WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — McConnell Air Force Base is in the middle of a major training exercise. Because of the training, people around Wichita may have noticed a lot more planes taking off from the airfield.

When the training started in earnest on Monday, airmen launched 21 KC-46 and KC-135 tankers — the largest mass launch of aircraft in McConnell’s history.

A spokesperson said the week-long exercise supports the 22nd Air Refueling Wing’s mission of rapid global mobility. John Van Winkle, chief of public affairs, said readiness equals deterrence. The airmen hope they don’t have to use this training but want to be prepared if they do have to use it.

What makes this training different is that approximately 100 airmen of the 22nd Air Refueling Wing are finding out what it is like to live and work at a remote deployed location. They created a tent city on the base to simulate remote conditions.

The airmen do not have cell phones and have limited communication with the outside world.

Van Winkle said this demonstrates the refueling wing’s ability to command and control aircraft even while deployed and in a degraded communications environment.

“Recent conflicts have proven that adversaries possess the technology to accurately pinpoint the location of forces via personal electronic devices,” Van Winkle said. “Restricting the use of electronics for this exercise trains our airmen for how we would fight in future high-tech conflicts and better prepares our airmen for the tactics that lie ahead.”

Something that’s different about this exercise is that McConnell is using a new “hub-and-spoke” arrangement. It includes sending aircraft to smaller, more mobile bases “to make the forces less targetable.” Some of the “spokes” include military bases in Florida, New Jersey, and Washington.

Some of this week’s training includes two long-endurance missions where tankers are airborne for more than 24 hours each.

Other missions include:

  • An aeromedical evacuation
  • Refueling planes over land and sea
  • Night missions using night vision goggles and AMP-3, an airfield marking pattern used for unconventional airfields and landing zones

Van Winkle said the week-long exercise is called Lethal Pride.