The KC-46A’s Nuclear Support Mission

When the Air Force’s KC-46A tankers enter the fleet, they will be equipped with electromagnetic pulse protection that will allow their electronics to survive a nuclear blast, a service official told the Daily Report. The KC-46s, which will replace the service’s oldest KC-135 tankers, will be tasked with “nuclear operations support” as one of their primary missions, states the Fiscal 2012 report to Congress from the Pentagon’s director of test and evaluation. (The others are: global strike, air bridge support, aircraft deployment, theater support, and special operations support, according to the report.) KC-46s will have another nuclear-related mission as a secondary responsibility: air sampling, Air Force spokesman Ed Gulick told the Daily Report on Jan. 25. This entails “equipment to collect air samples downwind from areas where nuclear explosions have occurred,” said Gulick in a written response to questions. This ancillary role will support the US Atomic Energy Detection System, he said. It is a global network of monitoring for nuclear events. (DOT&E report)