As we wrap up our coverage of the modern military presence at AirVenture 2019 we take a look at the trainers, tankers, and transports at this year’s show. These aircraft often overlooked in favor of the sleek fighters or bombers of today play an extremely vital and integral part of keeping our aviators trained, supplied, and fueled.
The Raytheon Aircraft T-6 Texan II is a single engine basic trainer used by the United States Air Force, United States Navy, and the United States Marine Corps along with many different countries. The T-6 Texan II replaced the United States Air Force’s Cessna T-37B “Tweet” and the United States Navy’s Beechcraft T-34C Turbo Mentor and first flew in 1998. The Texan II gets its name from the famous North American T-6 Texan, used to train pilots during World War II and into the 1970’s. AirVenture 2019 had T-6 Texan II’s on hand, including an “A” model from the United States Air Force AETC (Air Education and Training Command) 479th FTG (Flying Training Group). The 479th has been based at NAS (Naval Air Station) Pensacola Florida since 2009. The United States Navy was represented with a T-6B Texan II from TAW (Training Air Wing) Five based at NAS (Naval Air Station) Whiting Field in Milton Florida since 1972.
The Boeing T-45C Goshawk is a highly modified version of the BAE Systems Hawk. The T-45 is used by the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps as an aircraft carrier capable trainer. The T-45 first flew in 1988 and was phased into service in 1991. A single Rolls-Royce Turbomeca AP405-RR-401 turbofan engine gives the T-45 a maximum speed of 645 miles per hour and a range of 805 miles. A pair of T-45C’s were on hand from VT (Training Squadron) Seven, better known as the Eagles. They are part of NATRACOM (Naval Air Training Command) and have been based at NAS (Naval Air Station) Meridian Mississippi since 1961.
The 1959 vintage Northrop T-38C Talon’s where in abundance with aircraft from 4 different units at this year show. The Northrop T-38 Talon is a two seat, twin jet supersonic advanced trainer. The T-38 is operated by the United States Air Force Air Education and Training Command, the United States Navy and NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). A total of 1,146 aircraft were produced before production ceased in 1972.The T-38 is powered by a pair of General Electric J-85-5R afterburning turbojet engines giving it a maximum speed of 858 miles per hour and a range of 1,140 miles.
A pair of T-38C’s were on hand from the United States Air Force Air Education and Training Command’s 80th FTW (Flying Training Wing), 90th FTS (Fighter Training Squadron) based out of Sheppard Air Force Base Texas. The 90th FTS (Fighter Training Squadron) is better known as the “Boxin Bears” and is one of several units that is part of the Euro NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program or ENJJPT. This is the world’s only multi-nationally manned and managed flying program set to produce pilots for NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) countries.
A pair of T-38C’s from the 509th BW (Bomb Wing), 13th BS (Bomb Squadron) based at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, were also on hand. These T-38’s are used to keep the Northrop B-2A Spirit pilots current in their training without putting hours on the actual B-2A’s. T-38C aircraft serial numbers 65-418 and 68-179 flew several passes on arrival. Aircraft 68-179 carries “Spirit of Warrensburg” titles on the nose. Warrensburg MO is located 10 miles of East of Whiteman Air Force Base.
Another pair of T-38C’s were on hand from the 325th FW (Fighter Wing), 2nd FS (Fighter Squadron) based at Tyndall Air Force Base Florida. This adversary training squadron known as the Beagles can trace its history back to World War II, when the squadron was activated in 1941. The mission of the 2nd FS (Fighter Squadron) is to provide adversary training to F-22 Raptor pilots flying the air superiority mission.
The 9th RW (Reconnaissance Wing) based at Beale Air Force Base California, located near Marysville CA, also had T-38C’s at AirVenture 2019. These T-38C’s are flown by the 1ST RS (Reconnaissance Squadron) and are used as companion trainers to keep Lockheed U-2S pilots current in their training. The 1st RS (Reconnaissance Squadron) is the United States Air Force’s oldest flying unit established in 1913 and has an unbroken heritage of serving for over a century now.
The Royal Canadian Air Force also participated in this year’s AirVenture show with the surprise arrival of Canadair CT-114 Tutor serial number 114145. This CT-114 is part of the Canadian Snowbirds, officially known as 431 Demo Squadron, the flight demonstration team of the Royal Canadian Air Force. The CT-114 first flew in 1960 and was used as a primary jet trainer up until it’s retirement in 2000. The two-seat trainer is powered by a single Orenda J-85-CAN-40 turbojet engine giving the CT-114 a top speed of 486 miles per hour. The Canadian Snowbirds have a total of eleven CT-114’s in their fleet with nine flown during their shows.
Another vital part of the US military is the aerial refueler or “Tanker” and the ability to refuel in midair. The concept of midair refueling can trace it’s roots back to the 1920’s when the first midair refueling experiments took place. Aerial refueling has become extremely advanced with two different methods being employed, the flying boom method and the hose and drogue method. AirVenture 2019 had 2 different tankers on display, both were Boeing products and spanned both ends of the Tanker spectrum.
