Defense Media Network

KC-46A Completes First Aerial Refueling


The Air Force’s KC-46A Pegasus tanker successfully completed its first refueling flight over Washington state Jan. 24, 2016, according to a Boeing news release.

Flying at 20,000 feet, the tanker offloaded 1,600 pounds of fuel to an F-16 after working through a series of test points during the 5 hour, 43-minute flight.

“Today’s flight is an important milestone for the Air Force/Boeing team because it kicks off the Milestone C aerial refueling demonstration, which is the prerequisite for the low-rate initial production decision,” said Col. Christopher Coombs, U.S. Air Force KC-46 system program manager. “We have a lot of work yet to do, but this is an exciting time for the airmen who are preparing to fly, maintain and support the KC-46 Pegasus for decades to come.”

“The boom was extremely stable – it handled like it was an extension of my arm.”

Boeing and Air Force refueling operators both made multiple contacts with the F-16 to confirm that KC-46A EMD-2 was ready to transfer fuel. Air Force Master Sgt. Lindsay Moon flew the tanker’s 56-foot flying boom downward and fully extended the boom into the F-16’s refueling receptacle after the fighter had moved into position below. The KC-46A’s refueling system automatically shut off the pumps when the transfer was complete.

“The refueling boom’s handling qualities throughout the flight were exceptional,” said Rickey Kahler, Boeing KC-46 air refueling operator who also guided the boom during contacts with the F-16 while sitting in the tanker’s state-of-the-art refueling operator station in the front of the tanker. “The boom was extremely stable – it handled like it was an extension of my arm.”

EMD-2, which first flew Sept. 25, 2015 and has now completed 32 flights, will soon begin refueling other aircraft, including a C-17, F/A-18, A-10 and AV-8B.

The program’s first test aircraft (EMD-1), a 767-2C, has flown more than 260 flight test hours since its first flight in December 2014. The next two of a total of four test aircraft – EMD-3 and EMD-4 – are scheduled to begin flight-testing later this year. The Air Force’s contract, awarded in 2011, calls for up to 179 of the multirole tankers.