AMC Approves Operational Use of Centerline Drugs System as First Milestone in KC-46A Interim Capability Release
Air Mobility Command Commander Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost has approved the Centerline Drug System mission defined as the first Interim Capabilities (ICR) of the KC-46A Pegasus to meet the air-to-air refueling requirements of the Joint Forces on July 9, 2021.
This decision provides more daily operational capabilities to the joint team and increases capacity for the needs of the tanker fleet.
“The last six months of operational use and programmatic evaluation indicate that the conditions have been met for the ICR reporting of the Centerline Drugs System mission set,” said Van Ovost. “This decision reflects a risk-based, data and stress analysis approach to unleashing the operational capabilities of the KC-46A to the joint force.”
The ICR plan was announced by Van Ovost in February as the command searches for ways to meet the joint force’s vast aerial refueling needs as the Air Force continues its efforts to recapitalize and divest refuellers.
“This forced AMC to explore a variety of options or ‘refueling levers’ to relieve stress on today’s force,” Van Ovost said at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium. in February. “The increased operational use of the KC-46A is the greatest lever available to bring additional air-to-air refueling capability to meet the needs of the Joint Forces as the tanker fleet is recapitalized to meet the needs of our combat commanders. “
Although the KC-46A is a mature weapon system with some operational restrictions, it now has proven capabilities that can be used operationally for probe and drug aerial refueling. The Air Force continues to conduct aerial refueling with fighters, bombers and transport aircraft for training, exercise, demonstration and familiarization missions before formally operationalizing the capability. The ICR concept provides a data-driven approach to certify these capabilities gradually as the program progresses to full operational capability (FOC).
“ICR is codifying for operational use what we are already performing on a daily basis as the KC-46A progresses through its initial Operational Test and Evaluation Plan, or IOT&E,” said Van Ovost. “Today it is about bringing to the joint team an increased, predictable and exploitable tanker capacity.
In February, Van Ovost clarified that there was no timeline associated with the ICR plan, which instead focuses on establishing confidence-building measures allowing the AMC commander and other senior leaders to qualitatively and quantitatively assess the achievements of ICR milestones. If the confidence-building measures are not respected, the ICR on a particular set of missions will not be declared.
As AMC seeks to provide increased operational capability to a struggling tanker fleet, Category I shortcomings have yet to be addressed, including the improved Remote Vision 2.0 system and a redesign of the Boom Telescope Actuator. The KC-46A will not achieve FOC until these faults are corrected.
Although the FOC is still years away, substantial progress continues.
“We simultaneously seasoned our crew and maintenance technicians while identifying and eliminating gaps in Pegasus’ growing fleet,” said Van Ovost. “We fly and operate today with the KC-46A mission sets despite restrictions, including transoceanic air refueling fighter movements, aeromedical evacuation missions, and cargo and passenger movements. The KC-46 is on a positive rate of climb!