A KC-46A Pegasus from the 157th Air Refueling Wing at Pease Air National Guard Base, New Hampshire, flew a 36-hour non-stop endurance mission covering 16,000 miles, on Nov. 16-17, 2022 Air Mobility Command’s longest mission to date.
According to an Air Mobility Command news release, Gen. Mike Minihan, AMC commander, has relentlessly driven the command to find new ways to employ current assets in anticipation of a future fight.
“This extended mission is yet another example of capable Airmen taking charge and moving out to accelerate our employment of the KC-46A,” said Minihan. “This Total Force mission boldly highlights the imperative to think differently, change the way we do business, and provide options to the Joint Force.”
The KC-46A Pegasus provides strategic flexibility to the Air Force through its unique blend of persistence and presence. Since every KC-46A can itself be refueled in flight, each aircraft can persist in operations areas to enable sustained support to armed aircraft. During the mission, the aircraft refueled F-22 fighters in the Pacific and was itself refueled three times.
The crew leveraged the KC-46A’s secure and unclassified networks and situational awareness systems, which allows for a broad array of future uses. The platform’s situational awareness capabilities enable its protection in contested environments.
Lt. Col. Joshua Renfro, AMC’s new KC-46A Cross-Functional team lead, described the importance of the mission.
“Pease’s accomplishment of this mission is the third consecutive success proving the KC-46A’s airborne persistence, building on previous 22- and 24-hour missions,” he said. “AMC is committed to a deliberate approach to broaden the scope of KC-46A employment and its global command and control capabilities.”
A human performance monitor aboard the flight collected quantitative data throughout the mission. This data, along with that collected during the other recent 20+ hour missions, will be used to inform decision making for future norm-breaking employment opportunities.
In another unique turn, the information detailed in this release was sent to AMC leadership using the aircraft’s on-board communications links during flight. Following its record-breaking sortie, the aircraft landed “Code 1” – ready to fly with no discrepancies.
The KC-46A represents the beginning of a new era in air-to-air refueling capability for the joint force. The aircraft has been in development since Feb. 24, 2011, and its initial flight occurred in Dec 2014. The current contract, with options, provides Air Mobility Command an inventory of 179 KC-46A tankers. The first KC-46A was delivered to McConnell AFB, Kansas on Jan 25, 2019. The aircraft is will soon undergo operational test and evaluation on the way to initial operating capability.
The KC-46A is the first phase in recapitalizing the US Air Force’s aging tanker fleet. With greater refueling, cargo and aeromedical evacuation capabilities compared to the KC-135, the KC-46A will provide next generation aerial refueling support to Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and partner-nation receivers.
Photo credit: Senior Master Sgt. Timm Huffman / U.S. Air National Guard
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