The US Department of Defense (DoD) contracted numerous aerospace suppliers for line replaceable components for the KC-46A Pegasus fleet in the US Air Force (USAF) on 30 April 2024.

Awarded to AAR Government Services, AMI, Aviation Repair Technologies, Boeing, Honeywell, Rockwell Collins and VSE in a deal collectively worth $820m, this contract will furnish USAF engineers with the components they need to repair and maintain the refuelling aircraft.

Work will be performed in US Government main operating bases and is expected to be completed by 30 April 2035. The aircraft are stationed at different bases including McConnell Air Force Base (AFB), Pease Air National Guard Base, Altus AFB, and Seymour Johnson AFB.

According to intelligence from GlobalData, the service currently operates 75 Pegasus aircraft acquired in the space of four years, between 2019 and 2023. Although, the DoD intends to procure more units as part of a framework with Boeing to produce 179 units in total.

Boeing will deliver the entire KC-46 tanker fleet by 2027. The programme is expected to generate more than 50,000 jobs and will involve about 800 suppliers.

The KC-46A is a wide-body, multi-mission aircraft capable of transporting fuel, cargo, passengers, and patients. The USAF intend to replace their existing 396 KC-135R/T units, which were procured from as early as 1957.

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KC-46A features

The tanker is capable of carrying 18 cargo pallets, as well as transporting 58 passengers as a normal workload, and up to 114 passengers during contingency operations. It also provides urgent aeromedical evacuation by transporting 54 medical patients. It weighs about 94,198 kilogrammes (kg), while the maximum take-off weight is 188,241kg.

The aircraft has a length of 165ft 10in (50.5m), wingspan of 156ft 1in (47.5m), and overall height of 52ft 10in (16.1m). It has a maximum cargo capacity of 65,000lb (29,484kg).

USAF KC-46A extends its boom to refuel another aircraft mid-flight during operation Talisman Sabre, 31 July 2023. Credit: DVIDS.

The Japan Air Self-Defense Force placed a $279m order with Boeing for the delivery of a KC-46 tanker and logistics support in December 2017. An option was exercised by the USAF for the sale of a second KC-46 tanker to the Air Self-Defense Force under foreign military sale programme in December 2018.

KC-46 has a maximum fuel capacity of 212,299lb (96,265kg). The aircraft is fitted with a flush-mounted air-to-air refuelling receptacle capable of accepting fuel at 1,200 gallons per minute.

The refuelling systems also include a digital fly-by-wire boom capable of offloading fuel at 1,200 gallons per minute, as well as a permanent centreline drogue system and removable wing air refuelling pods that can each offload fuel at 400 gallons per minute.