Mark another first for the 186th Air Refueling Wing.
Wednesday, during a press conference and ribbon cutting ceremony held at the G. V. "Sonny" Montgomery National Guard Complex at Key Field in Meridian, officials with the wing and state National Guard Bureau announced the official addition of the Boom Operator Simulation System (BOSS).
"There will be 17 such systems installed and operated by air wings but we were the first to get one installed, up and running," said Col. Mike Nabors, commander of the 186th ARW. "I just appreciate the faith the National Guard Bureau has in us to be the first wing to put into our training cycle this unique system."
Lying on their stomachs in the tail section of a tanker, boom operators peer through a small window while maneuvering a refueling boom into an awaiting aircraft that is fueled while in flight.
BOSS is a high fidelity, simulation training tool for the Air National Guard that replicates the Block 40 boom pod of the KC-135R tanker. BOSS was built from real pods in order to ensure accuracy in the training.
The operative word for the BOSS is immersive. When simulator technicians opened the pod up, the inside was the exact replica of a KC-135R pod. Close the door and the simulator starts, the boomer is immersed in a simulation in which a B-52 Stratofortress is slowly moving up to be hooked up for fuel.
The technicians can even throw the boomer into a variety of conditions that can test the boomer's ability to safely and efficiently offload the fuel. The curves the technicians can dial up for the boomer's include a boom malfunction, or a surface to air missile (SAM) launch.
But maybe the most incredible aspect of the simulator lies on its connection with other simulators across the nation.
"The boomer can be in this pod here at Key Field while across the country a KC-135R pilot can be in his simulator, and still, in another part of the country a pilot with a fighter wing can be in his simulator, with everyone connected on the same mission," Nabors said. "So the training will be beneficial to not only us but to others in locations hundreds of miles apart."
Nabors said this will save the nation's military an untold amount of money.
The prototype BOSS was built by the USAF with software integration support by QuantaDyninc. in Sterling, Va. The prototype took years to build from the ground up using pods from non-flying tankers. The benefits, however, will show through the number of upcoming boomers who will be able to hone their skills on the simulator at Key Field and other locations when they come on line in the near future, officials said.
On hand to help welcome the BOSS to Key Field was Maj. Gen. William Crisler, who said the 186th ARW has shown by its professionalism and hard work fielding a variety of aircraft and missions since the reintroduction of the tankers late last year.
"Just like the Phoenix that rose from the flames, the 186th ARW has proven yet again they can handle the mission," Crisler said. "I don't know of any other flying wing that has taken on, perfected, and then flown as many aircraft and the variety of platforms as the 186th. I'm truly happy to see this day come for the wing."
Crisler said the BOSS is a huge step forward in terms of technology and training for the Air National Guard.
"Having the BOSS on the field will have a lot to do with the 186th ARW becoming the best refueling wing in the National Guard … again," Crisler said.