KC-46A Pegasus Aerial Tanker Completes Firsts
August 13/19: Pease Guard Base First to Receive Pegasus The Pease Air National Guard Base in New Hampshire is the first guard base to receive a next-generation KC-46A Pegasus refueling tanker plane. The refueling tanker flew into the Pease Air National Guard base late Thursday afternoon. The Pegasus is developed from a Boeing 767 passenger plane. It is replacing KC-135 Stratotankers in the US Air Force fleet of refueling planes. The Air Base will receive three KC-46As per month for four months. The KC-46A can refuel any fixed-wing plane, foreign or domestic made, while both planes are airborne. It can also accommodate a mix of passengers, including patients and cargo. Boeing had been three years behind schedule on the Pegasus program before deliveries began. The Air Force halted deliveries a couple of times due to debris in the plane. Last week, Lockheed received a $55.5 million contract modification for engineering work on a redesign of the plane’s boom telescope actuator.
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 – 2019
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