KC-46 Flies Around-the-World Training Mission

A KC-46 Pegasus tanker has circumnavigated the globe for the first time, the Air Force announced Dec. 19.

A KC-46 from the 22nd Air Refueling Wing at McConnell AFB, Kan., took off Nov. 13 and spent 13 days traveling around the world for training before landing at home Nov. 26. The trip included stops at RAF Mildenhall, England, and at the Dubai Airshow, according to a Dec. 19 Air Mobility Command release.

A 22nd Air Refueling Wing KC-46A refuels a C-17 Globemaster III from JB Lewis McChord’s 62nd Airlift Wing over the Arabian Gulf, Nov. 23, 2019. Photo: SSgt. Daniel Snider.

The tanker flew seven legs over the course of its journey.

“We have worked with our partners at the Tanker Airlift Control Center on previous overseas missions, but our movement across the Atlantic [Ocean], Indian Ocean, and the South Pacific allowed us to truly flex the system,” Col. Thad Middleton, commander of the 22nd Operations Group, said in the release. “It goes without saying, but the crew members gained invaluable training in terms of oceanic procedures, unfamiliar airfield operations and dynamic mission planning.”

Pegasus Dubai Airshow 2019
22nd Air Refueling Wing Operations Group Commander Col. Thad Middleton, greets air show attendees by the Pegasus during the Dubai Airshow on Nov. 19, 2019. Photo: 2nd Lt. Kaitlyn Danner.

Following the Dubai stop, the KC-46 deployed briefly to Al Udeid AB, Qatar, and flew its first refueling mission in US Central Command to assist a C-17. It then moved on to Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia; Andersen AFB, Guam; and JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

“Missions like this are instrumental in helping our airmen work through the challenges we’ve experienced with the KC-46 program,” Col. Richard Tanner, 22nd Air Refueling Wing commander, added in the release. “The operational experience our crews gained during this around-the-globe trip will pay long term dividends as the Pegasus becomes a significant portion of our Air Force’s future tanker fleet.”

Members of McConnell Air Force Base’s first KC-46A Pegasus world flight pose for a photo on the flight line at Diego Garcia, Nov. 23, 2019. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaitlyn Danner. Expand Photo Minimize Photo

The next-generation KC-46 still faces problems with its remote vision system that it uses for refueling, among other issues. It will take another few years before the Pegasus can deploy into operations because of lingering problems that affect the tanker’s ability to refuel other aircraft.