U.S. Air Force KC-46 Tanker Aircraft Completes First Around-The-World Flight

A U.S. Air Force KC-46A Pegasus aerial refueling tanker aircraft, from the 22nd Air Refueling Wing based at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, completed the type’s first flight around the world, Nov. 13-26.

The KC-46 is currently conducting operational testing and evaluation as it prepares to serve as the next generation air refueling platform for the Air Force.

“The first global circumnavigation for the KC-46A Pegasus provided extensive training opportunities for maintainers and aircrew at multiple locations on a seven-leg, 13-day journey, according to an Air Force statement.

“Our operators and maintainers had the privilege of circumnavigating the globe in the Air Force’s newest and most capable air refueling platform,” said Col. Thad Middleton, 22nd Operations Group commander and subject matter expert for the flight. “We have worked with our partners at the Tanker Airlift Control Center on previous overseas missions, but our movement across the Atlantic, Indian Ocean and the South Pacific allowed us to truly flex the system. It goes without saying, but the crew members gained invaluable training in terms of oceanic procedures, unfamiliar airfield operations and dynamic mission planning.”

McConnell AFB – RAF Mildenhall, England – Al Maktoum International Airport, Dubai, UAE

The first stop of the journey was the Royal Air Force base of RAF Mildenhall in England. After a quick stop at RAF Mildenhall, the support team of 14 Airmen traveled to the United Arab Emirates to show off the aircraft as a static display in the 2019 Dubai Air Show (DAS).

The four subsequent stops following the DAS were each brief, yet meaningful. Each time the KC-46 landed for the first time at a distant airfield, it offered an opportunity for airfield personnel, maintainers and other aircrew to gain hands-on experience with the future of Air Force aerial refueling.

Dubai – Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar

Following the air show, the Pegasus traveled north to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, where the crew hosted senior leaders and members of the Qatari military for a familiarization flight to demonstrate the aircraft capabilities to an interested partner. During this flight, the crew conducted a refueling mission with a C-17 deployed to Al Udeid, marking the first KC-46 refueling mission in the U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) area of responsibility.

Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar – NAF Diego Garcia

The KC-46’s global mission continued onto Naval Support Facility (NAF) Diego Garcia, located deep in the Indian Ocean on a small British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) island. Having repeatedly served as a strategic operating location for U.S. bombers, fighters and tankers during past operations, the Pegasus’ stop at the tiny atoll offered a familiarization opportunity for both the McConnell crew and Air Mobility Command (AMC) personnel assigned there who support and service transiting aircraft.

NAF Diego Garcia – Andersen AFB, Guam – Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii – McConnell AFB

From Diego Garcia, the KC-46 flew onto Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and made its final stop at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, before heading home to McConnell.

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