MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. --
The 22nd Air Refueling Wing recently completed the first-ever alert launch and response with a KC-46A Pegasus at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, which highlighted the speed and efficiency of the aircraft, and the crew's response to a threat or emergency.
“It’s a real privilege to be able to be involved with KC-46 operational testing and be part of many ‘firsts’ for the KC-46,” said Capt. Taylor Johnson, 22nd Operations Support Squadron, KC-46A Pegasus mission pilot. “What the groundwork crews are laying now will shape the KC-46 enterprise for decades to come.”
The sortie is the first-ever be completed and marks a milestone for the KC-46A. The alert culminates six months of preparation that incorporate the lessons the crew learned and practiced to get the KC-46 operational and in the air in the shortest amount of time.
“Alert missions exist all over the globe and assist in missions ranging from homeland defense to strategic deterrence to search and rescue,” said Capt. Seth Jackson, 344th Air Refueling Squadron, aircraft commander. “The KC-46 provides combatant commanders unmatched strategic flexibility through the ability to enhance multi-domain operations as well as tactical flexibility afforded by the KC-46’s ability to conduct boom or drogue refueling at any time.”
Sitting or conducting alerts play a crucial role in responding to any threats or anomalies to protect the nation from attacks or aggressive actions from potential adversaries. Alert shifts can vary in length but typically last several days. The crew’s movements can be to a singular facility or a small radius, depending on the response time needed for the alert. The team must be ready to work at a moment’s notice.
When responding to an alert, crews can wake up in the dead of night to an alarm, or they may encounter an alert signal that mirrors a typical circadian sleeping pattern. Regardless of the situation, crews understand the gravity of the moment and react with a heightened sense of urgency to the launch. This sense of hyper-focus usually doesn’t dissipate until after the aircraft is airborne and at cruise when standard operational patterns begin to take over.
“Successful alert launches, especially when your crew can truly make a difference by extending close air support for troops in contact, or refueling an aircraft that is close to running out of gas, always generate a high level of satisfaction and pride in the professionalism and expertise we work hard to refine,” said Jackson. “This pride and knowing that you helped someone on their worst day makes the stress and demands of an alert response worth it.”