A United States Air Force (USAF) Boeing KC-46A Pegasus refueled a CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft belonging to the Air Force Special Operations Command for the first time.
This milestone was announced by the USAF’s 27th Special Operations Wing on June 9, 2022. The mission took place over Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico on June 1, 2022.
The CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft and its crew belonged to the 20th Special Operations Squadron while the KC-46A was from the 349th Air Refueling Squadron. The refueling was carried out using the KC-46A’s centerline drogue system.
“This capability allows the KC-46 to the refuel the Osprey and other drogue compatible receiver aircraft without any modification,” said Major Benjamin Chase, the KC-46 aircraft commander. “This is important because it enables flexibility in mission planning and limits the amount of maintenance it takes to prepare for air refueling, especially compared to most aircraft in the legacy tanker fleet.”
The Boeing CV-22 Osprey is a tiltrotor aircraft, capable of vertical takeoffs with the ability to hover like a helicopter. Once airborne, the engines can rotate through 90 degrees, effectively turning the aircraft into a long-range, high-speed turboprop.
“The CV-22 is specifically designed for long-range missions, and when you add on top of that an aerial refueling capability you can extend that distance to the point where you’re only limited by how long the crew is able to fly,” said Major Anthony Belviso, the CV-22 aircraft commander. “The KC-46 can get enough fuel to get multiple CV-22s that much further both into and out of combat.”
The KC-46 Pegasus was intended to replace the KC-135 Stratotanker and KC-10 Extender and reinforce the overstretched refueling capabilities of the USAF. But the aircraft has encountered multiple technical problems since the first delivery on January 10, 2019.
After most of its intended missions were suspended, the KC-46A was eventually cleared to conduct everyday refueling missions from its centerline drogue system on July 9, 2021. The USAF Air Mobility Command has been progressively expanding the capabilities of its new aircraft.