USAF exploring single-pilot KC-46 operations

USAF / Wikipedia

The US Air Force is investigating an option to fly the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus tanker with just a two-person crew consisting of one pilot and a boom operator. 

The configuration would be used in dangerous missions, with the purpose of minimizing casualties. 

USAF Command is currently working on minimum flight crew requirements, as well as new tactics, techniques and procedures, the service’s spokesperson told Air Force Times. 

According to the website The War Zone, officials at McConnell Air Force Base submitted a request for a waiver that would allow such operations. 

Normally, the KC-46 operates with a minimum of three people on board: a pilot, a co-pilot and a boom operator, with additional personnel, such as mission specialists,  if necessary. 

An ability to fly with a reduced crew would minimize casualties in the event of a war, in addition to helping with the pilot shortage USAF experiences, the reports claim. 

The proposal was met with criticism on social media, with various defense analysts bringing up the problematic image of the KC-46. 

The new tanker, adopted in 2019, had a troubled development cycle. USAF identified a host of problems with the aircraft and stopped taking deliveries from Boeing on two occasions. Currently, the aircraft is allowed for only limited operational use, because several dozen out of hundreds of discovered deficiencies have now been classified as critical. 

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