USAF capabilities jeopardized by air refueling problems

USAF capabilities jeopardized by air refueling problems

February 18, 2021

Following the induction of the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus tanker on January 10, 2019, multiple voices pointed at the problems that the aircraft, marred by technical deficiencies, could cause to the aerial refueling capacities of the United States Air Force (USAF).

Two years later, the situation does not seem to have improved by much. In a surprising manner, the US Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) in charge of power projection capabilities of the US military declared in a tweet that the capacity gap of the air refueling fleet put “America’s ability to effectively execute day-to-day operations and war plans at risk.”

The same day, Jacqueline D. Van Ovost, Commander of the Air Mobility Command, said she estimated the KC-46 would not be operational before late 2023 at best. "We are doing everything we can to accelerate this," Van Ovost explained, as reported by Defense One. “We're doing everything we can to accelerate that.”

Exceeding the red line

This is but the last in a long list of warnings coming from the USAF. Speaking at the Atlantic Council in January 2020, General Stephen R. Lyons, commander of USTRANSCOM, said the U.S. military was “exceeding the red line,” both for its own needs and those of its allies.

The KC-46 Pegasus was supposed to replace the KC-135 Stratotanker and KC-10 Extender and reinforce the thin-stretched refueling capacities, with the entire KC-10 fleet to be withdrawn within the next five years. The Air Force has ordered 94 of a planned fleet of 179 KC-46 tankers. 42 were already delivered. 

Author : Emily


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