HomeNews

KC-46 undergoes WARPs testing

A KC-46 Pegasus is parked at a ramp at Edwards Air Force Base, California, with a Wing Aerial Refueling Pod (WARP) on each wing. The KC-46 Pegasus recently finished WARPs testing with an AV-8B and F-18D/G. The WARPs system allows the Pegasus to simultaneously refuel two aircraft via drogue chutes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Giancarlo Casem)

A KC-46 Pegasus is parked at a ramp at Edwards Air Force Base, California, with a Wing Aerial Refueling Pod (WARP) on each wing. The KC-46 Pegasus recently finished WARPs testing with an AV-8B and F-18D/G. The WARPs system allows the Pegasus to simultaneously refuel two aircraft via drogue chutes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Giancarlo Casem)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

One of the KC-46 Pegasus’ key features was successfully tested recently at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

The Wing Aerial Refueling Pods (WARPs) were successfully tested with an AV-8B, F-18D, and F-18G. The WARPs allows the Pegasus to simultaneously refuel two aircraft at the same time which makes it a force multiplier.

“With WARPs, the KC-46 will be able to refuel two fighter aircraft at the same time; as opposed to a centerline drogue system, where only one aircraft can refuel at a time,” said Maj. Jacob Lambach, KC-46 Experimental Test Pilot, 418th Flight Test Squadron. “Fighter pilots usually show up in pairs and each has to watch and wait while their wingman refuels. Fighters’ combat mission isn’t to sit behind the tanker; it’s to fight. If we can refuel them both at the same time, they each only spend half as much time ‘out of the fight.”

Following successful completion of the connections, engineers had a multitude of data to review before it is certified by the Aerial Refueling Certification Agency. Engineers have to evaluate the performance of WARPs prior to fielding the capability to the warfighter; this includes looking at the free air stability, the hose reel response, the fuel system, and the human factors.

“The free air stability of the hose and drogue are evaluated during extension, while fully extended, and during retraction to ensure a safe environment for the receiver,” said Nathan Montoya, Aerial Refueling Engineer, 418th FLTS. “The receiver handling qualities are evaluated in the tanker wake environment and any differences between the left and right WARPs are noted. The WARPs hose reel response (how the system takes up hose slack) is evaluated at various contact rates, and hose lengths to ensure no excessive slack builds up which can damage the receiver. The fuel system is evaluated to determine if the fuel pressures and fuel flow rates that are being provided to the receiver are acceptable.”

Additionally, the hose markings, signal lights, and tanker lighting are evaluated for proper visual cues and operator situational awareness. These evaluations are done at various altitudes, airspeeds, tanker gross weights, and time of day to ensure the system responds properly, safely, and any pertinent warnings, cautions, and/or notes are documented for fleet operations, he said.

From a pilot’s perspective, not much changes, Lambach said. Their goal is still to fly the aircraft as smoothly as possible to make the boom operator and receiver pilot’s job easier. Lambach explained that for the boom operator and receiver pilot, the difference between boom air refueling and WARPs is drastic. 

“In boom air refueling, the receiver pilot flies to a defined area behind the tanker aircraft, then the boom operator is responsible for the precise act of connecting the two aircraft,” he said. “With WARPs, the boom operator deploys and monitors the basket, but the receiver pilot is responsible for the final act of connecting the aircraft.”

The WARPs use a drogue chute system for refueling, the receiving pilot then has to make small corrections to line up the drogue basket to the receiver’s probe, the airflow around the receiver aircraft often causes the basket to suddenly move unpredictably, Lambach said. 

“Hitting a bullseye is tough; it’s even tougher when the target moves at the last minute,” he said.

Mid-air refueling with multiple aircraft presents other various challenges for the aircrews involved, Montoya added.

“The biggest challenge when testing with dual WARPs is making sure there is always positive communications and situational awareness between the test assets at the same time,” Montoya said. “This is something that is rarely done in test, as boom and centerline drogue operations only refuel one receiver at a time. “

Having three airplanes being able to fly at the same time also provided a logistical challenge, said Capt. Andrew Novak, KC-46 Experimental Test Pilot, 418th FLTS. Various factors, such as manning and crew availability due to other test missions can affect when particular flights can occur.

“The biggest change was the increased coordination and planning required to have three airplanes flying together at the same time,” he said. “At that point in the testing, we already knew both aircraft could safely receive fuel on either WARP. It was just a matter of refueling two aircraft at the same time. Both aircraft were successfully able to fill up.”

As part of the Air Force Test Center enterprise, safety is paramount to the 418th and 412th Test Wing’s missions.

“A larger effort was put in the preplanning process to focus on how the dual WARP testing would be executed to maintain a safe test environment and ensure the proper data is collected,” Montoya said.

“It’s an honor to be participating in this testing and being able to provide the operators with the necessary information to utilize the KC-46 WARP system to the max extent possible. It has been a pleasure working with all the USAF pilots and boom operators as well as Navy pilots and engineers throughout all the testing.”

Lambach said he felt privileged to support the warfighter through the KC-46 testing and to add to the Edwards legacy of test.

“It’s a privilege to be involved with testing a system that will help the warfighter,” Lambach said. “The KC-46 brings some unique new capabilities to the fight, but before we can really benefit from those, we have to prove that it has all the capabilities that legacy tankers such as the KC-10 and KC-135 have.”

USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.

News Search