Thursday, July 16, 2020

U.S. Air Force receives first KC-46A Pegasus aircraft

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First KC-46A Pegasus tankers landed at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, in the newest addition to the Air Force’s strategic arsenal.

On 25 January, team McConnell’s Total Force crews delivered the first two KC-46A Pegasus aircraft to the Home of Air Refueling – in the Air Capital of the World. 

“This day will go down in history as a win for Team McConnell and the Air Force as a whole,” said Col. Josh Olson, 22nd ARW commander. “With this aircraft, McConnell will touch the entire planet.”

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Since being selected as the first Main Operating Base in 2014, McConnell Airmen have been preparing to ensure their readiness to receive the Air Force’s newest aircraft.

Contractors constructed a KC-46 maintenance hangar, technical training dormitories, air traffic control tower, fuselage trainer and many other facilities specifically for the Pegasus’ arrival. These projects brought $267 million to the local economy by employing Kansas workers and using local resources.

Aircrew members simulated KC-46 flights, boom operators practiced cargo loading and the 22nd Maintenance Group created a training timeline for the KC-46 enterprise.

Working with aircraft manufacturer Boeing, McConnell maintenance Airmen have been developing new technical orders for three years. They streamlined processes and got hands-on exposure to the jet in Seattle.

“Some of us have been involved in this program for years and it has given us time to become experts as far as the technical data goes,” said Staff Sgt. Brannon Burch, 22nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron KC-46 flying crew chief. “Knowing it is one thing, but having hands-on experience on our flightline is what we all crave. We’re just happy the wait’s over, and we finally get to get our hands dirty on the Pegasus – It’s almost surreal.” 

The KC-46 team at McConnell is comprised of Airmen with a variety of backgrounds from other aircraft who bring different aspects of expertise to the multi-faceted new tanker. 

Photo by Airman Michaela Slanchik

According to Boeing, McConnell, in Wichita, Kan., will receive two more tankers in the weeks ahead. Then Oklahoma’s Altus Air Force Base will receive four planes to support aircrew training.

The Air Force will soon begin evaluating the KC-46’s systems in operationally realistic scenarios, which is required before the aircraft can be used in combat. It will also continue validating the KC-46’s refueling capabilities, with aircraft including the B-2 bomber, C-5 cargo plane, and F-35 fighter. Prior testing involved the B-52 bomber, C-17 cargo plane, and F-15E and F/A-18 fighters, among others.

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Executive Editor

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