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Coming soon to a base near you: KC-46A Pegasus

A KC-46A Pegasus takes flight.

A KC-46A Pegasus takes flight. Altus Air Force Base, Okla. will be the training base for aircrew of the KC-46. (Courtesy photo by Boeing)

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Altus Air Force Base’s priority is to train C-17 Globemaster III and KC-135 Stratotanker aircrew to extend global mobility reach for the U.S. Air Force. In the near future, aircrew for the soon-to be implemented KC-46A Pegasus will be training here.

The KC-46 will broaden the Air Force’s global reach by increasing in-flight refueling capabilities. The new aircraft will enhance overall war-fighting capabilities through secondary missions and maximizing it’s advanced systems to ensure mission success for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and allied countries.

“Since the KC-46 is coming to Altus, there has been an increase in manning to prepare the base,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Darin Dial, operations officer assigned to the 56th Air Refueling Squadron. “The 56th ARS was activated August 2016 and we have been preparing for the KC-46 since then. New construction and infrastructure improvements to support the new airframe and subsequent training operations are underway, as is training of operations and maintenance personnel.”

The KC-46 has the ability to both receive and deliver fuel, which enables it to train with both aircraft at Altus AFB. The KC-46 also has secure communications, defensive systems, tactical situation awareness system, night vison compatibility, digitally-aided air refueling taskings and fuel consolidation capability. These improvements were designed to enhance operations and increase mission effectiveness.

The KC-46 is being acquired as a better equipped tanker. The KC-46 will supplement and operate side by side with the KC-135 for many years to come. This is part of the Air Force’s long-term plan for improved tankers in the operational field.

“The KC-135 isn’t going anywhere any time soon,” said Dial. “The KC-135 is still a capable aircraft with plenty of personnel who operate within it. The KC-46 has better capabilities like being able to use boom and a centerline drogue system on the same sortie without needing to land to swap them. A drogue is used for a wider range of aircraft usually affiliated with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and NATO. The aircraft also has Wing Air Refueling Pods that enable multiple refueling operations at once.”

While being used mainly as a tanker, the KC-46 also has the capacity to transport cargo or passengers.

The KC-46 can be arranged into three different variations. The aircraft supporting personnel only can transport 58 passengers during normal operations and 114 passengers during emergency airlift operations. In its cargo configuration it can carry up to 18 standard cargo pallets which is the same amount as the C-17 and three times the amount for the KC-135. For the aircraft’s aeromedical evacuation configuration it can transport 54 medical patients and has onboard emergency oxygen and electrical power.

Altus AFB has already been training KC-135 and the C-17 aircrew for the mobility Air Force. With the addition of the KC-46 to the base, the capability of extending global mobility reach has increased and allows for better air support for the U.S. military and foreign allies.