While the KC-46 Pegasus aerial refueling tanker is still in development, Air Force Air Mobility Command is already pondering what comes next.
Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, AMC commander, said he is often asked why he is already looking at modernization of the tanker fleet while the Boeing-built KC-46 has yet to be deployed. The follow-on to that program has already been dubbed the KC-Y.
“Because there are 179 of them,” he said of the number of planned Pegasus buys. “I’ve got 300 other tankers to replace, roughly,” he told reporters in Washington, D.C.
“The most heavy demand of my assets are the air refuelers. ... There is just an insatiable need for gas. There just is,” Everhart said.
“It’s a tanker war,” he said of the conflict in the Middle East. “You can’t do it without [them]. It’s not a boastful thing. It’s just a fact,” he added.
From 2012 to 2016, the KC-135 overflew its programmed hours by 237 percent and the KC-10 by 178 percent, he said.
As far as the KC-Y, the Air Force is working on a capabilities-based assessment that will inform the service as to what the future tanker might be. “All options will be on the table,” he said.
That might include a Bravo model of the KC-46, an entirely new aircraft using technologies that are experimental today, or an off-the-shelf model made by a U.S. or foreign manufacturer. Since a new generation of airlifters will be needed around the same time, the Air Force may acquire one aircraft that can do both jobs, he suggested. (end of excerpt)
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