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Pease Airmen first to plan, fly KC-46 coronets

A New Hampshire Air National Guard KC-46A Pegasus refuels five Marine Corp’s F/A-18D Hornets with the Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242, as the fighters returned home to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. from MCAS Iwakuni, Japan on Sept. 10, 2020, over the Pacific Ocean. This marks the first official transoceanic coronet mission ever accomplished with a Pegaus refueler, which began Sept. 9 and involved 16 aerial refuelings of the fighters. (courtesy photo)

A New Hampshire Air National Guard KC-46A Pegasus refuels five Marine Corp’s F/A-18D Hornets with the Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242, as the fighters returned home to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. from MCAS Iwakuni, Japan on Sept. 10, 2020, over the Pacific Ocean. This marks the first official transoceanic coronet mission ever accomplished with a Pegaus refueler, which began Sept. 9 and involved 16 aerial refuelings of the fighters. (courtesy photo)

From left, Capt. Erik Earle, Capt. Chris Schimmel, Maj. Matt Valentino, Master Sgt. Brett Peterson, Capt. Jordan Gauvin, Chief Master Sgt. Michael George and Maj. Leon Rice pose in front of a KC-46A Pegasus, Sept. 8, 2020, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The Pease airmen executed the first official transoceanic coronet ever accomplished with a Pegaus refueler, which began Sept. 9 and involved 16 aerial refuelings of five F/A-18 jets. (courtesy photo)

From left, Capt. Erik Earle, Capt. Chris Schimmel, Maj. Matt Valentino, Master Sgt. Brett Peterson, Capt. Jordan Gauvin, Chief Master Sgt. Michael George and Maj. Leon Rice pose in front of a KC-46A Pegasus, Sept. 8, 2020, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The Pease airmen executed the first official transoceanic coronet ever accomplished with a Pegaus refueler, which began Sept. 9 and involved 16 aerial refuelings of five F/A-18 jets. (courtesy photo)

PEASE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.H. -- Pease achieved another historic first in military aerial refueling.

A year after the 157th Air Refueling Wing became the first Air National Guard unit in the country to field the KC-46A Pegasus, New Hampshire airmen helped plan and execute the new tanker’s first ever coronet, a tactical air movement that typically involves multiple fighter aircraft.

“A fighter has such a small gas tank, it can’t get to point A to point B without landing or refueling midair,” said NHANG Capt. Josh Stewart, a planner assigned to the Northeast Tanker Task Force, the command responsible for the Aug. 21 coronet. 

Five Navy F/A-18E Super Hornets were “dragged” or escorted and refueled by a KC-46A from Volk Field, Wisconsin to Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, Steward said.

Stewart is helping the Air Force develop standard operating procedures on how to best implement the next-generation tanker. “We are a perfect entity to be planning these coronets,” Stewart said. “We have three KC-46 qualified pilots and two qualified boom operators. It was important for us to volunteer and take these missions.”      

Not to be outdone, fellow NHANG Capt. Christopher Schimmel, the task force director, helped orchestrate the first KC-46A transoceanic coronet Sept. 9. The milestone comprised an all-Pease aircrew and two tankers, which completed 16 refuelings for five F/A-18s.

"[Pease is], no kidding, writing the book on how to operate this new jet and knocking it out of the park,” said Maj. Alex Nutting, coronet branch chief for the 618th Air Operations Center. 

The goal is to keep improving the cornet process, Stewart said. Building on lessons learned from the first two coronets, the task force is planning a third, even more complex multi-leg mission for later this month.

"Very seldom do coronets go as planned, so coming up with a solid starting product gives us a baseline to deviate from, and our planners are some of the best on-the-spot thinkers out there,” said NHANG Maj. Wiley Semrau, task force lead planner.

Schimmel credited a total-team effort for the task force’s early success.

“It’s due to the perseverance of our aircrew and our maintainers during multiple challenges,” Schimmel said. “It’s absolutely amazing.”