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Boeing delivers first KC-46 to USAF despite ongoing problems

Photo: KC-46 refuels A-10 during Milestone C test. Boeing

 

The US Air Force has accepted the first Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tanker for operational testing, with the aircraft set to be delivered to 22nd Air Refueling Wing (ARW) at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas in the coming weeks. Delivery of the first tankers to McConnell was expected to begin by the end of 2018 but has been delayed due to fixes that need to be implemented by Boeing.

With the signing of what’s known as the DD250 paperwork, the delivery activities can proceed. McConnell AFB will receive the first four KC-46 aircraft, all of which are ready for delivery, with four subsequent aircraft destined for Altus AFB, Oklahoma, home of the new training unit.

Boeing is developing the KC-46A under a $3.5-billion Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) contract that included the production of four developmental aircraft. The Pegasus is based on the 767-2C commercial freighter, but its airframe is 6.5ft (1.98m) longer than the standard 767-200ER series and it has a maximum take-off weight of 415,000lb (188,240kg). Operated by a pilot, co-pilot and boom operator, the aircraft was chosen as the winner of the USAF’s protracted KC-X project in February 2011. The USAF plans to purchase 179 KC-46As and Boeing will deliver 70 aircraft by the end of 2020 with the remainder following by 2028. Boeing is on contract for 52 KC-46s to date.

The first of four EMD aircraft made its initial flight in a (767-2LK) freighter configuration in December 2014. The first fully configured tanker took to the air at Paine Field in Everett on September 25, 2015. The Pegasus is being developed under a fixed-price contract but due to development and certification delays Boeing has so far absorbed around $3.5 billion in cost overruns.

The USAF has identified, and Boeing has agreed to fix at its expense, deficiencies discovered in developmental testing of the remote vision system. The USAF says the deficiencies don’t prevent the tanker from carrying out its primary mission, but many expect that this work could take several years to complete.

A full feature on the KC-46 program will appear in the April issue of Combat Aircraft.

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