General Mike Minihan, commander of Air Mobility Command, approved a fourth Interim Capability Release (ICR) mission set for the KC-46A Pegasus on December 6, 2021. This ICR decision allows the KC-46A to refuel the AC-130J Ghostrider, HC-130J Combat King II, MC-130J Commando II, C-5M Super Galaxy and E-3G Sentry during U.S. Transportation Command-tasked missions. The KC-46A ICR plan allows the Pegasus to conduct operational taskings that would otherwise be filled by the KC-135 Stratotanker and KC-10 Extender, increasing the force’s air refueling capacity and further seasoning total force Pegasus aircrews with operational missions.
On July 9, 2021, the first ICR decision approved the KC-46A Pegasus to refuel aircraft using its Centerline Drogue System. The second ICR decision, which approved the KC-46A to refuel the B-52, C-17 and other KC-46 aircraft using its boom, was made Aug. 5, 2021. Approved on Oct. 15, 2021, the third decision allowed the KC-46A to refuel all variants of the F-15 and F-16. There is no timeline associated with the overall ICR plan, which instead focuses on establishing incremental confidence measures that allow the AMC commander and other senior leaders to qualitatively and quantitatively assess achievements at ICR milestones.
“The KC-46A can now support nearly 70 percent of all receiver aircraft that request air refueling support from USTRANSCOM,” said Lt. Col. Kevin White, AMC’s Deputy Chief of Aircraft and Logistics Requirements Division and KC-46A Cross Functional Team Deputy Lead. “In addition, we are putting the Pegasus against our highest priority missions such as direct Presidential support.”
Despite existing restrictions and deficiencies, the KC-46A continues to demonstrate its growing operational capabilities. The Pegasus has completed over 6,000 missions, offloading over 37.8 million pounds of fuel, and making 28,000 boom and 1,900 drogue contacts since January 2019. On Nov. 9, 2021, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst welcomed its first two KC-46As, bringing the total number of KC-46As in the Air Force inventory to 50. The KC-46A currently operates out of McConnell Air Force Base, Kan.; Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.; Pease Air National Guard Base, N.H; and Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma.