Metrea, formerly Meta Aerospace, has made history by successfully conducting the first-ever commercial air-to-air refueling of US Air Force aircraft.
The milestone event took place during Exercise Resolute Hunter and involved one of Metrea’s Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers. The first USAF aircraft to receive commercial air-to-air refueling was an RC-135 Rivet Joint from the 55th Wing at Offutt Air Force Base, followed by an E-3 Sentry from the 552nd Air Control Wing at Tinker Air Force Base.
In total, Metrea Strategic Mobility (MSM) carried out four aerial refueling missions between June 23 and June 29, 2023, in supporting the RC-135 and E-3 aircraft during the exercise. This achievement signifies a significant development, as the USAF had not previously utilized commercial aerial refueling services.
The operations included 13 boom contacts and the offloading of nearly 90,000 pounds (about 40 tons) of fuel. These missions provided crucial training opportunities for the RC-135 and E-3 crews, allowing them to extend their participation in the exercise.
“It was fitting that we could support the US Air Force in achieving this major milestone during the same week that we marked the 100th anniversary of aerial refueling,” said Jon Thomas, head of Metrea’s Air and Space Group in a press release. “Our team worked closely with NAVAIR, Air Combat Command, and the receiver RC-135 and E-3 units to pull this off and deliver the training effect needed. We look forward to supporting more US Air Force refueling requirements as well as increasing demand from allies and partners.”
In April 2023, Metrea reached another milestone by conducting the first-ever commercial boom refueling for a US Navy P-8 aircraft.
Addressing the capacity gap
Metrea had acquired four Boeing KC-135R refueling aircraft formerly operated by the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), which replaced them with six A330 MRTT new-generation aerial refuelers. The first KC-135R was delivered to the Washington D.C.-based company on September 30, 2020.
The private tanker fleet will be used to fill the USAF capacity gap caused by the multiple deficiencies and delays of the Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tanker, which was intended gradually to replace the KC-135 and the McDonnell-Douglas KC-10A Extender.