Preliminary FARE kit test on KC-135

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Perez
  • 151st Air Refueling Wing

The Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Test Center (AATC) - KC-135 Test Detachment, working with the 151st Air Refueling Wing, Salt Lake City, Utah, continues its transformation and modernization efforts on the KC-135R Stratotanker by testing the MICRO Forward Area Refueling Equipment (FARE) Kit on the 65-year-old aircraft, ensuring it has the best warfighting capabilities.

The MICRO FARE kit is designed to refuel aircraft or ground vehicles at forward operating locations where typical refueling capabilities do not exist. It has been used on multiple aircraft such as the CH-47 Chinook helicopter and the C-130 Hercules to provide fuel in austere environments. This is the first time it will be tested for certification and use for the KC-135R.

"This kit will allow aircrew and maintenance personnel to be capable of refueling the aircraft for virtually any possible fuel source and get it off the ground in a time sensitive and degraded infrastructure environment," said Master Sgt. Robert McFadden, 151st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron KC-135R crew chief. "Having this asset on the aircraft will ensure refueling capabilities are available wherever the KC-135 operates."

A KC-135R is typically refueled by an R-11 fuel truck. With the MICRO FARE kit, the KC-135R does not require a vehicle to be refueled. The aircrew and maintenance personnel aboard the plane can refuel from any possible fuel source, to include transferring fuel between aircraft. This capability is especially important in a wartime scenario and time is of the essence.

In addition to being able to provide fuel to a KC-135R from multiple fuel sources, the MICRO FARE kit will benefit the defense of the United States by supporting nuclear deterrence operational plans. If a nuclear event occurred, the event would generate an electromagnetic pulse that could damage unprotected electronics within the area. Ground refueling systems rely on electronic components that can be affected by EMPs. The FARE kit provides additional means to refuel the aircraft by utilizing power generated by the aircraft, allowing the KC-135R to complete follow-on vital missions.

“Because the nuclear mission is our top priority, we need to have the assurance we can put fuel on the jet anywhere and everywhere we go,” said Lt. Col. Jeff Gould, AATC KC-135 Test director. “The FARE kit will provide an additional avenue to refuel the plane which will be especially beneficial if we are ever in a degraded environment.”

The MICRO FARE kit will also assist the KC-135R with the Agile Combat Employment operating concept. Agile Combat Employment addresses the changing threat environment by shifting the generation of airpower from large centralized bases to networks of smaller, dispersed locations, or groups of smaller bases. Without relying on main operating bases refueling capabilities, this system will provide the ability to refuel anywhere in the world at any time. An additional use of the FARE kit is in support of domestic operations supported by the National Guard.

“During domestic and regional support operations, the KC-135 typically supports other airborne assets, however by adding the FARE kit, the KC-135 will have the ability to ferry fuel in support of ground operations.” said Gould. “During the 2010 Haiti earthquake, USTRANSCOM requested support from tanker units to help evacuate civilians. If these KC-135s were equipped with the FARE kit they would have been posed to provide airlift support to civilians, and provide fuel to rescue members. This fuel could be used supporting helicopter reconnaissance and rescue operations or provide fuel to run generators.”

Generating additional capabilities in support of Combatant Commander’s requirements is at the core of the AATC mission. Gould stated that the FARE kit is just one more capability the KC-135 will provide in the future.

On Nov. 2, 2021, Lt. Gen. Michael Loh, director of the Air National Guard, announced the selection of the Utah Air National Guard’s 151st Air Refueling Wing as the KC-135 Test Detachment for the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command Test Center.

“Modernizing the KC-135 tanker fleet with new capabilities and cutting-edge technology increases combat effectiveness and readiness,” Loh said. “New capabilities require the skill and experience of seasoned ANG personnel, which take years to achieve. The Utah Air National Guard and AATC have talented and proven Guard warriors at the forefront of the KC-135 modernization efforts.”