MCCONNELL AFB, Kan. --- Last month, Boeing and the Air Force — including members of McConnell’s 344th Air Refueling Squadron — reached a major milestone through collaboration and agreement to bring a new Remote Vision System to the KC-46A Pegasus, the RVS 2.0.
More than a dozen of 344th ARS air refueling operators, also known as boom operators, tested the aircraft's cameras and displays to develop and eventually upgrade the system during a three-week test cycle at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The KC-46 RVS is a system of cameras and displays that present a 3-D scene of a receiver aircraft to the ARO. The ARO uses visual cues from the RVS to guide the boom into contact with the receiver aircraft and transfer fuel.
“The 344th and McConnell as a whole, really made it a priority to get the boom operators to the Wright-Patterson studies,” said Master Sgt. Justin Thompson, 344th ARS standardization and evaluation flight chief. “There we remained transparent and provided [researchers] with real data and put the RVS system through its paces.”
The 344th ARS sent boom operators varying in experience levels and visual acuity to participate in the testing to provide a wide-range of operator inputs for researchers’ data and to finalize critical factors in the new camera system.
“It's been amazing to work with this team and see what they can accomplish,” said Senior Master Sgt. Lindsay Moon, 344th ARS superintendent.
The RVS 2.0 will include 4k color cameras with proper viewing geometry, operator stations with larger screens, a laser ranger for refueling aircraft distance measurement and boom assistance augmented reality.
“The KC-46 is going to be a game-changing weapons system to the Air Force inventory and McConnell is on the forefront of that,” said Moon. “It’s capabilities alongside the RVS [2.0] are going to drive us to being able to get closer to the fight and provide fuel to the receivers when and where they need it.”
Since becoming the Air Force’s first KC-46 main operating base, Team McConnell and the 344th ARS have played a critical role in increasing safety innovation and overall effectiveness of aerial refueling for the next-generation tanker.
“For much of 2019, McConnell Airmen, the Air Force Research Laboratory, the test enterprise, and AMC and Air Force leaders have invested considerable time and effort into helping Boeing and other stakeholders understand our concerns with the flawed RVS design and the need for a fully-revamped system that will allow us to field a safe and reliable tanker,” said Gen. Maryanne Miller, Air Mobility Command commander. “These efforts have paid off with RVS 2.0, which puts our next-generation tanker finally on a path to operational viability.”