KC-46 Summit brings AF stakeholders together

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill – Air Force senior leaders and experts from the acquisition, sustainment, training, engineering, logistics and flying community, gathered in January to discuss the status of the KC-46 Pegasus program and synchronize efforts related to ensuring the successful fielding and operation of the aircraft.

Brig. Gen. Duke Richardson, program Executive Officer for the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Tankers Directorate, which organized the event, opened the summit by highlighting the program’s milestones and comparing the program’s journey to a trilogy that ultimately ends well.

“We talk a lot [within the directorate] about this thing called the trilogy,” Richardson said. “Trilogies are a set of three works of art that are connected – which describes the program really well. The first work of art was getting the first flight. If you’ve been working this program a while you know that was not a simple work of art – we had a lot of issues. The second book in the trilogy was getting to Milestone C. This part of the trilogy was a little more challenging but we got past it. Now we are up to the third book in the trilogy, which we are calling ‘Iron on the Ramp’ which means that it is time to get the first delivery of Pegasus to McConnell Air Force Base and we are very focused on that right now.”

The senior leaders at the summit included Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, Air Force Materiel Command commander, who told attendees that her goal was to make sure that everyone had an understanding of important aspects of the KC-46 program and what they may need to do to ensure the successful delivery and support of the aircraft.

Also in attendance was Gen. Carlton Everhart II, Air Mobility Command commander and host of the summit thanked everyone for attending and emphasized his focus on getting the KC-46 operational.

“We are working hard to ensure that when we get the airplane on the ramp, it’s operational from the start,” Everhart said. “Because of the vital importance of this program and its significance to Air Mobility Command, the joint community and the future of national defense, we need to get this right from the beginning.”

During the summit experts provided reviews and updates on different aspects of the KC-46 program including sustainment/depot activation and training.

Col. John Newberry, the KC-46 System Program Manager highlighted key program accomplishments in 2016, provided an update on the program status and outlined expectations for the next 12 months.

“In 2016, the KC-46 actually became a tanker,” Newberry said. “We did the first boom and drogue air refueling of an F-16 and F-18 and we had more than 1,400 flight test hours. We also received an environmental award for large aircraft programs from OSD which recognized our environmental efforts including “baking” in environmental protection into our program early with noise protection, emission protection, and other improvements.”

Newberry shared with the group that over the next 12 months, program milestones would include completing electromagnetic effects testing and Phase II air refueling certification testing. In addition the program would obtain FAA and military type certifications, complete tech and flight manual certification and verification, continue to implement long-term product support strategy, deliver aircrew training system devices and courseware, and deliver the first series of aircraft to McConnell AFB and Altus AFB.

Col. Mark MacDonald, AMC Requirements Division Chief, spoke about the warfighter’s need for the KC-46 and the impact delivery delays would have on initial operational capability and KC-135 retirement.

“This command is extremely excited about receiving the KC-46,” MacDonald said. “First and foremost, it will provide capabilities to us unseen in our fleet or any other tanker in the world. These capabilities are game changing, and will revolutionize how we employ tanker concepts. The first KC-46s we receive are going to be used to build up our inventory, increasing our fleet from 455 tankers to 479 tankers. Once we build up to 479 tankers, we will begin to retire some of our aging fleet.”

Darlene Costello, Air Force Service Acquisition Executive provided closing comments for the summit.

“I thank you all for what you’re doing every day to continue to help this program move forward and I look forward to following up on the actions you have,” Costello said. “I will continue my conversations with the team and I’m confident we will get the KC-46 across the finish line.”