Ellsworth B-1 crew makes history during first refueling with KC-46A


A B-1B Lancer pilot from the 37th Bomb Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., watches and evaluates the distance of his aircraft to the fueling boom of a KC-46A Pegasus from the 344th Air Refueling Squadron, McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., during a refueling training mission May 17, 2021. The mission was the first time a B-1B aircrew from Ellsworth conducted a refueling mission with a KC-46A. (Official U.S. Air Force Photo)

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. — A B-1B Lancer aircrew from the 37th Bomb Squadron at Ellsworth made history as the first operational unit from the base to conduct a refueling mission with a KC-46A Pegasus.

The KC-46A Pegasus from the 344th Air Refueling Squadron at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas refueled the highly-versatile, long-range strategic bomber in a training area near Rapid City on May 17. The Pegasus has greater refueling and cargo capabilities compared to its predecessor, the KC-135 Stratotanker, and will be used to reinvigorate the Air Force’s aging tanker fleet.

Equipped with a refueling boom driven by a fly-by-wire control system, the Pegasus is capable of the fuel offload rates required for large aircraft. At full capacity, it will be able to refuel most fixed-wing aircraft.

Aircrew in the Pegasus during the exercise remarked that the mission couldn’t have gone any better.

“The Ellsworth crew was incredible,” said Capt. Steven Strickland, 22nd Operations Support Squadron flight commander assigned to McConnell. “Aircraft stability was excellent, allowing the booms to evaluate the concerns that had been raised during initial testing, and mitigate them with experience gained over the past two years. The positive impact for IOT&E [Initial Operational Test and Evaluation], and for the enterprise as whole, will continue to push the KC-46 further as we enter our limited operational capability in AMC [Air Mobility Command].”

Maj. Tim Jarrell, a 37th BS B-1 instructor pilot, said that after talking with the Pegasus crew, both teams expressed interest in doing more training together.

“Our crew felt lucky to be able to get to train with the KC-46,” said Jarrell. “Anytime we get to practice air refueling it is great training, and getting to see a new tanker was a fun experience on top of that.”

In addition to the refueling mission, the B-1 crew also held a full tactical training scenario at the Powder River Training Complex.

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