Air Force investigating after KC-46 drops boom nozzle

By Michael Marrow / November 9, 2022 at 5:32 PM

The Air Force has launched a review of a mishap involving a KC-46A Pegasus dropping a boom nozzle during a refueling run on Nov. 7, an Air Force spokeswoman confirmed to Inside Defense.

The tanker is part of the 305th Air Mobility Wing, according to Air Mobility Command spokeswoman Capt. Natasha Mosquera, who said the incident is being tracked as a Class C mishap.

The tanker in question “dropped a boom nozzle poppet valve while conducting in-flight refueling operations with two F-22 aircraft as part of an exercise,” Mosquera said in a statement, adding that further details are not releasable.

The Nov. 7 incident was disclosed by a tanker meme account on Instagram, which previously posted about a separate incident involving a KC-46 and F-15 in October. Air Force Times first reported the mishap, where a KC-46’s boom broke away from the fighter jet it was refueling and struck the back of the tanker.

Though the root cause of either incident is unclear, the KC-46’s Remote Vision System that allows operators to remotely gas up planes has separately struggled with myriad technical difficulties that place restrictions on the tanker’s ability to refuel. AMC Commander Gen. Mike Minihan cleared the aircraft for combat deployment in September with the caveat that weather conditions limited refueling operations.

In October, the Air Force also conceded another schedule slip for the KC-46: the RVS replacement, called RVS 2.0, is now expected to arrive in October 2025, an additional delay of 19 months for a program already more than seven years behind schedule.

The Air Force is also nearing a decision on a “bridge” tanker that would follow the Pegasus to continue recapitalization of the refueling fleet, which would feature bids from Boeing’s Pegasus and the LMXT, an Airbus A330 retrofitted for military service by Lockheed Martin.

Earlier this year, service Secretary Frank Kendal indicated the Air Force may opt to continue buying more KC-46s rather than hold a competition for the program.