Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Tankers Look to Changing Future ; Wing Officer: Troop Drawdowns to Have Uncertain Effect

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Tankers Look to Changing Future ; Wing Officer: Troop Drawdowns to Have Uncertain Effect

Article excerpt

The 190th Air Refueling Wing's future is up in the air as two wars wind down and military priorities shift -- but it wouldn't be the first time the wing had to adjust to changing times.

Members of the media and Topeka civic leaders were invited to join two KC-135 refueling planes as they flew from Topeka's Forbes Field to assist a team flying Thunderbird stunt planes from Las Vegas to the East Coast on Thursday. The Thunderbirds fly F-16s, which weren't designed to store enough fuel for long flights, said Maj. Joe Blubaugh, wing executive staff officer. It was the third time this week they refueled the Thunderbirds on their way to air shows.

Technical Sgt. James Whisenhunt, who operates the "boom" on the refueler that acts like the hose at a gas station, said the refuelers fly about three daytime flights and one nighttime flight daily, most of which are for training purposes. They still fly overseas missions but not as often as they did when they needed to support more medical flights and combat missions.

Blubaugh said he thinks the 190th may not be as affected by troop drawdowns as the active duty Air Force, because they can operate more cost-effectively using a force that only deploys when necessary. They conduct about 34 percent of Air Force missions, but only get about 6 percent of its budget, he said.

"I don't know if we know what the impact is going to be locally," he said. "In some regards we have the potential to pick up some additional missions."

It wouldn't be the first time the unit dealt with potentially drastic changes. The 190th actually started under another name in Harrisburg, Pa., but officials moved it to Hutchinson when it couldn't find enough members, and moved it again to Topeka in 1967 to consolidate it with the Air Force base then operating at Forbes Field. It focused on reconnaissance starting in 1958 before being reassigned to refueling in 1978.

The KC-135s they still fly were built from 1958 to 1962, Blubaugh said, but they likely have another 25 years of use in them.

"When they do retire you're going to have an aircraft that's pushing 90," he said. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.