Turning Tankers Night Friendly

The Air Mobility Battlelab and Air Force Research Lab experts developed a means to enable aircrews to employ night-vision goggles during nighttime refueling operations, deciding the simplest approach was to modify the exterior and interior lighting on the KC-135 and KC-10 tankers. “Right now, during nighttime air refueling operations in black-out conditions, pilots in aircraft receiving fuel have to remove their night vision goggles … to prevent required visual references from being ‘washed out,’ ” said MSgt. Chris Sidoli, battlelab project manager and a career boom operator. And, he added, the current exterior lighting makes the tankers “easily detected by ground threats.” AFRL’s Night Vision Center of Excellence in Mesa, Ariz., developed an LED-based system that can replace KC-135 wing and tail navigation lights, boom nozzle light, upper and lower strobes, and pilot director lights without the need to make wiring changes. The project team successfully tested the fix last summer on an Arizona Air National Guard KC-135, according to an Aug. 19 Air Force release. Lt. Col. Jeffrey Lathrop, battlelab commander, has recommended fielding the initiative. He said the National Guard Bureau and other agencies are “pursuing funding to accomplish flight and environmental testing.” By the way, the Air Mobility Battlelab disbands next month, as with the other battlelabs, a victim of Air Force’s budget constraints. (Air Force Expeditionary Center report by TSgt. Scott Sturkol)