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Boeing KC-46A Pegasus Makes First Flight

 

Boeing’s KC-46A Pegasus made its first flight Friday, Sept. 25, according to releases from the U.S. Air Force and Boeing.

The first tanker-configured aircraft (EMD-2) took off from Paine Field and landed four hours later at Boeing Field in Seattle. While the program’s first test aircraft, a 767-2C, first flew in December 2014 and has completed more than 150 hours of flight testing, this is the first actual KC-46A to fly.

“The KC-46A will provide critical refueling capacity and enhanced capabilities to the warfighter,” said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. “This flight represents progress and brings us a step closer to fielding this much needed aircraft.”

“The KC-46A will provide critical refueling capacity and enhanced capabilities to the warfighter,” said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. “This flight represents progress and brings us a step closer to fielding this much needed aircraft.”

KC-46A lands

The Boeing-built KC-46A Pegasus tanker lands after its first flight, from Paine Field, Everett, Washington, to Boeing Field, Seattle. Sept. 25, 2015. Boeing photo

“This first tanker flight is a key milestone for the program and we’ll now begin free air stability tests and flight controls of the boom and wing aerial refueling pods (WARPs) before conducting aerial refueling tests where the KC-46 will make contact with other military aircraft down the road,” said Col. Christopher Coombs, U.S. Air Force KC-46 System program manager.

The first 18 KC-46As, along with their supporting equipment, are required to be operationally capable by August 2017.

Boeing says the KC-46A will begin conducting aerial refueling flights to test the boom and wing aerial refueling pods (WARPs) before the end of the year with a variety of Air Force aircraft. The WARPs are an important capability, as they allow the KC-46A to refuel aircraft that employ the “probe and drogue” refueling system used by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps as well as many foreign air forces as well as the Air Force’s aircraft that use the “flying boom” refueling system.

“Today’s flight reinforces that we are moving in the right direction and are on track to begin planned Milestone C testing later this year,” said Tim Peters, Boeing KC-46 tanker vice president and program manager. “This is an aerospace industry first and the culmination of a lot of hard work by the team, including Boeing, our suppliers and the U.S. Air Force.”

KC-46A on ramp

The Boeing-built KC-46A Pegasus tanker at Boeing Field, Seattle, after its first flight, Sept. 25, 2015. Boeing photo

Mission systems demonstrations and ground cargo-handling tests will lead up to the Milestone C decision in 2016, according to the Boeing release. The Air Force contracted with Boeing in 2011 for 179 KC-46s. Under the initial contract award, Boeing is building two 767-2C and two KC-46A test aircraft. The KC-46As will be fully-equipped tankers for FAA and military certification, and the 767-2Cs will perform flight testing duties before being upgraded to KC-46A standard with the addition of their refueling systems. The first 18 KC-46As, along with their supporting equipment, are required to be operationally capable by August 2017.

“Today is just the first flight of many for this aircraft as we deliver these next generation tankers,” said Brig. Gen. Duke Z. Richardson, program executive officer for tankers at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. “Like the KC-135 (Stratotanker) and KC-10 (Extender) before it, this aircraft will be called upon for generations to come to deliver capability, whether support equipment, supplies, medical aide, or personnel. However, its primary mission will always be to fuel the fight. The team at Boeing has done a remarkable job creating an entirely new aircraft that will soon become the backbone of our ability to project power anywhere in the world.”