MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. --
The 22nd Operations Group stood up a Mission Planning Cell, which is responsible for all the mission planning for the KC-135 Stratotanker, KC-46A Pegasus and their air crews that leave McConnell. The mission planners are also responsible for ensuring each aircraft has the software and updates needed for them to complete their missions.
“The MPC is important here because it is a new thing that [Air Mobility Command] is going to,” said Maj. Jon Avera, 22nd OG MPC director. “The goal is to reduce the time the pilots need to mission plan. Ideally, we want to make life easier for [them] while maximizing their aircraft’s effectiveness.”
This last year has been a busy one for McConnell, participating in three employment concept exercises and testing the limits of the KC-46 Pegasus and its crew in a 24-hour flight. The MPC played a role in each of these, fine-tuning their process and finding the best solutions for efficiency.
“The biggest win that we have created with the MPC is being able to isolate ourselves from requiring connectivity at home station,” Avera said. “We have done that by creating a little network ourselves that gives us the leverage and ability to pick up and go whenever we need to. We have been able to replicate it three times throughout all the ECEs. Mission planners from McConnell can prepare and get ready, the call goes out, the flag goes up, we pack up and take our internal network with us as we go. When we put the power on at the deployed location, everything that we did back home is there and ready for us.”
Another part of the MPC’s mission is running daily, weekly, or 28-day cycle updates for the KC-135 and, more importantly, the KC-46.
“We’re constantly looking for different anti-virus updates for the computers on the aircraft and making sure every piece of equipment has the updates and we’re not dragging viruses,” Avera said. “That’s important because the KC-46 is a very connected aircraft to internal and external users, so we’re making sure we have a safe working environment cyber-wise.”
The center is comprised of several different career fields, both from the 22nd and 931st Air Refueling Wings, working together towards their common goal. These include intelligence, who have an important role in mission planning and briefing; crew communications, who ensure the KC-135s and KC-46s have the cryptographic requirements needed to operate; as well as systems set representatives, a wing link manager, and civilian contractors.
“Within the confines of MPC there are a few dozen active and Reserves working together to make sure the crews have everything they need to execute,” Avera said. “One doesn’t work without the other. Without our [different sections], we’d just be another tanker passing gas without affecting any real change.”
For Avera, the constant challenges of building a new way forward for MPC are what make the job enjoyable.
“MPC is really a lot of problem sets daily, we’re charting new courses and each time we change course or continue on the path that we’re on, there always seems to be a problem,” Avera said. “So, every day I am solving [problems], they may be small but they all add up, so making impacts, making change – it’s been great.”
There is not a set timeframe for when AMC will determine if they want to implement MPCs throughout the major command or beyond, but the center here is doing everything they can to prove its worth.