KC-46 refuels Navy aircraft during ‘Coronet’ missions

A 22nd Air Refueling Wing crew from McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, prepares to fly the first KC-46A Pegasus “Coronet” mission from Scott AFB, Ill., where it provided aerial refueling support to several F/A-18 Hornets returning to their home station of Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif., Aug. 21, 2020, after participating in Exercise Northern Lightning at Volk Field, Wisc. ( Air Force photograph by Senior Airman Solomon Cook)

A KC-46A Pegasus aircrew from McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, took off from Scott AFB, Ill., to refuel several F/A-18 Hornets flying from Wisconsin to California during a Cornet Aug. 21, 2020.

“Coronets” are missions where aircraft that need to travel large distances, either over land or oceans, are assigned tankers to fly with them to provide fuel along their route. This was the first Coronet tasking for the KC-46A aircraft and crew.

“The KC-46A team performed multiple refuelings for the Navy F/A-18’s from Volk Field, Wisc., to Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif.,” said Maj. Tim Bexten, 344th Air Refueling Squadron assistant director of operations. “It set the foundation for future Coronet planning using the KC-46.”

Three F/A-18 Hornets fly alongside a KC-46A Pegasus as they await their turn to refuel while returning to Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif., Aug. 21, 2020. The Hornets were refueled during the KC-46A’s first Coronet aerial refueling mission, during which the tanker provided AR support to receiver aircraft flying over the continental United States. The KC-46A and its crew are based out of the 22nd Air Refueling Wing at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Shannon Moorehead)

The KC-46 has drogue refueling baskets that can be extended on the aircraft’s centerline and wingtips, as well as a centerline boom that can be used to refuel multiple types of aircraft.  

“With both the drogue and the in-flight boom, we can refuel without the need to swap out components on the ground via maintenance overhaul.  We can organically switch between the two to support multiple aircraft,” said Bexten.

The aircraft commander for the mission, Capt. Ryan Robinson, who is also the 344th ARS Chief of Training, said planners for Exercise Northern Lightning contacted them several weeks ago for the real-world support. After coordination and official tasking from the 618th Air Operations Center, the teams rallied to perform the mission.

Bexten added, “The entire team played an active role in coordinating and ensuring success of the Coronet mission and were able to successfully complete the mission as well as find learning points to streamline the process and ensure the same success down the road.”

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