The iconic Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker was present with a 1959 vintage Boeing KC-135R serial number 59-1461. This KC-135R serves with the 128th ARW (Aerial Refueling Wing), 126th ARS (Aerial Refueling Squadron) and is based at Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport and is part of the Wisconsin Air National Guard. The 128th has flown the KC-135 since 1977, and was actually the first Air National Guard or United States Air Force Reserve unit to receive the “R” model. A total of 8 KC-135R’s are currently assigned to the unit. The KC-135 entered service in 1957 and is one of 6 fixed wing aircraft with over 50 years of continuous service. The KC-135 has additional missions which include hauling troops and cargo. The KC-135’s primary method of midair refueling employs the flying boom method, however the boom can be adapted with a drogue adapter. Some KC-135’s have also been modified to carry hose and drogue pods on the wings.
The KC-135’s successor is the Boeing KC-46A Pegasus which made its AirVenture debut this year. The KC-46 first flew in 2015 and is slowly being phased into service. The KC-46A on display, serial number 76035, serves with the 931st ARW (Air Refueling Wing) which is an associate unit of the 22d ARW (Air Refueling Wing) based at McConnell Air Force Base, located near Wichita Kansas. The KC-46 is a variant of the Boeing 767-200 and like the KC-135, can also accommodate troops and cargo or serve in the aeromedical evacuation role. The KC-46 has a three-person crew, and can transfer up to 207,672 pounds of fuel. The KC-46 employs both the flying boom and probe and drogue method of refueling. There are currently 179 KC-46’S projected to be built for the United States Air Force. This aircraft departed Oshkosh after the airshow on Thursday, and ended up at my hometown airport in Milwaukee a short time later. More on the KC-46’s unexpected visit to Milwaukee in a future article.
Finally transports play as vital of a role as any other aircraft in military service, you need to keep your frontline units supported and re supplied. AirVenture 2019 had three different Lockheed transports on hand including the third largest airplane in the world, a fire bomber, and one of the few aircraft adapted to land in the Arctic.
Lockheed C-5M Super Galaxy, serial number 86-6015 is based at Travis Air Force Base California, located outside of Fairfield California, and flies with the 60th AMW ( Air Mobility Wing), 436th AW (Airlift Wing). The C-5 first flew in 1968 and was designed and built to fulfill the heavy lift intercontinental range strategic air lift mission. The latest version the C-5, The “M” model features modernized avionics, new and more powerful engines (four General Electric CF6-80C2 high bypass turbofan engines), as well as upgrades to the landing gear. The C-5M has an amazing maximum payload of 285,000 pounds and a range of 5,500 nautical miles with a full payload.
The venerable Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules, which first flew in 1954 and was originally built as a transport aircraft. The C-130 has been adapted to fulfill several different roles, it isn’t just a transport anymore it’s a gunship, search and rescue, refueler, and aerial firefighting aircraft. Aerial firefighting is one of the main missions of the C-130H that was present at AirVenture 2019. This C-130H, serial number 94-7310 serves with the 731st AS (Airlift Squadron), 302nd AW (Airlift Wing) is based at Peterson Air Force Base outside of Colorado Springs Colorado. The 731st is part of United States Air Force Reserve Command and is tasked with fighting wildfires. This C-130 is equipped with the MAFFS (Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System) which is a self-contained unit loaded into the cargo compartment of a C-130 which can be filled with up to 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant. We will take a closer look at the AirVenture salute to Aerial Firefighting in a future article. There are over 40 different variants of the C-130 in use by over 60 countries today. The C-130 is also the longest continuously produced military aircraft in the world.
The other very unique C-130 at AirVenture 2019 was the ski equipped LC-130H Hercules, serial number 14-21094, which serves with the 109th AW (Airlift Wing), 139th AS (Airlift Squadron). The 109th is part of the New York Air National Guard and is based at Stratton Air National Guard Base, Schenectady New York. The ski equipped LC-130’s from the 109th provide airlift support to the National Science Foundation’s South Pole research program. The 109th is the only unit in the world to fly these modified C-130’s. These aircraft are equipped with retractable skis allowing it to operate from snow, ice, or conventional runways. The aircraft also has provision for 8 165-pound solid fuel JATO (Jet Assisted Take Off) rocket bottles, four on each side of the aircraft. These improve performance when operating from unprepared surfaces. The 109th currently operates 10 of these very unique aircraft.
These aircraft play a very important role in our nation’s military machine. To fly the fighters and bombers you need an aircraft to train in. To supply the fighters and bombers you need to be able to transport personnel and support equipment. Finally, you need to be able to aerial refuel these fighters and bombers to increase endurance. These aircraft often overlooked in favor of aircraft like the F-22 Raptor and the B-1 Bomber are just as vitally important. We will continue our look at AirVenture 2019 as we slow things down a bit and take a look at the commercial and civilian aircraft at this year’s show.
Until next time,” Blue Skies to All”!