Orlando, Fla. The KC-46A tanker has a new name—Pegasus, announced Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh on Thursday at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium here. Welsh said Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James approved the recommendation from Air Mobility Command boss Gen. Paul Selva earlier this week. “Air refueling is the lifeblood of strategic mobility,” said Welsh in his State of the Air Force address. Welsh said he visited the first KC-46A on the assembly line at Boeing’s Everett, Wash., facility just a few weeks ago. “It will be flying in June, it’s a real thing now,” Welsh said. The Air Force will buy 179 KC-46A Pegasus aircraft, the last of which will be delivered in 2028, to replace the Eisenhower-era KC-135 fleet. However, USAF will continue to maintain 200-plus KC-135s, which will be 65-years-old or older when the last Pegasus is delivered. As a result, the KC-Y and KC-Z follow on efforts have to be real programs, said Welsh. “And they have to get going now,” he emphasized.
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.