Military Aviation

KC-46A Pegasus flies 36-hour, non-stop record-breaking endurance sortie, Air Mobility Command’s longest mission to date

A KC-46A Pegasus a 36-hour non-stop endurance mission covering 16,000 miles, on Nov. 16-17, 2022 Air Mobility Command’s longest mission to date.

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.

Lt. Col. Greg Van Splunder, Lt. Col. Brandon Stock and Tech. Sgt. Matt Rogers, all of the 157th Air Refueling Wing, Pease Air National Guard Base, New Hampshire Air National Guard, guide their KC-46A Pegasus as it receives fuel from another Pease KC-46A during a 36-hour endurance mission, on Nov. 16, 2022. The long-duration sortie took place from Nov. 16-17 and was crewed by active duty and Air National Guard Airmen from Pease, who flew the jet non-stop from New Hampshire, across North America and the Pacific Ocean, around Guam, and back home again. The proof-of-concept operation showcased the ability of the Air Force’s newest tanker to project the force in the modern battle space. 

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.

An F-22 Raptor waits for gas just off the wingtip of a KC-46A Pegasus aerial refueler from the 157th Air Refueling Wing, Nov. 16, 2022. The KC-46A was performing a 36-hour endurance mission, flying non-stop from New Hampshire, across North America and the Pacific Ocean, around Guam, and back home again. 

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

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. KC-46A Pegasus 97th AMW, 56th ARS, 17-76028, Altus AFB
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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