The KC-46 Pegasus has reached two important milestones this week by receiving certification testing to refuel the F-35 fighter jet, and completing its first refueling of a B-2 strategic bomber.
Edward Air Force Base announced on June 4, 2019, that the two squadrons overseeing respective of of the KC-46 Pegasus and of the F-35 Lightning II, completed receiver certification testing with the platforms.
“The ability for the F-35 to receive fuel from the KC-46 is a tremendous capability for the warfighter,” said Tucker Hamilton, director of the F-35 testing. “Through our combined test effort, the F-35 will soon gain clearance that is the foundation of an aircraft pairing, F-35 and KC-46, that will define the battlespace for decades to come.”
A day later, on June 5, 2019, Edward AFB said that the KC-46 had successfully completed the first aerial refueling of a B-2 Spirit. “The flying wing design of the B-2 poses unique challenges to the flying and handling qualities of the tanker-receiver pair,” said Matthew Gray, test pilot and flight commander of the 419th FLTS.
Boeing recently released in-flight footage of the certification testing for refueling the EC-130 Compass Call electronic attack aircraft.
— Boeing Defense (@BoeingDefense) June 4, 2019
The next objective is to pair the KC-46 with another strategic bomber of the United States Air Force, the Rockwell B-1 Lancer.
An unexpected customer
Jeff Shockey, the vice president of Global Sales and Marketing for Defense, Space & Security at Boeing, announced during Shangri-La Dialogue, a forum that took place from May 31 to June 2, 2019, in Singapore, that the United Arab Emirates had issued a formal request to acquire three KC-46A Pegasus.
This came as a surprise, as the UAE Air Force already has three A330 MRTT tanker aircraft, delivered by Airbus, and managing two different types of aircraft should only complicate maintenance, training and crew management.