Story by SrA Cody Dowell on 03/27/2018The KC-46 will broaden the Air Force's global reach by increasing in-flight refueling capabilities. The new aircraft will enhance overall war-fighting capabilities through secondary missions and maximizing it's advanced systems to ensure mission success for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and allied countries.
"Since the KC-46 is coming to Altus, there has been an increase in manning to prepare the base," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Darin Dial, operation officer assigned to the 56th Air Refueling Squadron. "The 56th ARS was activated August 2016 and we have been preparing for the KC-46 since then. Nothing is being removed from this base with the addition of this aircraft. The KC-46 will be integrated into the flight schedule of the C-17 and KC-135."
The KC-46 has the ability to both receive and deliver fuel, which enables it to train with both aircraft at Altus AFB. The KC-46 also has secure communication, defensive systems, tactical situation awareness system, night vison compatibility, digitally-aided air refueling taskings and fuel consolidation capability. These improvements were designed to enhance operation and increase mission effectiveness.
The KC-46 is being acquired as a better equipped tanker. The KC-46 will supplement and operate side by side with the KC-135 for many years to come. This is part of the Air Force's long term plan for improved tankers in the operational field.
"The KC-135 isn't going anywhere any time soon," said Dial. "The KC-135 is still a capable aircraft with plenty of personnel who operate within it. The KC-46 has better capabilities like being able to use boom and a centerline drogue system on the same sortie without needing to land to swap them. A drogue is used for a wider range of aircraft usually affiliated with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and NATO. The aircraft also has Wing Air Refueling Pods that enable multiple refueling operations at once."
While being used mainly as a tanker, the KC-46 also has the capacity to transport cargo or passengers.
The KC-46 can be arranged into three different variations. The aircraft supporting personnel only can transport 58 passengers during normal operations and 114 passengers during emergency airlift operations. In its cargo configuration it can carry up to 18 standard cargo pallets which is the same amount as the C-17 and three times the amount for the KC-135. For the aircraft's aeromedical evacuation configuration it can transport 54 medical patients and has onboard emergency oxygen and electrical power.
Altus AFB has already been training KC-135 and the C-17 aircrew for the mobility Air Force. With the addition of the KC-46 to the base, the capability of extending global mobility reach has increased and allows for better air support for the U.S. military and foreign allies.