340th EARS surpasses 40K combat hours with ROBE

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kia Atkins
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
The 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron here surpassed a major milestone with their Roll-On Beyond Line of Sight Enhancement data link system when the unit completed 40,000 combat flight hours while supporting missions in the U.S. Central Command area of operations.

The ROBE, a mobile command and control node that can seamlessly integrate into the KC-135 Stratotanker, enables air-to-ground and air-to-air units to communicate when their own C2 systems are unable to connect through line-of-sight.

“We were flying in support of Operation Inherent Resolve when we surpassed the 40,000th combat hour milestone with the ROBE,” said Capt. Schuyler Henry, 340th EARS KC-135 pilot. “As we move forward and go onto other operations, I think the ROBE will continue to be a valuable tool to support future conflicts, and I think it’s a big part of how the KC-135 can continue to help support troops on the ground.”

The ROBE system allows allied forces real-time communication with any headquarters across the globe giving commanders a better sight picture of the battlespace leading to more timely decisions and effective operations.

“What the ROBE does is it takes information and it passes it on to command and control centers,” said Jim Petrashek, Northrop Grumman ROBE test engineer. “We provide a link for ground troops, especially around mountainous terrain, from where they are transmitting a signal to where they need the communication sent to.”

The ROBE system is transportable and can be installed on any KC-135 that have preinstalled ROBE node connections. Each node can send information and data quicker than if the information had been forwarded from one relay station to the next.

Although the 340th EARS just passed a ROBE milestone, they are always doing what they do best: provide fuel to aircraft throughout the area of responsibility.

“No aircraft in the theater could carry as much as they do, go on as long of sorties or fly the distances they can without tanker gas,” said Henry. “Every month we break records that have been standing for the last 11 to 12 years. Every month we offload more gas, support more receivers and fly more hours than we have in the past. The ROBE is just another instance of us going above and beyond what we’ve done before.”

The aircrew responsible for pushing the ROBE system past this milestone include Henry, Capt. Nicholas Reed and Staff Sgt. Kyle VanderWagon, who are all deployed here from the 64th Air Refueling Squadron at Pease Air National Guard Base, N.H.