MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- Members of Team McConnell were the first to support a long-range extended operation for the KC-46A Pegasus.
Airmen from the 22nd and 931st Air Refueling Wings supported the two week temporary duty assignment at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, from Oct. 15-29, 2020. The crew was comprised of more than 60 people who were responsible for completing both the refueling and cargo missions, as well as accomplishing logistics and maintenance requirements.
“It was an exciting mission to be a part of,” said Capt. Ryan Smith, 344th Air Refueling Squadron pilot. “Just to see that we can take a contingent of people into an aircraft and operate anywhere in the world is incredible.”
Although the aircraft traveled overseas previously, this was the first time that the KC-46 sustained continuous aerial refueling support overseas for an extended period of time with its own resources.
The crew comprised of maintenance, aircrew and cyber defense Airmen accomplished 87 aircraft refuels. They were able to successfully offload more than half a million pounds of fuel to various aircraft to include the C-17 Globemaster III, MC-130 Combat Talon II and Department of the Navy F/A-18 Hornets.
“It took a lot of work to make a two-week extended mission in a new aircraft happen,” said Tech. Sgt. Clay Wonders, 344th ARS in-flight refueling specialist. Wonders continued by saying the experience paid off for future missions across the globe.
Wonders said that since this was the first mission of its kind in the KC-46, logistically they had to establish their en route support structure. This provided the framework to allow maintenance and support personnel to service the aircraft during its two-week duty assignment.
The team completed more than 27 missions throughout the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. Each mission lasted eight to ten hours and also extended aerial refueling capabilities to the south and west Pacific regions.
Even with the success of the aerial refueling operations, the crew overcame communication challenges due to the time difference.
“There was a 15 hour difference between us and Scott AFB, who we would have to coordinate all of our oceanic [mission] changes through,” said Smith.
Smith added that the pandemic presented another set of challenges as each member of the crew was required to be tested for COVID-19 prior to their departure.
Despite these unique circumstances, the operational support team was able to successfully complete the KC-46’s first extended operational mission overseas.