Military Aviation

An Omega KDC-10 is the first commercial tanker to refuel USAF B-52, MC-130J over Pacific Ocean

Omega KDC-10 commercial tanker refuels USAF B-52, MC-130J over Pacific Ocean

As Pacific Air Forces made history last November by using an Omega KDC-10 to refuel US Air Force (USAF) fighter aircraft in the Pacific for the first time, the command has now taken this milestone to new heights, reoptimizing to meet the strategic challenges in a time of great power competition.

Within the PACAF area of responsibility, an Omega KDC-10 refueled a B-52 Stratofortress assigned to the 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron, Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, and an MC-130J assigned to the 1st Special Operations Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan over the Pacific Ocean, making it the first commercial aircraft to refuel both aircraft, on Mar. 10, 2024.

A US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress assigned to the 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron, Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana approaches an Omega KDC-10 commercial air-to-air refueler over the Pacific Ocean to receive fuel for the first time, March 10, 2024.

“These types of missions significantly advance Total Force power projection capabilities and exponentially increase readiness,” said Col. Jon Baize, Chief of Contingency Operations at Headquarters PACAF, in the article Commercial aerial refueler completes first B-52, MC-130J refueling over Pacific Ocean, by Staff Sgt. Nick Wilson, Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs. “With commercial air refueling in theater, wings and warfighters saw immediate return on investment, getting training and unique opportunities they otherwise couldn’t get in this AOR due to demand signal for tankers outpacing supply. By having an on-demand, flexible, highly mission-capable tanker available, PACAF is able to open the aperture for global mobility.”

A-10, B-52, C-17, and MC-130J to interfly with Omega KDC-10

Baize and Lt. Col. Shannon Vinson, Chief of Mobility Operations worked with Air Combat Command, Air Force Special Operations Command, Air Force Global Strike Command, Air Force Materiel Command, and the US Navy Program Management Activity (PMA) 226 in support of this historic milestone. They championed the project as an opportunity to pursue innovative ways to accelerate change and support warfighters.

A US Air Force MC-130J assigned to the 1st Special Operations Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan approaches an Omega KDC-10 commercial air-to-air refueler over the Pacific Ocean to receive fuel over for the first time, March 10, 2024.

“To compete and win, the joint force needs resilient and diverse ability to get the warfighters where they need to be when they need to be there,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Spinelli, 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron commander, Barksdale AFB, Louisiana. “Having an additional means and capacity depth in our air refueling and logistical movements is critical to success. Long range bombers now have additional means to get into and out of theater rapidly and ultimately offers the joint force more presence, firepower, and mass of force a higher consistency. Commercial Air is a must for US Indo-Pacific Command operations given the nature of the theater.”

Working in concert with US Transportation Command and US Naval Air Systems Command, PACAF warfighters engaged with the Air Refueling Certification Agency at Wright-Patterson AFB to get Technical Compatibility Assessments expeditiously approved for the A-10, B-52, C-17, and MC-130J to interfly with Omega KDC-10.

Operating anywhere international law allows

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. B-52H Stratofortress 2nd BW, 20th BS, LA/60-0008 “Lucky Lady IV”.

The KDC-10 transited from Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea to Andersen AFB, Guam completing four successful, safe contacts with the B-52 and MC-130J. Leveraging the capability of commercial air-to-air refueling allows the US Air Force to increase warfighter readiness in the priority theater and around the globe.

Moreover, the ability to utilize commercial tankers is just one of many examples of how US forces can challenge the status quo to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows, at the time and tempo of their choosing. “Aerial refueling is the lifeline of military operations in the Pacific due to the tyranny of distance between suitable airfields,” said Lt. Col. Reagan Mullin, 1st Special Operations Squadron director of operations, Kadena Air Base, Japan. “The Omega commercial refueling platform offers military aircrew operating in the Pacific with another option to train and obtain mission support when tanker demand exceeds existing military capacity. We can’t wait to work with Omega again!”

Omega Fleet

An Omega KDC-10 commercial air-to-air refueler flies alongside a US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress assigned to the 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron, Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana over the Pacific Ocean after successfully providing air-to-air refueling to the B-52 for the first time, March 10, 2024.

Similar to the US Air Force’s KC-135 Stratotanker and KC-46 Pegasus, the KDC-10 utilizes a boom operating system and can carry 29,000 gallons of fuel, and 41,000 gallons of fuel with an additional fuselage tank.

With the capability of delivering 400-900 gallons a minute, the KDC-10s flexibility enables B-52s to continue to actively train during operations and exercises while integrating alongside Allies and partners throughout the region. Bomber Task Force missions actively enable strategic bombers to operate with greater operational resilience from various overseas and continental US locations.

Omega is the first commercial company in the world that provides air-to-air refueling services. The company converted a former PAN-AM Boeing 707-300 into a refueling tanker in 1999. The modified aircraft flew for the first time in the same year and became the world’s first commercial air refueling tanker.

Today Omega Aerial Refueling Service (OARS) operates a fleet of KC-707 and KDC-10 aircraft owned by Omega Air, each capable of flying over 1,200 hours per year.

This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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