The KC-46A aircraft.

The US Air Force (USAF) has revealed the names of the two air bases selected to house and operate the new KC-46A Pegasus aerial refuelling tanker aircraft.

Located in Oklahoma, Altus Air Force Base (AFB) has been selected as the KC-46A’s formal training unit (FTU), while Kansas-based McConnell AFB will serve as the first active duty-led Pegasus main operating base (MOB).

US Air Force installations deputy assistant secretary Timothy Bridges said the selection was based on operational analysis, results of site surveys and military judgement factors.

Altus was selected as the formal training unit because it provides great training opportunities, and there is significant benefit of locating KC-46A trainers with both tanker and heavy receiver aircraft for training purposes, he said.

The selection of McConnell AFB as the first KC-46A active duty-led operating base is based on the lowest military construction costs and manpower adjustments of the candidate installations. It already hosts 44 KC-135 aircraft, which are scheduled to be replaced by the new aircraft, according to unnamed USAF officials.

Both Altus and McConnell AFBs were selected as preferred alternatives by the air force in May 2013.

"The selection was based on operational analysis, results of site surveys and military judgement factors."

A final basing decision for the first Air National Guard (ANG) main operating base is anticipated this summer, with the first aircraft scheduled for delivery in 2018.

Developed from Boeing’s 767-200ER airliner, the KC-46A is a military aerial refuelling and strategic transport aircraft fitted with the Cobham centreline drogue system, integrated display system and four body fuel tanks. It can transport fuel, cargo, passengers and patients, at a maximum speed of 915km/h.

US Air Force secretary Deborah Lee James said the KC-46A remains one of the air force’s top three acquisition priorities.

"Making a final basing decision is an important step in recapitalising the tanker fleet," James said.

A total of 179 tankers are expected to be acquired by USAF from Boeing by 2027.

Image: An illustration of the KC-46A Pegasus conducting in-flight refuelling on an F-22 fighter aircraft. Photo: courtesy of Air Force illustration.

Defence Technology