The US Air Force (USAF) has accepted the first KC-46A Pegasus tanker aircraft from Boeing after a long period of delays, clearing the way for the start of operational testing and flight training.
The KC-46A Pegasus is a military aerial refuelling and strategic military transport aircraft. Based on Boeing’s commercial 767 airframes, the aircraft is built at the company’s Everett, Washington, facility.
Boeing is expected to deliver the first four KC-46A aircraft to the USAF later this month during a formal ceremony at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas.
Oklahoma’s Altus Air Force Base is anticipated to receive four subsequent aircraft from as early as next month.
Despite the acceptance, USAF has identified deficiencies discovered in the developmental testing of the remote vision system. Boeing has agreed to fix these deficiencies at its expense.
USAF reported in September 2018 that it had found two new issues with the KC-46A Pegasus aircraft.
USAF spokesperson Ann Stefanek told Defense News: “We discovered these deficiencies during the course of flight testing. As the programme progresses through receiver certification testing, we are still in discovery phase with the tanker / receiver pairs.
“The test team is still writing the test reports, but submitted the DRs [deficiency reports] in advance to assist in accelerating root cause, corrective action development.”
In its latest statement, USAF said: “The airforce has mechanisms in place to ensure Boeing meets its contractual obligations while initial operational testing and evaluation continues.”
Prior to the acceptance, six KC-46 tankers underwent extensive flight testing, which involved more than 3,800 flight hours and offloading of more than four million pounds of fuel to A-10, B-52, C-17, KC-10, KC-135, KC-46, F-15E, F-16 and F/A-18 aircraft.
Testing covered all aspects of the refuelling envelope and conditions, including day, night and covert.
Boeing Defense, Space & Security president and CEO Leanne Caret said: “The KC-46A is a proven, safe, multi-mission aircraft that will transform aerial refuelling and mobility operations for decades to come.
“We look forward to working with the airforce, and the navy, during their initial operational test and evaluation of the KC-46, as we further demonstrate the operational capabilities of this next-generation aircraft across refuelling, mobility and combat weapons systems missions.”
In 2011, Boeing secured a contract to build 179 KC-46 tankers for the USAF by 2027.
Under an agreement signed in September, the company due to develop a total of 52 KC-46 aerial refuelling aircraft for the USAF.