The Turkish air force has received its first Boeing KC-135R tanker with major upgrades to its flightdeck.

The ‘Block 45’ modification sees the flightdeck extensively updated with liquid crystal displays, computer updates, as well as a new radio altimeter, autopilot, and digital flight director, says the US Air Force Life Cycle Management Center.

Turkish KC-135R

Source: US Air Force

A Turkish KC-135R at Field Aerospace, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The aircraft recently received the Block 45 modification

The work involves replacing 63 parts, including analogue instruments that are either hard to maintain or obsolete. The second of seven Turkish KC-135Rs is now undergoing the upgrade, with the entire fleet to be updated by “no later than 2023”.

The Life Cycle Management Center led the work, which was conducted at Field Aerospace in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

“Turkey is a key ally in a very strategically important part of the world,” says James Conley, a Foreign Military Sales programme manager with the USAF’s Mobility and Training Aircraft Directorate’s Legacy Tanker Division.

“Block 45 makes it so much easier for pilots to operate the aircraft and notice malfunctions faster. It also helps with sustainment of the aircraft in the long run.”

USAF KC-135s are also receiving the Block 45 update, which has improved availability, says Block 45 programme manager John Wilson.

“Taking out old antiquated gauges and systems and bringing them up to date [with Block 45] has saved us thousands of [maintenance] hours a year,” he says.

He adds that prior to Block 45, the autopilot averaged 500 flight hours between failures, now it is averaging 49,000 flight hours between failures. 

Cirium fleets data indicates that the KC-135 is still used by four air forces, with 417 examples in services.

The biggest user is the USAF, with 396, followed by France with 11, Turkey with seven, and Chile with three. The average age of the global fleet is 60 years.