Leonardo DRS will replace the Aerial Refueling Operating Stations (AROS) within US Air Force (USAF) KC-46A tanker aircraft.

DRS – a US subsidiary of the Italian defence firm Leonardo – is the original provider of the first generation AROS currently in use with more than 85 consoles fielded to date.

Under a contract with Boeing, the prime contractor of the ‘Pegasus’ fleet, DRS will upgrade these existing stations to the new AROS 2.0 version.

DRS designed AROS to seat two operators at the front of the tanker using displays for each person. The system allows them to perform aerial refueling missions while seated near the pilot and other crew members, compared to legacy tankers that use a single boom, operated seated or prone in the tail while looking out of a window.

AROS 2.0 units will be manufactured at the company’s Johnstown, Pennsylvania manufacturing facility.

KC-46 tanker and its AROS refueling components

Refueling systems aboard the KC-46 can be managed by boom operators from the crew compartment featuring an AROS. High resolution cameras are placed at the fuselage to provide a full view of the field.

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The fly-by-wire boom system enables the operator to refuel all fixed-wing receiver aircraft regardless of time and mission. It is capable of carrying out simultaneous multipoint refueling through the wing air refueling pods.

A KC-46A Pegasus refuels on the flight line at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, 25 October 2021. Credit: DVIDS.

KC-46A is a wide-body, multi-mission aircraft capable of transporting fuel, cargo, passengers, and patients.

Boeing is contracted to deliver 179 units by 2027 at a cost of $13.1bn over the next ten years. GlobalData intelligence adds that 75 of these are in active service. The programme is expected to generate more than 50,000 jobs and will involve around 800 suppliers.