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Pragmatic Divestment of KC-135 Navigators in the Special Operations Air Refueling Mission
AIR FORCE INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB OH GRADUATE SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING AND MANAGEMENT
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In the late 1990s, the Air Force eliminated over 200 KC-135 navigators, leaving 50 remaining for the aircrafts most complex Special Operations Air Refueling SOAR mission. As the Air Force unveils the KC-46 Pegasus, this mission will continue but without a position for the navigator. Instead, navigators will undergo divestment as the SOAR mission transfers to the KC-46. Current plans indicate navigators will not only remain as the KC-46 arrives, but inbound navigators will continue arriving until 2018. This thesis applies the Delphi method, a process eliciting analysis anonymously from a panel of experts, in order to examine the elements affecting KC-135 navigator divestment and offer a more effective, comprehensive solution. Ultimately, the panel of experts arrived at conclusions supporting the hypothesis that navigator divestment and SOAR transition should occur sooner, rather than later, in order to secure a future for current navigators, ensure responsible development of Air Force officers, and enable the complex SOAR mission to endure. In order to best achieve these results, the experts recommended halting all inbound navigator assignments, reassigning navigators at a conservative rate over the next several years, and beginning a SOAR transition program to replace the tanker navigator with a third pilot concept.
APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE