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Advanced training keeps KC-135 weapons squadron Airmen agile

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Travis Edwards
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

There’s a weapons squadron for the KC-135 Stratotanker?

Tucked away in the middle of Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, resides a small contingent of professional KC-135 pilots, navigators and in-flight refueling specialists responsible for developing advanced tactics training used for one of the Air Force’s oldest aircraft.

The 509th Weapons Squadron’s mission is to build, teach, and lead KC-135 pilots, navigators and enlisted in-flight refueling specialists in advanced weapons and tactics employment training for the Air Force.

Recently, four KC-135 pilots and three in-flight refueling specialists attending the 509th WPS Weapons Instructor Course and Advanced Instructor Course departed Fairchild AFB for a three-day training event in Roswell, New Mexico, March 1-3, 2022.

The Roswell Air Center, formerly the Roswell Army International Airfield during World War II, and Walker Air Force Base during the Cold War, is a 13,000-foot runway with ample airspace to handle atypical approach and departure procedures in the KC-135.

“The airspace around Roswell allows us to have more maneuverability with our tactics training,” said Capt. Victoria Perkins, 509th WPS instructor pilot. “We come here nearly every six months, so the [Federal Aviation Administration] and [air traffic] controllers are familiar with our requests; we have a great relationship with them.”

The team arrived in Roswell with numerous support personnel, including weather, administration, intelligence, and munitions experts who brought training portable surface-to-air missiles called man-portable air-defense systems.

“The students are going through the threat and tactics phase. It’s the students’ first temporary duty assignment outside of Fairchild,” said Maj. Alan Wong, 509th WPS instructor pilot.

During this phase, the students replicate a MADPADS threat and assess the tactics and procedures they came up with to mitigate the ground threat.

“Part of the desired learning objectives is to successfully circumvent the ground threat while giving the ‘student’ pilots on the ground a view of how the threat looks and operates to come up with the best solution,” Wong added.

The 509th WPS is one of 21 WPS’ that are part of the U.S. Air Force Weapons School located at Nellis AFB, Nevada, under the 57th Wing. These squadrons host 23 weapons systems that train unique capabilities, including agile combat employment, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; nuclear deterrence, global reach, command and control, special operations, and personnel recovery.

Upon graduation, the pilots and in-flight refueling specialists receive the Weapons School patch signifying they are capable of building a team prepared for any core function.

The 509th WPS builds on a history of combat-ready air refueling experts to keep the KC-135 in the fight and secure global reach for America.