In a major milestone for the KC-46A program, a Pegasus refueled Spanish EF-18 Hornets on April 18, during a joint exercise at Moron Air Base, Spain.
This mission marked the first operational refueling of an international receiver for the KC-46A, paving the way for greater interoperability with allies and partners.
“The KC-46A, its aircrews, maintenance and support personnel performed magnificently over the last seven weeks in Spain,” said Gen. Mike Minihan, Air Mobility Command commander. “They pushed hard to run the aircraft through its paces during the ECE, including supporting a bomber task force, refueling U.S. fighters over Eastern Europe, and completing the first-ever operational refueling of an international aircraft. AMC continues to drive toward increased refueling capability while working to overcome programmatic challenges.”
According to Brig Gen Ryan Samuelson, AMC’s KC-46A Cross Functional Team lead, the Interim Capability Release plan, of which the ECE is a part, has significantly enhanced KC-46A operations over the last 10 months.
“The Pegasus is now cleared to support nearly 85 percent of joint force receivers requesting air refueling from U.S. Transportation Command,” said Samuelson. “ While the ICR brought on KC-46 mission capabilities, the ECE will now operationalize those capabilities across a spectrum of mission scenarios.”
AMC introduced the second phase of ICR (Interim Capability Release) on March 10, when Minihan approved the employment of four KC-46As and approximately 220 active Guard and Reserve airmen at Moron AB, to conduct the first in a series of ECEs designed to improve the commissioning and maintenance of the KC-46A.
The KC-46A ICR plan allows the Pegasus to perform operational tasks that would otherwise be performed by KC-135 Stratotanker and KC-10 Extender aircraft, increasing the force’s aerial refueling capability and further training Pegasus crews in operational missions.
The mission also provided an opportunity to engage with their Spanish hosts and showcase what the Pegasus can bring to international operations with allies and partners.
Despite existing constraints and shortcomings, the KC-46A continues to demonstrate its growing operational capability. The Pegasus offloaded more than 78 million pounds of fuel and completed more than 34,900 stick contacts and 2,200 probe-basket contacts since January 2019.
As of April 26, the U.S. Air Force has 57 KC-46As in its inventory. The KC-46A currently operates from McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas; Seymour Johnson Air Reserve Base, North Carolina; Pease Air National Guard Base, New Hampshire; Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst, New Jersey; and Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma.
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