Delivering Data and Fuel to the Fight

How Boeing is Enabling KC-46 for Tomorrow’s Command and Control Network

April 03, 2023 in Defense

Under a new contract, Boeing will analyze the integration of new capabilities onto KC-46 enabling current and future platforms to share critical data across the Joint Force.

In the highly interconnected battlespace of today and tomorrow, data is the new ammunition. With more assets sensing and sharing information than ever before, processing that raw data and turning it into a real-time decision advantage is the key to mission success.

As the U.S. Air Force continues to pursue its vision for next-generation command and control, it has recently selected Boeing to help take its Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) Airborne Edge Node (AEN) concept closer to reality as part of the Department of the Air Force’s Battle Network.

Under a contract from the Department of the Air Force’s Command, Control, Communications and Battle Management (C3BM) office, Boeing will conduct a capability study to analyze how to integrate new forward edge processing and command and control capabilities onto the KC-46A Pegasus tanker.

The contract would blueprint how current and future platforms at the battlespace’s edge could share critical data across all assets, warfighters and decision-makers.

“Delivering this critical information at the speed of relevance is key to providing the Joint Force with the ‘decision advantage’ so that warfighters can stay ahead of adversaries,” said Willy Andersen, vice president for Boeing Phantom Works’ Multi-Domain – Special Programs and Capabilities organization.

The contract award leverages Boeing’s multi-domain expertise to integrate the latest Command, Control, Communications and Battle Management (C3BM) capabilities on current and future platforms.

“Boeing has a long history of enabling command and control for the Air Force, and we are excited to continue our partnership to help advance ABMS closer to reality,” said Andersen. “Evolving KC-46A as a critical part of the ABMS network will extend the Air Force’s data fabric to deliver critical information as well as fuel to the fight.”

This contract supports the U.S. Department of Defense’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) vision, and comes after the KC-46A has been cleared for worldwide deployments. This means that the Joint Force’s tactical edge network could in the near future extend as far as the USAF’s latest tankers operate, processing battlespace data and delivering actionable information to decision-makers in near-real time no matter how far away they are.

“The KC-46A Pegasus is transforming the role of the tanker for the 21st century” said Lynn Fox, Boeing vice president and program manager, KC-46 Program. “Building on its unmatched secure communications and data integration capabilities, the KC-46 continues to evolve with the needs of the mission to provide decision superiority in the battlespace.”

Boeing continues to partner with the Air Force to expand the KC-46’s ability to deliver data as well as fuel to the Joint Force, including through Advanced Battle Management System integration. These capabilities add to the KC-46’s multirole versatility for aerial refueling and transportation, all protected by its combat-ready defensive countermeasures.

Per customer requirements, the ABMS capabilities will not impact KC-46’s aerial refueling mission. Boeing is expected to begin executing this contract in 2023.

By Christian Sy