KC-46 Hits Milestone at Edwards AFB
(Source: US Air Force; issued Jan 26, 2019)
The U.S. Air Force’s first KC-46A Pegasus lands on Jan. 25, 2019, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. The KC-46 will serve alongside the KC-135 Stratotanker at McConnell and supply critical refueling, airlift and aeromedical evacuations. (USAF photo)
EDWARDS AFB, Calif. --- Fielding began last week on America’s newest air refueling tanker aircraft – the KC-46 Pegasus. Operationalizing a new military aircraft does not happen often, but when it does, it typically goes through Edwards Air Force Base – the center of the aerospace testing universe. Regardless of whether it is a frequent or a rare occurrence, hitting a milestone like this should be a huge source of pride for our entire team.

Fielding the KC-46 provides a massive boost to our nation’s warfighting capabilities in a world characterized by competition from near-peer adversaries. We would not have reached this point without the amazing accomplishments of the 412th Test Wing.

The KC-46 is not perfect. Yet, strategic leaders at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio and the Pentagon would not have been in a position to field it now without the knowledge we provided to them to understand and mitigate problems. It was our team who discovered faults. It was our team who raised concerns. It was our team who collaborated with the contractors, the program office and the end-users to fix shortcomings.

The warfighter deserves the best capability possible. As such, we will continue to be intimately involved in molding and shaping this new aircraft into a fully-effective and suitable warfighting machine. Along with our operational test, program office and contractor partners, it will be our team who verifies fixes.

It will be our team who ensures that requirements are met. It will be our team who refines the capability into the needs of the warfighter. It will be our team who completes the certifications to refuel the entire range of U.S. and ally military receivers. It will be our team who helps create the roadmap for next-generation refueling capabilities beyond those currently on the drawing board.

It was the Global Reach Combined Test Force and the 418th Flight Test Squadron who played the most significant role in this massive accomplishment. Operations, maintenance, engineering and program management were at the forefront of this substantial test and evaluation effort. Yet, we should never lose sight of the fact that our entire team played a critical role.

It required the efforts of defenders, logisticians, strategic planners, medics, firefighters, trainers, inspectors and educators. It required expertise in communications, contingencies, finance, safety, intelligence, facilities, civil engineering, services, security and personnel. It required those who create a safe environment, a positive climate and a trained workforce.

Ultimately, it required a complete focus on shaping America’s arsenal as we strive together for the warfighter.

The KC-46 will not be the last aircraft whose fielding path comes through our organization, as the U.S. military’s next trainer and next bomber are already on the books to perform the bulk of their testing here. When the time comes for the test and evaluation of America’s next remotely piloted aircraft and newest fighter, they will likely arrive on our doorstep as well. It is because the world knows our team is comprised of reliable experts and focused professionals who provide world-class test and evaluation for the warfighter.

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McConnell AFB Welcomes First KC-46A Pegasus
(Source: US Air Force; issued Jan 25, 2019)
McCONNELL AFB, Kan. – -- Today, 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.

The 22nd Air Refueling Wing and 931st ARW marshalled in the newest addition to the Air Force’s strategic arsenal.

“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.”

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 three new KC-46 maintenance hangars, technical training dormitories, an 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 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.

“Every Airman who was transferred to the KC-46 team was hand-selected specifically to bring this airplane to the fight,” said Lt. Col. Wesley Spurlock, 344th Air Refueling Squadron commander. “They are versatile maintainers, pilots and boom operators who are prepared for any learning curve that comes with a new aircraft.”

The active duty 344th ARS, and Air Force Reserve 924th ARS, will be the first units in the military to operationally fly the KC-46.

“This airplane has a wide variety of capabilities that we haven’t seen here before,” said Spurlock. “We’re going to get our hands on it, then expand on those abilities and see how we can employ them operationally.”

Once Airmen in the Total Force squadrons have perfected their craft on the new aircraft, they will pave the way for the entire KC-46 enterprise and other bases receiving the aircraft in the future by developing tactics, techniques and procedures to share with those units.

“I have never been a part of a unit that is more excited about the mission before them and the legacy they’re going to leave,” said Spurlock.

Today, the waiting ends and integration begins for the next generation of air mobility that will be a linchpin of national defense, global humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations for decades to come.

“For those of us who have spent years watching this process happen, it’s enormously humbling to finally see it come to a close,” said Col. Phil Heseltine, 931st ARW commander. “We are grateful to everyone who is joining us as we fulfill the potential of this amazing new aircraft.

“We are honoring the rich culture that we have been gifted by those who came before us,” said Heseltine. “That culture continues today. For example, the forward fuselage section of the KC-46 is built by Spirit AeroSystems right here in Wichita. This aircraft literally came home today.”

With the KC-46 on the ground at McConnell, the Air Force will begin the next phases of familiarization and initial operations testing and evaluation.

“McConnell Air Force Base is ready!” said Olson.

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Boeing Delivers First Two KC-46A Pegasus Tankers to U.S. Air Force
(Source: Boeing Co.; issued Jan 25, 2019)
EVERETT, Wash. --- The first two Boeing KC-46 Pegasus aircraft departed Everett’s Paine Field this morning for McConnell Air Force Base, where the 22nd Air Refueling Wing will be the first unit to have the world’s newest air refueling tankers.

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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