KC-46A Tanker Approved for Air-Refueling of Five More Aircraft

The US Air Force has approved the Boeing KC-46A Pegasus in-flight refueling tanker for the aerial resupply of five more types of aircraft.

The new aircraft are the AC-130J Ghostrider, HC-130J Combat King II, MC-130J Commando II, C-5M Super Galaxy, and E-3G Sentry during US Transportation Command-tasked missions.  

“The KC-46A can now support nearly 70 percent of all receiver aircraft that request air refueling support from USTRANSCOM,” AMC deputy chief Lt. Col. Kevin White said. 

“In addition, we are putting the Pegasus against our highest priority missions such as direct Presidential support,” he added.  

In July, the first Interim Capability Release (ICR) decision cleared the KC-46A to refuel aircraft using its centreline drogue system. A second ICR decision in August cleared the jet to refuel the B-52, C-17, and other KC-46As using the boom-type refueling system. It also added F-15 and F-16s to the list in October.

An F-16 receives fuel from a KC-46 Pegasus during a flutter mission at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, 2019. Image: USAF Tech. Sgt. John Raven

Next Stage of Air-Refueling Capabilities

The KC-46A Pegasus is a widebody, multirole tanker that can refuel all US and coalition military aircraft compatible with international aerial refueling procedures. It is designed to carry passengers and cargo and is equipped with robust defensive and tactical situational awareness systems.

“The KC-46 can detect, avoid, defeat, and survive threats using multiple layers of protection, which will enable it to operate safely in medium-threat environments,” Boeing said in a statement last month.

The refueling aircraft has completed over 6,000 missions, offloading more than 50 million pounds of fuel to other aircraft through its boom and hose-and-drogue systems.

Boeing delivered its first KC-46A to Japan in October, marking the first delivery of the aerial refueling jet outside the US. The US government also approved the sale of eight KC-46 tankers to the Israeli Air Force in February.

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