KC-46A Tanker

Boeing has awarded GE Aviation a contract to supply the mission control system for the US Air Force’s (USAF) KC-46A tanker aircraft programme.

Under the terms of the $180m contract, the company will be responsible for the design, development and production of the mission control system, including the flight management system (FMS), throughout the life of the programme.

Lorraine Bolsinger, GE Aviation Systems president and CEO, said: "These systems will enable the aircraft to perform with navigation precision not currently available to the tanker fleet and will help enable efficient operations in our future airspace."

The FMS provides pilots with the ability to fly shorter flight paths and idle-thrust descents – lowering fuel consumption and reducing emissions and community noise impact.

The system will also offer the integrated communications management function required to support air traffic management data link, including the first implementation of the Aeronautical Telecommunications Network on a US Department of Defense (DoD) air vehicle, to enable efficient operations in the future NextGen airspace infrastructure.

Derived from the Boeing 767 jet airliner, the KC-46 is a military aerial refuelling and strategic transport aircraft designed to replace the USAF’s ageing fleet of KC-135 Stratotankers, which have been the primary refuelling aircraft for more than 50 years.

Capable of carrying passengers, cargo and patients, the aircraft can easily refuel all US, allied and coalition military aircraft, which are compatible with international aerial refuelling procedures, any time, on any mission.

As part of the KC-135 replacement programme, Boeing is under contract with the USAF to deliver 18 KC-46 refuelling aircraft by 2017.

Deliveries under the contract will continue until 2028, and the initial flight of the first aircraft is scheduled for late 2014.

Image: The USAF’s proposed KC-46A Tanker aircraft. Photo: courtesy of Boeing 1995 – 2012 ©.