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NEWS | March 31, 2023

Bomber Task Force: KC-46 Aircraft fuels interoperability during 12th AF (AFSOUTH) mission

By Senior Airman Matt Porter 87th Air Base Wing

Aircrew members assigned to the 305th Air Mobility Wing departed from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. to refuel a Bomber Task Force mission during a 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Partner Interoperability Training mission with partner nations on March 24, 2023.

Two KC-46A Pegasus refueled a B-52H Stratofortress over the Caribbean as a demonstration of the United States’ commitment to the defense of Latin America, deterrence of threats, and to maintain security of its regional partners through the employment of Rapid Global Mobility.

In September 2022, U.S. Air Force Gen. Michael Minihan, commander of Air Mobility Command, approved the KC-46A for worldwide use in support of Combatant Command taskings, including combat operations. His approval drove lethality and meaningful maneuver for the joint force, as well as partners and allies, by providing extended reach and increased decision advantage through battlespace awareness.

“We were able to operate the KC-46A in a different region of the world than what we normally would, allowing our crews to gain some valuable lessons learned in a foreign environment,” said Col. Liz Hanson, 305th Air Mobility Wing commander. “Operating with different receivers, at new airfields, and in foreign airspaces helps our overall readiness. As a result, through missions like this we’re better prepared for future operations, from disaster relief to humanitarian support, regional security, and much more.”

The era of strategic competition calls for new operational concepts with allies and partners to be successful in a high-intensity warfighting scenario and requires aircraft that can survive and operate in a high-threat environment. Legacy tankers like the KC-10 Extender and KC-135 Stratotanker have demonstrated their value for decades, and new tankers like the KC-46A builds upon legacy tankers’ decade-long value, generating a new ecosystem of air dominance.

“This KC-46A mission was operated with basic aircrew at an airfield completely new to the 305th AMW,” said Maj. Gage Owens, 305th Air Mobility Wing inspector general. “This required the aircrew to work with the local airfield manager on parking and servicing the aircraft. Our flying crew chiefs also worked with aircrew through various ground servicing operations, helping to build valuable relationships and share best practices.”

The KC-46A, combined with enhancements to the KC-135 Stratotanker fleet, will in turn offer the survivability and lethality necessary for the Joint Force to achieve victory, including providing reliable and predictable refueling capacity and medical evacuation.

The U.S. also maintains a credible strategic bomber force that enhances the security and stability of allies and partners globally. Bomber missions such as this enable crews to maintain readiness, proficiency, and validation of the U.S.’ always-ready global strike capability.

By providing air refueling to a BTF mission in support of the regional security of our partner nations, the KC-46A reached an important milestone. Going forward, the aircraft is now validated as a force multiplier in support of strategic deterrence against the DoD’s pacing challenge and peer adversaries.