Fielding began last week on America’s newest air refueling tanker aircraft—the KC-46 Pegasus. Operationalizing a new military aircraft does not happen often, but when it does, it typically goes through Edwards Air Force Base—the center of the aerospace testing universe. Regardless of whether it is a frequent or a rare occurrence, hitting a milestone like this should be a huge source of pride for our entire team.
Fielding the KC-46 provides a massive boost to our nation’s warfighting capabilities in a world characterized by competition from near-peer adversaries. We would not have reached this point without the amazing accomplishments of the 412th Test Wing.
The KC-46 is not perfect. Yet, strategic leaders at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio and the Pentagon would not have been in a position to field it now without the knowledge we provided to them to understand and mitigate problems. It was our team who discovered faults. It was our team who raised concerns. It was our team who collaborated with the contractors, the program office and the end-users to fix shortcomings.
The warfighter deserves the best capability possible. As such, we will continue to be intimately involved in molding and shaping this new aircraft into a fully-effective and suitable warfighting machine. Along with our operational test, program office and contractor partners, it will be our team who verifies fixes. It will be our team who ensures that requirements are met. It will be our team who refines the capability into the needs of the warfighter. It will be our team who completes the certifications to refuel the entire range of U.S. and ally military receivers. It will be our team who helps create the roadmap for next-generation refueling capabilities beyond those currently on the drawing board.
It was the Global Reach Combined Test Force and the 418th Flight Test Squadron who played the most significant role in this massive accomplishment. Operations, maintenance, engineering and program management were at the forefront of this substantial test and evaluation effort.
Yet, we should never lose sight of the fact that our entire team played a critical role. It required the efforts of defenders, logisticians, strategic planners, medics, firefighters, trainers, inspectors and educators. It required expertise in communications, contingencies, finance, safety, intelligence, facilities, civil engineering, services, security and personnel. It required those who create a safe environment, a positive climate and a trained workforce. Ultimately, it required a complete focus on shaping America’s arsenal as we strive together for the warfighter.
The KC-46 will not be the last aircraft whose fielding path comes through our organization, as the U.S. military’s next trainer and next bomber are already on the books to perform the bulk of their testing here. When the time comes for the test and evaluation of America’s next remotely piloted aircraft and newest fighter, they will likely arrive on our doorstep as well. It is because the world knows our team is comprised of reliable experts and focused professionals who provide world-class test and evaluation for the warfighter.