A Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tanker successfully conducted its first probe and drogue refueling Feb. 10, according to a Boeing news release.
A combined Boeing and U.S. Air Force aircrew successfully refueled an F/A-18 “Legacy” Hornet flying at 20,000 feet, transferring fuel from the tanker’s wing and centerline hose and drogue systems during the 4-hour flight test.
The KC-46A was designed from the start to incorporate both the “flying boom” aerial refueling system and probe and drogue systems in order to enable it to refuel virtually the entire inventory of U.S., allied, and coalition aircraft.
The U.S. Air Force is the leading proponent of the flying boom aerial refueling system, in which a boom operator aboard the tanker “flies” the probe into a refueling receptacle on the nose or spine of the receiving aircraft. A handful of other nations also use the system. More common is the probe and drogue system employed by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps and many more foreign air arms, in which the receiver aircraft plugs an extendable or fixed “probe” into a basket trailing at the end of a long flexible hose. The boom can transfer up to 1,200 gallons per minute, while the hose and drogue systems beneath each wing and on the tanker’s centerline can transfer up to 400 gallons per minute.
While this is the first successful test of the hose and drogue systems, a KC-46 refueled an F-16 earlier this year using its flying boom system.