Boeing has added a sixth KC-46 Pegasus tanker to its test fleet, according to a company news release. The newest aircraft, a KC-46A, made its first flight April 29. It is the second low-rate initial production (LRIP) to join the fleet, and the third aircraft to have full in-flight refueling capability. The aircraft is slated to begin test activities that will determine whether the KC-46 fleet will be able to operate “through electromagnetic fields produced by radars, radio towers and other systems.”
“Adding this aircraft brings key capabilities to the test fleet and helps move us closer to delivering operational aircraft to the warfighter.”
“Adding another tanker will help us to become even more efficient and significantly improve our ability to complete test points going forward,” said Jeanette Croppi, Boeing KC-46A tanker test team director. “We are also re-configuring one of our 767-2C aircraft into a tanker, which means we soon will have four KC-46 tankers in test.”
“This first flight is another important step for the KC-46 program toward verifying the aircraft’s operational capabilities,” said Col. John Newberry, Air Force KC-46 System program manager. “Adding this aircraft brings key capabilities to the test fleet and helps move us closer to delivering operational aircraft to the warfighter.”
The test fleet has so far amassed more than 1,600 flight hours and more than 1,200 in-flight refueling “contacts” with F-16, F/A-18, AV-8B, C-17, A-10 and KC-10 aircraft. The refueling tests have employed both the “flying boom” method preferred by the Air Force, and the “probe and drogue” method employed by the Navy, Marine Corps, and many other allied and partner nations.
The KC-46 is based on the Boeing 767 airframe, and Boeing plans to build 179 of the tanker at its Everett, Washington, plant.