Home Air US Air Force’s new KC-46A tanker flies record 36-hour mission

US Air Force’s new KC-46A tanker flies record 36-hour mission

KC-46A Pegasus record mission
KC-46A Pegasus receives fuel from another KC-46A during a 36-hour endurance mission, November 16, 2022. Photo: US Air Force

A KC-46A Pegasus tanker from the US Air Force’s 157th Air Refueling Wing at Pease Air National Guard Base flew a 36-hour non-stop endurance mission covering 16,000 miles.

The flight took place between November 16 and 17 and represents the Air Mobility Command’s longest mission to date.

“This extended mission is yet another example of capable Airmen taking charge and moving out to accelerate our employment of the KC-46A,” said Gen. Mike Minihan, AMC commander. “This Total Force mission boldly highlights the imperative to think differently, change the way we do business, and provide options to the Joint Force.”

The KC-46 achieved the milestone after flying with only one pilot last month, in a test that “validated procedures for operating with a limited aircrew for certain potential high-end combat scenarios.”

The crew leveraged the KC-46A’s secure and unclassified networks and situational awareness systems, which allows for a broad array of future uses. The platform’s situational awareness capabilities enable its protection in contested environments.

Lt. Col. Joshua Renfro, AMC’s new KC-46A Cross-Functional team lead, described the importance of the mission.

“Pease’s accomplishment of this mission is the third consecutive success proving the KC-46A’s airborne persistence, building on previous 22- and 24-hour missions,” he said. “AMC is committed to a deliberate approach to broaden the scope of KC-46A employment and its global command and control capabilities.”

A human performance monitor aboard the flight collected quantitative data throughout the mission. This data, along with that collected during the other recent 20+ hour missions, will be used to inform decision making for future norm-breaking employment opportunities.

In another unique turn, the information detailed in this release was sent to AMC leadership using the aircraft’s on-board communications links during flight. Following its record-breaking sortie, the aircraft landed “Code 1” – ready to fly with no discrepancies.

The KC-46A Pegasus provides strategic flexibility to the Air Force through its blend of persistence and presence. Since every KC-46A can itself be refueled in flight, each aircraft can persist in operations areas to enable sustained support to armed aircraft. During the mission, the aircraft refueled F-22 fighters in the Pacific and was itself refueled three times.