YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan --
More than 100 Airmen and four total force KC-46A Pegasus aircraft worked together to learn how to effectively leverage the KC-46A to support the joint force during Air Mobility Command’s Employment Concept Exercise 22-06 at Yokota Air Base, Japan, from June 6—12, 2022.
During this ECE, Airmen from the 22nd, 931st and 157th Air Refueling Wings at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, and Pease Air National Guard Base, New Hampshire, worked together to refuel Navy F/A-18 Hornets and Air Force F-35 Lightning aircraft, train with the 18th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Kadena Air Base, and conduct a hot-pit refueling certification test at Yokota Air Base.
“This exercise is designed to accomplish joint high-end training to ensure we maintain our competitive advantage,” said Maj. Mark Hankes, 344th Air Refueling Squadron director of operations and ECE 22-06 detachment commander. “AMC had desired learning objectives and wanted to continually learn more about the employment needs and war-fighting capabilities of the KC-46 that will ultimately benefit the joint force.”
Conducting this ECE within the Indo-Pacific Theater as a training environment provided real-world experience and relevant logistical, procedural, and safety challenges for Airmen to face.
“These exercises give us the opportunity to learn the ‘what and who’ we need in order to maintain operations of the KC-46 for an extended period of time at a location away from home station,” said Master Sgt. Derek Lyles, 344th ARS Aircrew Training Detachment superintendent and senior enlisted leader for ECE 22-06.
“We also learn how to tailor the unit type codes (UTCs) based off support and logistics of a given location. The end goal is we will be able to have the information to rapidly and appropriately respond to the combatant commander’s needs,” Lyles said.
On the first day of the ECE, the KC-46As departed Yokota to provide fuel to joint partners in the Indo-Pacific Theater to include Navy F/A-18 Hornet and Air Force F-35 Lightning aircraft.
“ECE 22-06 employed the KC-46 in a tactically relevant exercise scenario,” said Capt. Kevin Abbott, 344th ARS KC-46 Pegasus pilot. “The exercise trains our aircrew and helps develop tactics, techniques and procedures from our lessons learned so we can better support our Air Force and joint partners in current and future operations.”
Later in the week, an Agile Combat Employment (ACE) contingent of McConnell crew, flyers and maintainers, arrived at Kadena Air Base, Japan, to showcase the KC-46A capabilities to their counterparts and conducted aeromedical evacuation training with the 18th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.
“Training with the 18th AES medical professionals offered a unique opportunity for them to see how their mission set fits on the KC-46A Pegasus as well as the McConnell crews learning some of the local specifics,” said Master Sgt. Trevor Kuhns, 22nd Air Refueling Wing ACE program lead.
On June 10, the ACE team set up a hot pit refueling certification test at Yokota and transferred almost 5,000 pounds of fuel. Hot pit refueling entails refueling the aircraft from a truck while one of the engines is still running on the tanker. This refueling process can reduce the time the tanker is on the ground so it can remain airborne for longer periods of time.
“It was a successful test and I know the Yokota teams here saw its value,” Kuhns said. “This was the second time ever that a KC-46 was hot pit refueled and it is the first time during an exercise at an overseas location.”
ECEs are designed to explore how to employ the KC-46 in contingency operations, including the equipment, Airmen, procedures, processes, and training necessary to operate effectively. These exercises also help determine how to train and equip Airmen for the ACE construct while supporting the joint warfighter effectively.
“McConnell is the furthest along with these operational concepts in the KC-46 and the only one tasked with KC-46 Initial Operational Test and Evaluation,” said Hankes. “I believe those things are connected. McConnell is leading the way and writing the book on KC-46 operations because we were the first main operating base for the KC-46.”