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USAF’s KC-46A Pegasus makes progress

Photo: Boeing

 

The US Air Force’s KC-46A Pegasus tanker continues to make progress, with a new order for 18 aircraft plus award of US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification.

On September 10 the Pentagon announced award of a $2.9bn contract to Boeing for 18 tankers, bringing the total number of KC-46As ordered to date to 52. The contract modification provides for the exercise of an option for Lot 4 production KC-46 aircraft, plus initial spares, and support equipment including five wing-mounted air-to-air refuelling pods and two spare engines.

Work will be performed in Everett, Washington, and is expected to be completed by January 2022.

“We’re excited to partner with the air force on an aircraft that will provide its fleet unmatched capabilities and versatility,” said Mike Gibbons, Boeing KC-46A tanker vice president and programme manager. “This is another big milestone for the team and we look forward to delivering this next-generation, multi-role tanker for years to come.”

Boeing received an initial contract in 2011 to design and develop the Pegasus tanker aircraft.

Boeing plans to build 179 of the 767-based tanker aircraft for the USAF to replace its legacy aerial refuelling fleet. Boeing received its first two production lots, for 7 and 12 aircraft, in August 2016. The third lot, for 15 aircraft, was awarded in January last year.

Tanker deliveries are expected to begin in October this year.

Certification milestone

On September 4 the manufacturer announced that the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted the KC-46 a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC), verifying that its refuelling and mission avionics systems meet FAA requirements. The milestone marks completion of KC-46 FAA certification.

To receive its STC, Boeing’s team completed a series of lab, ground and flight tests, which commenced in 2015. As part of the required flight testing, the team validated the KC-46’s boom and drogue aerial refuelling systems met FAA certification criteria.

“Our Boeing/air force test team did an outstanding job successfully leading us through all the requirements, and we appreciate the FAA’s collaboration as well,” said Gibbons. “This milestone is important in that it is one of the last major hurdles in advance of first delivery to the US Air Force.”

The STC is one of two required FAA airworthiness certifications. Boeing received an Amended Type Certificate for its core 767-2C aircraft configuration last December. While those certifications cover most of the jet, not all military functions and equipment can be certified by the FAA. The USAF also must grant a Military Type Certificate (MTC), which is expected in the coming months. Boeing’s team concluded MTC flight testing, which included the jet’s aerial refuelling, defensive and other military-specific systems, in early July.

Six aircraft have supported various segments of STC and MTC testing. Overall they have completed 3,500 flight hours and offloaded more than three million pounds of fuel during refuelling flights with F-16, F/A-18, AV-8B, C-17, A-10, KC-10, KC-135 and KC-46 aircraft.

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