircraft 0275 was also the primary testbed aircraft for ground and flight testing of the RTIC system by the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command Test Center (AATC), a significant point of pride for Utah.

Trying to keep the pedal down on innovation, the Utah Air National Guard worked with the Collins team and devised a demonstration that showed what was in the realm of possibility with RTIC as a baseline configuration. What ended up as the final presentation on August 7 is only the tip of the iceberg concerning what is possible when everyone, Department of Defense and industry, is pushing towards the same goal.

“This accomplishment showed that with minor modifications to the RTIC system, the bounds are almost limitless to what we can do with a sixty-year-old aircraft, exemplifying (U.S Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr.)'s ‘Accelerate Change or Lose’ mission statement," Foster added. “Moving forward, almost all of the technology demonstrated on ANG KC-135s to include defensive systems and additional force-multiplying capabilities can be transferred to other MAF aircraft, including KC-46, C-17, and C-130, at a much lower program risk level to individual aircraft programs.”

Giving the KC-135 the situational awareness via advanced tactical datalinks is the first step in creating a survivable tanker force while buying down the technological risk to almost all mobility Air Force aircraft.

RTIC is an Air National Guard funded program through National Guard & Reserve Equipment Appropriation funding. Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command plan to provide this same RTIC baseline capability for all reserve component KC-135s moving forward. These additional capability improvements will be possible on all Air Guard and Air Force Reserve Command KC-135’s in the future.

Since 2018, the Utah Air National Guard has worked with the KC-135 Program Office, Collins Aerospace and Borsight to develop and install situational awareness building technologies. The RTIC adds Link 16, Situational Awareness Datalink and Secure Beyond Line-of-Sight communications to the aircraft.

In December 2020, the National Guard Bureau named the Utah Air National Guard the interim KC-135 Test Detachment for AATC. In coordination with the AATC, the Utah Air National Guard demonstrates viable solutions to some challenging problems presented by the prospect of future peer conflict. The nation relies on tanker aircraft for power projection, nuclear deterrence, and rapid global mobility; without tankers, the war from an airborne perspective stops.

“Tankers are at the forward edge of the battlespace already, so why would we not provide the best information, data fusion, communications relay/translation, and combat effects enhancements as possible while still providing fuel to the fight,” said Foster.

“To the Utah Air National Guard, striving to be the most survivable, most valued teammate in conflict is a no-brainer.”

 

 

Related Articles
A KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 151st Air Refueling Wing takes off during exercise Northern Edge 23-2 at Kadena Air Base, Japan, July 12, 2023. The Intelligent Gateway connectivity combined with Battlespace Command and Control Center Air Battle Management hardware/software provides command and control capabilities to the ABMs conducting a distributed tactical C2 experiment during NE 23-2.
Connected Battlespace Modernizes Fight in Indo-Pacific
By Senior Airman Sebastian Romawac, | July 25, 2023
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan - The Utah Air National Guard’s 151st Air Refueling Wing, working with the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Test Center, sent its modified KC-135 Stratotanker to Kadena Air Base for use in the...

An F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the Air National Guard Air Force Reserve Command Test Center launches at Eielsen Air Force Base, Alaska, May 9, 2023, during Northern Edge 2023. AATC aircraft tested the “angry kitten” combat pod, an electronic warfare countermeasure that can be housed in removable, adaptable pods under aircraft wings or fuselages.
AATC Puts Innovation to Work During Northern Edge Exercise
By Master Sgt. Amber Monio, | May 22, 2023
EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska - Throughout Alaska’s vast expanse, innovation and readiness were put to the test during the much-anticipated Northern Edge 2023 field training exercise. From May 4 to 19, the Air National Guard...

On December 15, 2020, the National Guard Bureau named the Utah Air National Guard as the interim KC-135 Test Detachment for AATC. Under the agreement, the 151st ARW will provide aircraft, aircrew, and maintenance support.
UTNG KC-135 modernizing for the future
By Maj. Ryan Sutherland, | April 12, 2021
SALT LAKE CITY – The KC-135 Stratotanker, the backbone of the U.S. Air Force’s strategic aerial refueling fleet, recently gained new capabilities that enable it to continue to carry out its mission of Global Reach and Global...