Boeing delivers first KC-46A to Travis Air Force Base

The U.S. Air Force’s “Gateway to the Pacific” begins a new era of air mobility operations.

October 05, 2023 in Defense

At the edge of the Pacific, Travis Air Force Base is the westernmost and largest installation in the U.S. Air Force’s Air Mobility Command. AMC Commander Gen. Mike Minihan has called Travis the most important power projection location in the world.

On July 28, 2023, Travis began a new era of air mobility as its first KC-46A Pegasus – dubbed “Golden 01” – arrived from Boeing Field in Seattle.

“Earlier this summer, we marked the 80th anniversary of Travis Air Force Base,” said Col. Derek Salmi, commander of the 60th Air Mobility Wing. “The efforts of those who have come before us have paved the way for this day and for opening the newest chapter in Travis' storied history, with the beginning of KC 46 Pegasus operations.”

Crews from the 60th and 349th Air Mobility Wings stationed at Travis delivered the aircraft to a celebratory event hosted in the base’s newly constructed KC-46 hangar.

A crowd greets the first KC-46A delivered to Travis Air Force Base as it parks in front of a newly constructed three-bay hangar.

Maj. Gen. Corey Martin, commander of the 18th Air Force – AMC’s operational command – remarked to the crowd about the unprecedented capability that the “brains” of the Pegasus brings to the fleet.

“It’s the connections. It’s the sensors. It’s the survivability. It’s the Tactical Situational Awareness System,” Martin said. “(The KC-46A) has radios that will link this mobility aircraft to bombers, fighters, intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance, to space, to special operations. It has systems that will detect and avoid radar-guided surface-to-air threats; systems that will detect and defeat infrared-guided surface-to-air threats, all while maneuvering our joint force closer to contested airspace than any KC aircraft has done in the past.

“The KC-46 is much, much more than just an air refueler,” Martin said.

Crews from the 60th and 349th Air Mobility Wings pose in front of Travis Air Force Base’s first KC-46A at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington.

Twenty-four KC-46A tankers will ultimately operate out of Travis, located about 50 miles northeast of San Francisco and nicknamed the “Gateway to the Pacific” because its key location as a mobility operation node. The world’s most advanced multi-mission aerial refueler has been tabbed to replace the Boeing-built KC-10 Extender, which first arrived at the base nearly 30 years ago.

“I can tell you right now, as the commander of the 6th Air Refueling Squadron, (the delivery) means a ton to the airmen and the maintainers that operate the KC-10 and the KC-46,” said Lt. Col. Ted Fisher, who helped deliver the aircraft. “(The KC-46A) is going to be a fantastic aircraft for us long into the future.”

Lt. Col. Ted Fisher (right) boards the first KC-46A delivered to Travis Air Force Base moments before its flight from Seattle to Northern California.

The occasion marked Boeing’s 70th Pegasus delivery to the U.S. Air Force and made Travis the sixth base to bed down the tanker. Seymour Johnson Air Force Base (North Carolina), Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (New Jersey) and Pease Air National Guard Base (New Hampshire) are all KC-46 bases located within 100 miles of the Atlantic Coast. McConnell Air Force Base (Kansas) and Altus Air Force Base (Oklahoma) were the first two bases to receive the tanker. More KC-46A tankers now operate globally than any other aerial refueler except the Boeing-built KC-135.

Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Sam Cox, Boeing Vice President of Air Force Systems, called the Travis installation “critical” to the USAF’s operations and remarked on the excitement that permeated the KC-46 hangar the day of the delivery.

“I've had an opportunity to be at Travis Air Force Base many times over the years and the energy and excitement that existed for the arrival of the first KC-46A was off the charts,” Cox said. “It was a great, great event.”

View the full event here.