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Boom Operator in KC-46 Cockpit

US Air Force is testing whether a two-man crew can safely fly the KC-46 Pegasus tanker in an emergency.

A solo pilot with the 22nd Air Refueling Wing at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, and a fuel boom operator took to the skies for two KC-46 sorties at a military test site on 25th October, DefenseNews reported. It is also among the question marks that the Air Movement Command was made to think that it might be needed in a possible military conflict with China. Launching these tests could reduce America’s casualties or put the crew in a stronger position in the event of an attack.

In a statement, The Air Force said that during flight testing, McConnell said his aviators had completed a basic flight path before adding refueling duties. “The boom operator was in the cockpit with the pilot apart from performing boom operations, and a second instructor pilot was on board to serve as a safety observer throughout the entire mission.”

Air Movement Command described the test as successful but did not immediately respond to the part the boom operator was allowed to do in the cockpit. The service offered additional training so that airmen could learn the basics of other crew positions.

Flank Commander Colonel Nate Vogel stated that the Air Force is evaluating the risks and potential problems of removing a tanker’s co-pilot and said: “This mission has been extensively implemented in flight simulators. Each phase of the assessment was carefully considered, taking into account crew safety, aircraft capabilities, and current federal aviation standards.”

As the Air Force’s new aerial refueling platform continues to grapple with major design flaws, military observers continued to question the reasons and safety of the idea. The service dismissed claims that persistent pilot shortages were the reason for creating this concept. The KC-46 was allowed to refuel most US military aircraft.

The Air Force plans to purchase at least 179 KC-46 airframes under a $4.9 billion contract. KC-46 manufacturer Boeing needs to spend about $7 billion of its own money on necessary improvements to the aircraft.

“If I lose tomorrow, no one will care about my plans for the KC-46 or my squadron 10 years from now. I need this now. I have been extremely candid with Boeing in my concerns about quality, timelines, and cost. But what if I can bring an incredibly talented tanker into battle, why not?” General Mike Minihan, Commander of the Air Movement Command, told reporters in September.

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