The KC-46A Pegasus deployed both its probe and drogue and boom refueling systems last week, extending the drogue refueling baskets from all three points on the aircraft, as well as the fuselage-mounted “flying boom,” according to an Air Force release.
KC-46A aircraft EMD-2 extended the drogue refueling baskets from the Centerline Drogue System (CDS) located on the belly of the fuselage ahead of the boom, as well as the Wing Aerial Refueling Pods (WARPs) mounted beneath each wing on Oct. 8. The following day, EMD-2 deployed the flying boom, extending the telescoping boom that plugs into the receptacles located on the vast majority of Air Force aircraft.
While both systems of aerial refueling are familiar and well tested, the KC-46A brings important new capability to the Air Force. Not only can the Pegasus conduct both probe and drogue and flying boom refueling on the same mission, it can trail three drogues at the same time. Formerly only about 20 KC-10 Extenders had this capability, added as a modification to the aircraft’s existing centerline boom and hose and drogue systems. Similarly, a number of KC-135Rs were modified with wing pods added for probe and drogue refueling, and a drogue could be trailed from the boom, but the aircraft would then be incapable of boom refueling in this condition.
The KC-46A will therefore be capable of refueling Air Force aircraft with the flying boom system as well as those of the few other nations that use the system. The aircraft’s boom is capable of transferring up to 1200 gallons of fuel per minute. The centerline hose and drogue unit and underwing WARPs will transfer fuel at up to 400 gallons per minute, and allow the KC-46A to refuel Air Force helicopters and Navy and Marine Corps aircraft – as well as the aircraft of many NATO allies and partner nations – with the more commonly used probe and drogue system. Upcoming flights will test the refueling systems, including the first hook-ups and actual transfers of fuel between the Pegasus and many different aircraft.