Boeing has been awarded a $184m contract by the US Air Force (USAF) to improve the advanced communications capabilities of the KC-46A Pegasus tanker aircraft.
The contract was awarded on 31 March 2023.
The upcoming Block 1 upgrade is set to significantly improve the data connectivity and situational awareness of the tanker via the integration of advanced line-of-sight and beyond-line-of-sight communications technologies, complete with anti-jamming and encryption features.
The recently signed contract aims to improve the data and communications connectivity offered by the Pegasus aircraft to joint and allied forces, thereby enhancing their battle-space situational awareness.
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The KC-46A Pegasus is a strategic military transport and aerial refuelling aircraft that has been developed by Boeing from its 767-jet airliner for the American military. Equipped for combat, the Pegasus offers a range of defensive countermeasures to detect, avoid, defeat and survive potential threats.
The aircraft serves as a crucial connectivity hub at the tactical edge, providing both fuel and data to the joint force.
The Pegasus tanker is equipped with data links and integrated with the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS), allowing it to connect multi-domain personnel and provide them with tactical situational awareness and real-time information superiority.
Boeing has expressed plans to further enhance its battlespace network capabilities, including the integration of ABMS, through its in-line production process to keep pace with the changing requirements of the mission.
According to KC-46 programme manager and vice-president James Burgess, the recent upgrade is a clear indication of the long-term investment made by Boeing and the Air Force. The KC-46A is designed to seamlessly incorporate advanced features into its core structure, adapting to the changing demands of its missions.
The KC-46A was approved for global combat operations by the USAF Air Mobility Command (AMC) in 2022. According to AMC leaders, the operation of the KC-46A has showcased remarkable connectivity and situational awareness, which they described as “game changing”.
Boeing has successfully fulfilled its contract to supply 69 KC-46A tankers to the USAF, in addition to two tankers to the Japan Air Self-Defence Force. The company is currently under contract to deliver four KC-46A units to the Israel Air Force.
The KC-46A is manufactured on the 767-production line in Everett, Washington. The production process is supported by a vast supplier network of more than 650 businesses, employing approximately 37,000 American workers across 40 states.