KC-46A Pegasus Aerial Tanker Completes Firsts
November 5/18: Refueling qualification Boeing’s new KC-46 tanker receives more certifications as it successfully completes aerial refueling of two additional aircraft types. During recently held tests the KC-46 completed receiver certification testing for the B-52 bomber and the F/A-18 fighter jet, with the F-15 to follow next year. A Boeing spokesperson says that the certification test are in preparation for the start of Initial Operational Test and Evaluation work next year. KC-46A is a militarised version of the 767-2C. Modification include aerial refueling equipment, an air refueling operator’s station that includes panoramic 3-dimensional displays, and threat detection/ countermeasures systems. Boeing recently missed the delivery schedule for its first aircraft which was expected to take place on October 27. The KC-46 acquisition program sees for the delivery of 179 tankers at a cost of $44.3 billion, with the first aircraft expected to be delivered between April and June 2016.
DID’s FOCUS articles cover major weapons acquisition programs – and no program is more important to the USAF than its aerial tanker fleet renewal. In January 2007, the big question was whether there would be a competition for the USA’s KC-X proposal, covering 175 production aircraft and 4 test platforms. The total cost is now estimated at $52 billion, but America’s aerial tanker fleet demands new planes to replace its KC-135s, whose most recent new delivery was in 1965. Otherwise, unpredictable age or fatigue issues, like the ones that grounded its F-15A-D fighters in 2008, could ground its aerial tankers – and with them, a substantial slice of the USA’s total airpower.
KC-Y and KC-Z buys are supposed to follow in subsequent decades, in order to replace 530 (195 active; ANG 251; Reserve 84) active tankers, as well as the USAF’s 59 heavy KC-10 tankers that were delivered from 1979-1987. Then again, fiscal and demographic realities may mean that the 179 plane KC-X buy is “it” for the USAF. Either way, the KC-X stakes were huge for all concerned.
In the end, it was Team Boeing’s KC-767 NexGen/ KC-46A (767 derivative) vs. EADS North America’s KC-45A (Airbus KC-30/A330-200 derivative), both within the Pentagon and in the halls of Congress. The financial and employment stakes guaranteed a huge political fight no matter which side won. After Airbus won in 2008, that fight ended up sinking and restarting the entire program. Three years later, Boeing won the recompete. Now, they have to deliver their KC-46A.
Boeing’s KC-46A, and Its Team
KC-46A Industrial Team
KC-X: The Program
The KC-46A Development Phase: Budgets, Splits, & Dates
The KC-46A Production Phase: Risks & Numbers
KC-46A Export Prospects
KC-X: Contracts & Key Developments
FY 2016 – 2018
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