As part of an initial phase in recapitalizing the U.S. Air Force’s aging tanker fleet, the first two KC-46 Pegasus’ recently assigned to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst conducted a local air-refueling flight while over the northern Atlantic Ocean.
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.
Less than a month after being assigned to the 305th and 514th Air Mobility Wings, the first two KC-46 aircraft were tasked for the first time on Dec. 2, with their first mission to test the operation and maintenance processes put in place prior to the aircraft’s arrival.
“The mission went better than I ever expected,” said Senior Airman Jon Vermont, 2nd Air Refueling Squadron boom operator instructor. “I thought there would be a couple more hiccups with the maintenance piece, this being their first time working with the jet. Everybody was doing exactly what was expected and it was great.”
The KC-46 maintains air refueling edge through the use of both the refueling boom and drogue systems, allowing for simultaneous air refueling of multiple aircraft with wing pods. It is designed to refuel allied and coalition aircraft and provide multifunctional support, like passenger and cargo transport along with medical and humanitarian relief.
Master Sgt. Jason Craig, 78th ARS boom operator evaluator, exclaimed how exciting and educating it will be to work with the different mission sets and capabilities of the KC-46. He explained how the new jet offers the opportunity to work with additional mission partners such as the 514th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron where they previously had no interaction within KC-10 Extender operations.
“Switching from the KC-135 Stratotanker [and KC-10] to the KC-46 has been a complete game-changer,” said Vermont. “The KC-46 is a totally different beast. The KC-135 was a work-horse, that jet would go and go and go but its mission capabilities were limited. With the KC-46 we can get closer to the fight, we can carry cargo, we can carry all the fighters’ equipment as we go places; it’s amazing what we can do with this jet.”
While this first flight focused on air-refueling, the 305th and 514th AMW’s have already begun ground training for Aeromedical Evacuation and hope to begin testing in-air Aeromedical Evacuation and cargo missions in the following year.
“I’m excited to see how Joint Base MDL will contribute to the KC-46 enterprise,” said Maj. Kristi Miner, 305th Operations Group chief pilot. “Over the next year, we will start flying operational missions and see the number of qualified pilots and boom operators increase dramatically. It will be awesome to see the progress.”