AMC Blocks Tail Flashes for Boeing KC-46, Pushing Heritage Aside to Better Manage the Fleet

AMC Boeing KC-46
A KC-46A Pegasus sits on the flight line as a KC-135 Stratotanker flies overhead at RAF Mildenhall, United Kingdom, Aug. 18, 2020. U.S. Air Force photo by Karen Abeyasekere.
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Boeing KC-46: For decades, the Air Force gray-tailed aircraft have displayed their home base and heritage with a small graphic on the plane’s tail, but that tradition will come to an end for much of the service’s next-generation tanker fleet.

Air Mobility Command has ended the policy of allowing tail flashes on the Active-duty KC-46s, a step that will make it easier for the command to manage its fleet of tankers from base to base. This means the KC-46s based at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., will not have the white-and-black “MCCONNELL” graphic that the KC-135s had for decades at the base.

“Identifying markers such as tail-flashes need to be repainted when aircraft are reassigned to other bases,” AMC said in a statement. “For example, when KC-135s are transferred to and from Kadena AB, [Japan], to Fairchild [Air Force Base, Wash.,] or McConnell AFB as part of their corrosion management program, their tail flashes need to be repainted.”

The change only applies to the KC-46 because it is the command’s only new fleet of aircraft. All other AMC aircraft already have the tail flashes. AMC, in a statement, said it is also reviewing its policy for placing dedicated crew chief or flying crew chief names on aircraft. KC-135s, for example, often have a black outline with the names of crew chiefs on the fuselage next to command seals.

AMC’s governing document for the policy states that “only mandatory markings are approved and all markings will stay as manufacturer produced. Waivers, changes, or optional marking requests will not be approved.” The only approved markings are the U.S. flag, the National Star, Radio Call Numbers, and “U.S. Air Force” on the fuselage.

While some tanker units, such as the 100th Air Refueling Wing at RAF Mildenhall, United Kingdom, are known for nose art on their aircraft, AMC policy states that only “Internal Nose Art,” such as on the interiors of landing gear doors or weapons bays, would be authorized.