The US Air Force’s (USAF) future KC-46A Pegasus multi-role tanker has successfully conducted its maiden flight.

The 3.5-hour flight saw The Boeing-built aircraft undergo operational checks on engines, flight controls, and environmental systems.

USAF KC-46 System programme manager colonel John Newberry said: “Today’s flight is another milestone for the airforce/Boeing team and helps move us closer to delivering operational aircraft to the warfighter.”

The airborne operational checks were conducted as part of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved flight profile.

Prior to subsequent flights, the team of test pilots from Boeing will conduct a post-flight inspection and calibrate instrumentation.

Boeing KC-46A tanker vice-president and programme manager Mike Gibbons said: “We still have some tough work ahead of us, including completing our FAA certification activities, but the team is committed to ensure that, upon delivery, this tanker will be everything our customer expects and more.”

The first USAF KC-46A took off from Paine Field, Washington, US, and reached a maximum altitude of 39,000ft.

“The first USAF KC-46A took off from Paine Field, Washington, US, and reached a maximum altitude of 39,000ft.”

The newest tanker is the seventh aircraft to be built under the KC-46 programme and will be delivered to the USAF next year.

The previous six are being used for testing and certification and have completed 2,200 flight hours and more than 1,600 ‘contacts’ during refuelling flights with F-16, F/A-18, AV-8B, C-17, A-10, KC-10, and KC-46 aircraft so far.

Boeing has been contracted to build the first 34 of an expected 179 tankers for the USAF.

The KC-46A multi-role tanker can refuel all allied and coalition military aircraft compatible with international aerial refuelling procedures and can carry passengers, cargo and patients.