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.

The next objective is to pair the KC-46 with another strategic bomber of the United States Air Force, the Rockwell B-1 Lancer.

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In what could probably be seen as a move to reassure its future customer (namely the U.S. Air Force), Boeing just achieved a successful refuelling from one KC 46 Pegasus to another. This plane has known several delays and was the target of criticism by the United States Secretary of Air Force, Heather Wilson, who said Boeing was too enthusiastic about the project.
 

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.