The new KC-46 tanker reached a milestone on Sunday when it completed its first aerial refueling, the U.S. Air Force has announced. The flight took place from Boeing Field, in Seattle. The crew transferred 1,600 pounds of fuel to an F-16. The new tanker uses a remote-vision system to operate the boom, instead of visual contact. The operator is stationed just behind the flight deck and maneuvers in reference to 3-D images provided by panoramic cameras with a 185-degree horizontal field of view. The new tanker also has other advanced systems that make the challenging aerial-refueling process easier for crews.
“Fuel management during aerial refueling is highly automated and the crew does not have to manually maintain aircraft center of gravity or manage fuel offload rate during fuel transfer,” said KC-46 test pilot Lt. Col. Daryl Corneille. The new tanker also has more refueling capacity, improved efficiency and increased capabilities for cargo and aeromedical evacuation compared to the current design, which is more than 50 years old.The new tanker will provide aerial refueling support to the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, as well as allied nation coalition aircraft, the USAF said. The airplane first flew last September.