The KC-46A was refueled for the first time by a KC-10 flying over Washington State, as part of the aircraft’s Milestone C process, according to Boeing. The capability “increases the aircraft’s operational flexibility,” the company posted on Twitter. The Feb. 13 flight is another first for the next generation aerial tanker, which just three days prior used its hose and drogue system to refuel an aircraft in flight. The KC-46 also in January performed its first aerial refueling, passing 1,600 pounds of fuel to an F-16C during a test flight from Edwards AFB, Calif. The company plans to build 179 KC-46s for the Air Force, to replace the service’s aging tanker fleet.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.