76th ARS assist with Navy’s E2-D Advanced Hawkeye testing

  • Published
  • By Christian Deluca
  • 514th Air Mobility Wing public affairs

Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 76th Air Refueling Squadron assisted a team from the 418th Flight Test Squadron out of Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. to test refueling capabilities of the Navy’s revamped E2-D Advanced Hawkeye.

The Hawkeye, known as the “eyes of the fleet,” has been a part the Navy’s force for more than 50 years. The aircraft is an all-weather, carrier-based, tactical battle management, early warning and command and control center with a multi-mission platform that includes, airborne strike, land force support, rescue operations, communications network management, and support for drug interdiction operations. The new advanced version has many upgrades, including improved radar capacities, a new communications system and others. It is also the first version capable of aerial refueling.

For two months in the beginning of the year, crews from the 418th FLTS, the Naval Air Systems Command from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD, and the 76th ARS have been verifying those capabilities with the KC-10 Extender, a tanker and cargo aircraft designed to provide increased global mobility for U.S. armed forces.

“Our job is to come out here and verify that it is capable,” said Capt. Justin George, 418th FLTS test pilot. "We’re going up with the KC-10 to meet and look at all the envelopes. At low-speed, high-speed, low-altitudes, high-altitudes, different conditions. We test that it’s capable of aerial refueling, and that it’s safe.”

Since the 418th FLTS doesn’t regularly operate the KC-10, they asked for assistance from the 514th Air Mobility Wing. Capt. Nicholas Schaeffer, pilot and Tech. Sgt. Adam Williams, crew chief, both KC-10 instructors for the 76th ARS, came aboard to support operations throughout the two-months of testing.

“We don’t fly KC-10s a lot so having Nick and Adam, who have a ton of experience with the aircraft, has been really great,” George said. “One, they’re able to make sure that what we’re doing is safe. That we don’t do anything that would put us in danger. Also, they can tell us if what we’re doing is operationally representative. Which is what we try to do in the developmental world. We take whatever they give us and look at it through the lens of this is something that the operational guys are going to do. Nick or Adam can say ‘this isn’t going to work because of x, x and y’ and we can take that back to the contractor to make adjustments.”

Schaeffer and Williams said the E2-D testing, which brought together active-duty Air Force, Reserve Citizen Airmen and Navy components, was a great joint-service, total-force opportunity, and a good example of the Reserve’s ability to adeptly step in and assist when needed.

“They wanted a crew that would be able to stick with the program the entire time, and as Reservists we were able to dedicate ourselves to the program and give them some continuity and consistency throughout the 50 days of testing,” Schaeffer said. “It’s something that the Reserve is good at. We can take our background of expertise and our training and quickly apply it to something we’ve never done before, and be successful. I think that’s a skillset that all Reservists have.”

“I definitely agree,” Williams added. “Our orders were for 60 days. That’s a long time for active duty, with their high tempo of operations, to lose instructors in both crew positions. Being in the Reserve, we are in a unique situation, because our crew force is just that. It’s a reserve force. Because of that, we were able to take on this additional duty and be a part of this great opportunity. It was important for the testing that individuals were able to stick with the aircraft as a hard crew and give Capt. George and his group continuity day in and day out.”

The testing took advantage of the variety of weather conditions in the area to put both aircraft through the rounds to determine the safest ways to refuel during different situations. The aircraft were fitted with complex instrumentation systems to track all aspects of the flight, which were monitored by engineers from the testing squadron.

“We develop all the test plans ahead of time to say we need to hit this altitude and air speed,” said Gary Yaroslaski, 418th FLTS air refueling engineer. “We define and monitor all of maneuvers needed to track the basket and refuel. All of the maneuvers we need to go through before giving the E2-D the certification that they are good for aerial refueling.”

“It’s been quite an experience to see how they develop processes to bring a new aircraft online to be able to do air refueling. It’s also been really exciting to get to meet the Navy down in Patuxent River,” Schaeffer said. “So not only were we able to work with other majcoms (major commands), we were able to work with a sister service as well. That’s what I think made this project pretty cool. We’re helping develop the plan on how the Air Force and the Navy are going to go about refueling each other from this point forward. This was the first KC-10 to make contact with the E2-D, the first KC-10 to offload fuel to an E2-D, and being a part of that has been a great experience.”