Boeing, an aerospace company, and Aurora Flight Sciences, a Boeing company, have announced a strategic investment to enhance the advanced defensive capabilities of next-generation refuelling and mobility platforms on the KC-46A.

The partnership aims to develop defensive systems and countermeasures for platforms like the KC-46A Pegasus tanker, bolstering operational survivability and mission versatility.

Aurora Flight Sciences will lead the research and conceptual design of composite components that enhance operational survivability for aerial refuelling and mobility missions. Aurora’s manufacturing facility in Columbus, Mississippi, will also focus on producibility and manufacturing.

“The KC-46A already boasts unprecedented defensive systems for a tanker,” said Justin Hatcher, advanced technology director for Boeing’s KC-46 Program. “By collaborating with Aurora Flight Sciences, we are dedicated to evolving the KC-46A and other next-generation platforms to enhance mission versatility and survivability further.”

The KC-46A Pegasus, currently deployed for global combat operations, incorporates advanced defensive systems and data integration, enabling multi-mission aerial refuelling support closer to the battlespace than existing tankers.

According to GlobalData’s “The Global Military Fixed Wing Aircraft Market 2023-2033” report, the North American regional market is sustained by the procurement of KC-46A by the US.

The ongoing procurement of the KC-46A Pegasus Tanker Aircraft in Japan is expected to drive growth in the Tanker Aircraft segment in the Asia-Pacific region. The KC-46A Pegasus program is the only ongoing program in the area with a total investment of $1.2bn over 2023–33.

Outside of North America and Europe, Israel spent $927.5m on four KC-46A aircraft in August last year.

Recent Block 1 upgrades have further enhanced connectivity, providing the crew and fleet with more data. As a result, the Pegasus can detect and transmit threat information to joint force warfighters.

Aurora Flight Sciences manufacturing and aerosystems Vice President, Luke Colville, expressed enthusiasm, stating, “With our research and development capabilities, the composites production talent at Aurora Mississippi, and our collaboration with Boeing, we are building the future of next-generation refuelling and mobility capabilities and expanding our team to deliver them.”

The strategic investment between Boeing and Aurora Flight Sciences marks a step towards advancing the defensive capabilities of next-generation refuelling and mobility platforms. The companies aim to deliver solutions to enhance operational survivability and bolster mission versatility.

Boeing reached the landmark of delivering the 50th Washington-made KC-46A to the US Air Force at the beginning of 2022.