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KC-46A Pegasus Refueler Failure Continues

by | Jun 19, 2024


One of the components of American strategic projection has been the world’s most prodigious and sophisticated aerial refueling fleet.

There are currently approx 400+ KC-135s capable of refueling two receiver aircraft at the same time in the current USAF fleet. The first operational flight was 1956. The last KC-135 was delivered to the Air Force in 1965. Of the original KC-135As, more than 417 were modified with new CFM-56 engines produced by CFM-International.

The newest KC-135 air-frame is 59 years old.

Fifty nine years old.

The retirement of the KC-135 has been anticipated and the replacement has been the disastrous KC-46A Pegasus Tanker Modernization Program which has had significant problems to include video control of the fuel boom difficulties and believe it or not, a refueling system that leaks fuel and the usual circus of missing deadlines so typical of DoD programs.

The Boeing KC-46A Pegasus has performed in the same way one would expect in the 21st century: over-budget, way past promised deadlines and rife with problems that should ground the aircraft.The next near-peer or peer contested fight will decimate the refueling fleet if the aircraft are used in the fight and the KC-46 is not ready for prime-time.

You are watching a unique capability die in real time. No one else on Earth has this. The upside is making imperial war-making even more problematic in the future.

According to the GAO report, the Air Force’s KC-46A Tanker Modernization Program has been further delayed because of issues with delivering wing aerial refueling pods and issues with the boom. The report notes that the program has already been delayed by 76 months (over six years).

The program is also at risk of continuing delays due to “ongoing problems with maturing three critical technologies related to the redesigned RVS—a set of visible and long-wave infrared boom cameras and the primary display.”

According to the DoD, “The KC-46A will be equipped with a modernized KC-10 refueling boom integrated with a fly-by-wire control system and will be capable of delivering a fuel offload rate required for large aircraft. Furthermore, a hose and drogue system will add additional mission capability which will be independently operable from the refueling boom system.”

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Bill Buppert

Bill Buppert

Bill Buppert is the host of Chasing Ghosts: An Irregular Warfare Podcast and a contributor over time to various liberty endeavors. He served in the military for nearly a quarter century and contractor tours after retirement on occasion and was a combat tourist in a number of neo-imperialist shit-pits around the world.

He can be found on twitter at @wbuppert and reached via email at

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