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KC-46A conducts first operational international aircraft refueling during Employment Capability Exercise

  • Published
  • By Air Mobility Command Public Affairs

In a major milestone for the KC-46A program, a Pegasus refueled Spanish EF-18 Hornets, known in Spain as C-15s, on April 18, during its first Employment Concept Exercise, ECE 22-03, at Moron Air Base, Spain.

This mission marked the first operational refueling of an international receiver for the KC-46A, paving the way for stronger interoperability with Allies and partners.

“The KC-46A, its aircrews, maintenance and support personnel performed magnificently over the last seven weeks in Spain,” said Gen. Mike Minihan, Air Mobility Command commander. “They pushed hard to run the aircraft through its paces during the ECE, including supporting a bomber task force, refueling U.S. fighters over Eastern Europe, and completing the first-ever operational refueling of an international aircraft. AMC continues to drive toward increased refueling capability while working to overcome programmatic challenges.”  

According to Brig Gen Ryan Samuelson, AMC’s KC-46A Cross Functional Team lead, the Interim Capability Release plan, of which the ECE is a part, has significantly enhanced KC-46A operations over the last 10 months.

“The Pegasus is now cleared to support nearly 85 percent of joint force receivers requesting air refueling from U.S. Transportation Command,” said Samuelson. “ While the ICR brought on KC-46 mission capabilities, the ECE will now operationalize those capabilities across a spectrum of mission scenarios.”

AMC introduced the second phase of ICR on March 10, when Minihan approved the employment of four KC-46As and approximately 220 Active, Guard and Reserve Airmen to Moron AB to conduct the first of a series of ECEs designed to enhance operational fielding and sustainment of the KC-46A.

Throughout ECE 22-03, aircraft and personnel remained under AMC authorities as they validated desired learning objectives and prepared to support theater operational missions as required. The KC-46A ICR plan allows the Pegasus to conduct operational taskings that would otherwise be filled by the KC-135 Stratotanker and KC-10 Extender aircraft, increasing the force’s air refueling capacity and further seasoning total force Pegasus aircrews with operational missions.

The mission also provided an opportunity to build relations with its Spanish hosts and showcase what the Pegasus can bring to international operations with Allies and partners.

Despite existing restrictions and deficiencies, the KC-46A continues to demonstrate its growing operational capabilities. The Pegasus offloaded more than 78 million pounds of fuel and completed more than 34,900 boom and 2,200 drogue contacts since January 2019.

As of April 26, the Air Force has 57 KC-46As in its inventory. The KC-46A currently operates out of McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas; Seymour Johnson Air Reserve Base, North Carolina; Pease Air National Guard Base, New Hampshire; Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst, New Jersey; and Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma.