PEASE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, NH – In a feat of air mobility endurance, a KC-46A Pegasus from the 157th Air Refueling Wing flew a nonstop mission halfway around the world and back on May 16-17 november.
The point-to-point, 36-hour, 16,000-mile, multi-crew, Total Force sortie was the longest such mission in the history of Air Mobility Command, the major active duty command to which the 157th is aligned .
General Mike Minihan, the commander of AMC, relentlessly pushed the command to find new ways to use current resources in anticipation of future combat.
“This extended mission is another example of Airmen being able to support and move to accelerate our use of the KC-46A,” Minihan said. “This Total Force mission boldly highlights the imperative to think differently, change the way we do business and provide options for the Joint Force.”
Leaving the East Coast of the United States on a cold, rainy morning, the crew flew west across the country and into the Pacific Ocean. After flying over Hawaii, the crew flew over the International Date Line to Guam before turning back to New Hampshire, landing on the night of November 17 – 36 hours to the minute after launch.
Major Bill Daley, mission aircraft commander and traditional member of the New Hampshire Air National Guard, said the flight demonstrated the aircraft’s abilities to project and connect joint force through its endurance. , crew sustainment, refueling, situational awareness and connectivity, and airborne mission planning.
The KC-46A Pegasus provides strategic flexibility to the Air Force. Since each KC-46A can be refueled in-flight, each aircraft can persist in areas of operations to provide sustained support to armed aircraft. The endurance mission showcased these capabilities, taking fuel three times throughout the flight and delivering gas to F-22 fighters while flying in a closed loop off the coast of Hawaii.
The crew also took advantage of the KC-46A’s secure, unclassified networks and situational awareness systems, which allow for a range of future uses. The platform’s situational awareness capabilities enable its protection in contested environments.
It takes more than gas to stay in the air; the crew must also be supported, and this was another supply barrier tested and broken on the mission. Two crews from the New Hampshire Air National Guard’s 133rd Air Refueling Squadron and an active duty crew from the affiliated 64th Air Refueling Squadron took turns batting. While one crew was flying, the other two were resting.
Daley said previous generations of tankers lacked the basics to support crews for multi-day missions. He said older jets were incredibly uncomfortable and could go from hot to cold, contributing to crew fatigue. The Pegasus is a stark contrast to that.
“It’s like flying with first class service,” said Daley, who is a civilian airline pilot when not flying for the Guard.
The KC-46A is air-conditioned, with a galley, crew berths and toilets. The configurability of the cargo area also allows for placement of aircraft-style seating and additional sleeping areas for larger crews. For the endurance mission, a galley and palletized lavatory were added to support the crew of 16, including boom operators, aircraft maintainers and a flight surgeon.
The crew read, watched movies, cooked meals, and slept in cots throughout the cargo area to pass the long hours when off duty.
Staff Sgt. Michael Windy, a boom operator with the 133rd Aerial Refueling Squadron who had nearly 3,000 flying hours on the KC-135 before converting to the KC-46, agreed with Daley that the increased comfort levels on the new aircraft make missions like this possible. With just a few hours remaining in the endurance ride, Windy said he felt rested and comfortable.
“I was on the 10 p.m. outing that we flew to Saipan a few months ago, so I already had an idea of what to expect,” said Windy, who worked hard to keep the rest comfortable and fed crew. “I really haven’t noticed a big difference in how I feel.”
Lead Airman Paige Dunleavy, an avionics technician with the 157th Air Refueling Wing, said this was her first trip with a crew.
“The joke is my first TDY is at Pease,” she said of the unusual dot-to-dot mission.
As a new Airman in refresher training, it was a great opportunity to see how the crew uses the systems they maintain.
“I definitely learned things, and it was the first time I could troubleshoot a system in flight,” she said. Dunleavy and another avionics technician restarted the civilian satellite communications system as it was causing problems for the flight crew.
Major Heidi MacVittie, a flight surgeon from Pease, served as the human performance monitor on board the flight and collected quantitative data throughout the mission. This data and data from the Wing’s recent 20-hour mission will inform decision-making for future similar missions.
“This mission was a true example of total force integration,” said Lt. Col. Brian Carloni, commander of the 157th Operations Group. “The expertise of our Guardsmen and our active duty Airmen in executing this mission demonstrated how essential teamwork is in any warfare scenario.”
Daley said the success was due to more than the Total Force crew aboard the jet. The mission, nearly two months to the day after Minihan approved the KC-46A for worldwide deployments – including combat missions – was the result of the hard work and dedication of the entire wing over several years and finally demonstrated the strength they bring to battle. .
“We have a healthy fleet and have demonstrated full mission readiness with loading and unloading capabilities. We could execute tomorrow if we had to,” he said.