The head of U.S. Transportation Command has warned that delays to the new KC-46 Pegasus tanker could require the military to rethink its plans for aerial refueling.
Gen. Stephen Lyons, speaking to the Atlantic Council last month, said issues with developing and fielding the KC-46 could further complicate refueling efforts if the Air Force sticks to its plan to retire legacy tankers, according to Defense News.
Officials had already planned on retiring some older KC-135 and KC-10 tankers as they field the new tanker. But leaders have also made it clear the KC-46 will not see action in combat until problems with the boom camera are resolved.
The boom issue is one of several that have plagued the new Boeing-built plane, which has been fielded to some active-component units and one Guard wing, the 157th Air Refueling Wing in New Hampshire. The 157th received its first two KC-46 tankers in August and is slated to receive additional planes this year.
The New Hampshire tankers were the subject of a story in the September issue of NATIONAL GUARD magazine.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to mitigate the delayed fielding of the KC-46,” said Lyons, according to Defense News.
Possible solutions include delaying the retirement of legacy aircraft and leasing aerial-refueling aircraft from defense contractors.
The latter option would allow the force to cut spending on its older aircraft in favor of modern priorities. Air Force leaders held an industry event late last year to discuss potential business models for such agreements.
Lyons said the military was looking at the leasing option, but cautioned that there would be limits on such deals, including not using the tankers in contested or combat environments.