by Jet Fabara
412th Test Wings Public Affairs
10/2/2015 - JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- On
Sept. 25, 2015, the U.S. Air Force, Boeing and aviation enthusiasts
witnessed an important milestone with the first flight of the KC-46
Pegasus tanker from Paine Field in Everett, Washington, to Boeing Field
What most didn't witness is what led up to this milestone, which
involved a massive, joint undertaking of several organizations, based
out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, who will continue to be involved with
future testing of this military version tanker as part of the KC-46
Of the organizations, now functioning from JBLM, the 416th Flight Test
Squadron and 412th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron from Edwards Air Force
Base, California, will be providing up to three F-16s for KC-46 test
support, which JBLM has housed since September.
"The KC-46 will accomplish test flights out of Everett and Boeing Field
as they're going through their flight test operations, but the test
program also required photo, safety chase and receiver aircraft support,
so we're staging out of McChord Field because it was more suitable for
support aircraft operations per the final site survey that our team
leads performed," said Capt. Daniel Alex, 416th FLTS test pilot. "We'll
fly out of McChord Field and rejoin with the KC-46 in the airspace. We
will also be rotating aircrew roughly every two weeks at a time in
support of this program."
Another factor to the joint partnership involves bringing in personnel
from the 412th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 416th Aircraft Maintenance
Unit from Edwards AFB, as well as other AF units who will provide
receiver aircraft for the KC-46 program.
They're needed to provide maintenance on support aircraft and also
provided safety training to pertinent JBLM personnel who will be
supporting fighter and tanker support aircraft operations, according to
Tim O'Hearn, 418th FLTS project manager and 412th Test Wing lead for
KC-46 support aircraft basing.
"So far, we have nine maintenance personnel supporting two F-16s, but we
also have an embedded Reserve service member who lives in the local
area and an Edwards aircraft ground equipment specialist who is training
JBLM personnel who may not be familiar with our equipment," said Master
Sgt. Ronald Dohmann, 412th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron lead pro
super. "We also have an Edwards' fuels shop specialist to train on
hydrazine safety who has been running a three-day course with the JBLM
Fire Department, ranging from Air Force, Army and civilian."
Before getting established, the team also had to look at all the aspects
of ground support, which included environmental conditions and
acquiring the appropriate aircraft ground equipment needed to operate
each support air plane.
"I think this endeavor has been pretty exciting for our maintainers. At
Edwards, our maintainers are exposed to a desert environment and JBLM is
certainly different than that. The cold weather and rain at JBLM
provides new challenges that we must face and overcome," said Paul
Boyce, 416th FLTS logistics manager.
"We've had to prepare for wearing cold-weather gear and rain gear
because back home we don't need it. The vast amounts of rain we're
expecting at JBLM has caused us to change the criteria we use for our
tires. We've also had to coordinate with the local folks here about
de-icing issues to make sure so all potential areas of concern are
"For us, coming from a traditional Air Force flight and ground test
environment and arriving here, there were a lot of learning curves at
first, but it's all worked out and I couldn't have asked for a better
operation out of the JBLM construct and the Washington 95th Air National
Guard, who provided their former facility and furniture," added
According to O'Hearn, one of the most essential taskers leading up to
this was working to get the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) approved among
all the pertinent agencies.
"We basically set up a composite wing and a focal point to coordinate
all the operations in support of the KC-46. We have six different
airframes that include the F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-15E Strike Eagle,
A-10 Warthog, the KC-135 Stratotanker, KC-10 Extender and C-17
Globemaster III arriving at JBLM throughout the duration of the KC-46
testing. It's a pretty big footprint," said O'Hearn. "The site agreement
manager at JBLM, Katie Benoit, was instrumental in getting the right
people to the table and coordinating the MOA through the JBLM and 62 AW
organization and leadership."
As part of the MOA, O'Hearn noted 412TW and other Air Force units would
be providing support aircraft for the program coupled with the support
at JBLM from the U.S. Army Installation Management Command, the 62nd
Airlift Wing, the 95th Air National Guard, the Air National Guard Bureau
and all the JBLM agencies on station are essential to the success of
"In this case, because it's long term duration with a lot of personnel,
the MOA written for this undertaking is pretty comprehensive, involving
services that personnel would need if they were at their home station,
but the entire JBLM team has been very supportive," O'Hearn said.
The additional piece to this joint effort is the 418th Flight Test
Squadron and 412 Maintenance Group, who basically started the planning
process with site surveys, according to O'Hearn.
"The 418th Flight Test Squadron is executing this responsibility for the
412th Test Wing and has contributed thousands of hours over the past
three-plus years with the test planning effort that assisted in
achieving this test milestone," said Charles Cain, 412th Test Wing KC-46
project manager. "The 418th FLTS is supported by Detachment 1 in
Seattle, which directly supports the execution of this first flight
A key and final component to the entire operation was JBLM.
"The original request came in to the 62nd Airlift Wing, so Kevin Parret,
62nd AW plans analyst, and I discussed it and we quickly came to the
conclusion that this was definitely a bigger undertaking than McChord,
so we contacted JBLM for support," said John Schmedake, 62nd Airlift
Wing Plans and Programs Office chief.
During the flight tests, JBLM will provide people and equipment
necessary to facilitate pertinent support for the personnel and aircraft
involved with KC-46 flying operations. In total, for the 412th TW and
AF units, there will be approximately 120 personnel at JBLM involved in
the direct support of test and evaluation for the KC-46.
"As an Air Force member working for the U.S. Army at JBLM, it was great
to be able to be a part of something that's so important to the Air
Force and then bring all the support that JBLM can provide," added JBLM
deputy chief of staff Air Force Lt. Col. Andy McQuade.
"As we look to understand why joint basing was established and what the
benefits are, this is a great example of how it can potentially work to
facilitate good relationships between the services that are working on
those joint bases. I think we have come together in a way that shows the
great example of the successes of joint basing and the KC-46 support
test team has been able to leverage all the support that's here."
The test program is tentatively scheduled to last approximately 15 months, concluding in December 2016.