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KC-46 joins the fight

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Zachary Willis
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

 Airmen from McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, showcased the KC-46A Pegasus during RED FLAG-Alaska 22-1 for the first time as the United States Air Force's newest aerial refueler.

RF-A is a Pacific Air Force directed field training exercise for the United States and international forces flown under simulated air combat conditions with primary flight operations over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex.

"RF-A for the KC-46 is a rare opportunity to employ in a tactical environment that tankers don't often get to train in," said Captain Ken Stricker, 344th Air Refueling Squadron KC-46 pilot. "It gives us the opportunity to mission plan and execute training against simulated real-world threats."

RF-A and its predecessor, Cope Thunder, have been regularly scheduled exercises for more than 40 years and are focused on improving combat readiness. The tanker enterprise consisting primarily of the KC-135 Stratotanker and KC-10 Extender has supported previous RF-A iterations, and now the KC-46 has joined to help further advance the aerial refueling mission.

During the exercise, the KC-46 advanced the aerial refueling mission with limited versions of its aerial refueling, cargo, and aeromedical missions with the ability to refuel 85 percent of all Joint Force aircraft. Red Flag's fast-paced mission would not be accomplished effectively and efficiently without the tanker enterprise. The tankers ensure aircraft don't have to land to receive more fuel, keeping aircraft in flight for the fight.

"RF-A is different from other mobility-centric exercises in the sense that it allows us to integrate with the Combat Air Force," said Stricker. "We are able to showcase our capabilities and demonstrate our ability to help our CAF assets stay in the fight longer."

The approximately 90 aircraft from the 25 units participating during this iteration of the exercise have a limited amount of fuel and rely on tankers to keep them in the air to continue training, enabling them to exchange tactics, techniques, and procedures while improving interoperability with fellow service members and international partners.

"Being able to participate in exercises like RF-A gives us the opportunity to bridge the gap between the CAF and Mobility Air Force," said Stricker. "It allows our aircrew members and support personnel to better understand the tactical challenges faced by the CAF. This better understanding of each other's capabilities helps us fight together more effectively."