KC-46 Begins Initial Operational Test and Evaluation at McConnell

The sixth KC-46A Pegasus to be assigned to McConnell AFB, Kan., lands at the base May 17, 2019. Air Force photo by A1C Alexi Myrick.

A KC-46 assigned to McConnell AFB, Kan., the new tanker’s first operating base, refueled two F-16s earlier this month, kicking off initial operational test and evaluation.

The 344th Air Refueling Squadron conducted the first IOT&E flight on June 4, refueling the fighters four times and offloading about 29,000 pounds of fuel.

“We were testing the processes and procedures to make sure that they were validated and adequate,” Capt. Christopher Cahill, 344th ARS KC-46 IOT&E instructor pilot, said in a release. “We were looking for, basically, positive outcomes—run the checklist, confirm that it was completed and done appropriately, and that the jet responded accordingly.”

The flight is the latest in a series of milestone refuelings for the aircraft. In April, the KC-46 made its first refueling contact with a B-2 bomber during a sortie out of Edwards AFB, Calif.

“Testing with the B-2 was a pretty big deal for us,” said Jamie Smith, 418th FLTS lead aerial refueling engineer, in a June 5 Edwards release. “It is the first aircraft that has such a dark paint scheme and it takes up quite a large portion of the Remote Vision System screen. We were all really interested to see how the RVS would react with the B-2.”

Days later at Edwards, a KC-46 conducted its first refueling with a C-5. The tanker has now flown a series of test sorties with the Super Galaxy, the largest aircraft the KC-46 will refuel, and has refueled the B-2, C-5, F-35, EC-130H, F-22, F-15E, F-16, F/A-18, AV-8B, C-17, B-52, A-10, KC-10, KC-135, as well as other KC-46s.

McConnell followed the June 4 flight with another June 7 in which a KC-46 received fuel from another Pegasus. The Air Force began receiving the tankers early this year, with deliveries beginning in February, though three “category one” deficiencies remain on the jet. While IOT&E testing begins, these deficiencies are expected to remain for years with a continued impact on the ability to conduct test flights, the Government Accountability Office said in a report this week.