Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Systems Engineering


Department of Systems Engineering and Management

First Advisor

John J. Elshaw, PhD.


In the late 1990s, the Air Force eliminated over 200 KC-135 navigators, leaving 50 remaining for the aircraft's 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.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number