ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
Since the announcement in 2014 that the KC-46A Pegasus was going to find its home with the 97th Air Mobility Wing, the base has been eagerly awaiting its arrival. No group has been more excited than the 56th Air Refueling Squadron, the KC-46 formal training unit assigned to Altus Air Force Base.
“There was one commander of this squadron who didn’t even have an aircraft,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Brent Toth, commander of the 56th ARS. “I’m blessed with the opportunity to be in the chair as a commander when the KC-46 finally gets here. We’ve been waiting for a while so we couldn’t be more excited.”
With the KC-46 scheduled to arrive to Altus AFB on Feb. 8, 2019, it needs a way to get here from its manufacturing location in Washington state. This means that the 56th ARS is getting the opportunity to fly their first mission in the aircraft.
“We’re sending a crew to Boeing on Feb. 5, so that we can get our plane,” said Toth.
The 56th ARS crew consists of KC-46 boom operators, pilots and the first KC-46 maintainers. The crew will meet with not only Boeing personnel, but various officials from the United States government and Air Force as well.
“There’s no one better to represent the Air Force than the crew we’re sending,” said Toth. “Each member was hand selected for being top of the line in every way in their Air Force career. They’re the best of the best and this allows us to share with the world what the Air Force has to offer.”
While the rest of the base prepares to celebrate the arrival of the KC-46, the 56th ARS is getting ready for the work to come with it.
“After it gets here, we need to make sure everyone gets their time with it,” said Toth. “The maintainers need to get comfortable; we need to make sure the fire department and security forces can get on it and can do what they need to do. It’ll take about two weeks but as soon as that time comes, we’re going to be flying it.”
While a series of firsts are on their way to the 97th AMW, the 56th ARS made history on Feb. 4, 2019. Toth signed the first set of flight orders. This signifies the official beginning of the mission to receive the KC-46, an aircraft with unique capabilities.
“It’s a historic time,” said Toth. “Signing flight orders then getting the plane. It’s an innovative aircraft. All the aircraft are air refuel-able as well as being a tanker. It allows us to be closer to the fight with systems that the KC-135 and KC-10 don’t have.”
After five years since the initial announcement, the 97th AMW is at last in the final steps of bringing the KC-46 home.
“It’s a big time for not just the 56th ARS and not just the 97th AMW,” said Toth. “This is big for the entire Air Force. I speak for everyone [at the squadron] when I say we’re incredibly honored.”