The US Air Force’s (USAF’s) Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tanker fleet reached another milestone on June 1, after the type successfully refuelled a CV-22B Osprey tiltrotor in flight for the first time.
Taking place over Cannon Air Force Base (AFB) in New Mexico, the KC-46A – assigned to the 349th Air Refueling Squadron (ARS) at McConnell AFB, Kansas – successfully refuelled a CV-22B from the Cannon-based 20th Special Operations Squadron (SOS) of the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC).
As the latest tanker to join the USAF’s inventory, the KC-46A brings a new capability by having a hose-and-drogue system in the same centreline position as its refuelling boom, requiring no modifications to refuel different receiving aircraft. This capability allows the Pegasus to refuel drogue and basket aircraft such as AFSOC’s CV-22Bs and other aircraft used by the other branches of the US military, including US Marine Corps (USMC) F-35B Lightning IIs and US Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter aircraft.
Thanks to this milestone, AFSOC can now rely on Air Mobility Command (AMC) for quicker air-to-air refuelling operations during real-life missions. AFSOC and the CV-22B are well known for its long-distance missions of transporting troops in and out of combat, so this extended range provided by the KC-46 will be no doubt significant for future operations of AFSOC.
The KC-46A Pegasus has also proven its ability to operate out of austere airfields in recent times, given the common type of mission AFSOC perform, this is clearly another attribution the KC-46A can uniquely provide to the operations of AFSOC and the CV-22 Osprey crews that other strategic tanker aircraft cannot.
Maj Anthony Belviso, aircraft commander of the 20th SOS-operated CV-22B for the flight, said: “Normally, an MC-130J aircraft would have to go up to a tanker to get fuel, then fly to us and give us that fuel, and would have to repeat that process several times. Because [the] KC-46s can refuel us directly, we can go straight to them and get everything done much more quickly.”