The KC-46 Pegasus, a militarized version of the civilian Boeing 767 airliner, has completed its very first air-to-air refueling. The Pegasus transferred a total of 1,600 pounds of fuel to an F-16 while flying over the skies of Washington State.
The refueling was a remarkably short part of the nearly six-hour flight, considering the KC-46's planned transfer rate of 1,200 gallons per minute. Back of the napkin arithmetic shows fuel was transferred for just 12 seconds. Instead of trying to transfer as much fuel as possible, though, the real purpose of the test was to assess the performance of the refueling boom. According to a US Air Force statement obtained by Defense News, it was stable and performed well during the test transfer.
"The boom was extremely stable – it handled like it was an extension of my arm," Master Sgt. Lindsay Moon, the KC-46's boom operator, said in a Boeing statement.
The successful test is a prerequisite before low-rate initial production kicks off. As part of its contract with the USAF, Boeing will deliver 18 tankers by August 2017. The Air Force is planning to buy a total of 179 KC-46s in the coming years, although that's less than half of its current KC-135 complement. That tells us that while replacement aircraft will begin trickling into airbases in the coming years, it will be a long time before the 60-year-old KC-135 is officially retired from service.