Boeing’s KC-46A Pegasus tanker has taken an important step along the road towards initial operational capability with the completion of Phase II receiver certification, in which a number of U.S. receiver types were tested. However, the first delivery to the U.S. Air Force, scheduled for October, was missed due to delays in receiving FAA certification, which was awarded in September following the fulfillment of flight test requirements in July. Military type certification has not yet been issued but is anticipated imminently. Boeing now expects to hand over the first aircraft before the end of December.
Phase II receiver trials got under way in April and began with the F-16. Subsequently, tests were performed with the KC-135, C-17, A-10, KC-46, B-52, and F/A-18. The second phase wrapped up with three weeks of tests at Edwards Air Force Base with the Boeing F-15E.
Receiver certification flight tests involve the KC-46 tanker refueling aircraft at different weights, speeds, and altitudes, and with different stores configurations to represent the entire specific refueling envelope for each receiver type. The Air Force and the Aerial Refueling Certification Agency analyze the data gathered to approve each aircraft type to receive fuel from the KC-46.
“This accomplishment is a tribute to the Boeing/U.S. Air Force team and helps set the stage for the start of Initial Operational Test & Evaluation [IOT&E] testing next year,” said Mike Gibbons, Boeing KC-46A tanker vice president and program manager. “We are seeing great progress in both test and production and expect the positive momentum to continue as we begin delivering aircraft.”
The test effort was conducted from the manufacturer’s facility at Boeing Field in Washington, Edwards AFB, and Minot AFB, North Dakota. Six test aircraft flew more than 3,700 hours during the trials, with offloaded fuel totaling more than 4 million pounds. A third phase of receiver testing at Edwards AFB in California is scheduled for 2019, adding additional receiver types to those already tested. Next year the KC-46A is scheduled to undergo IOT&E trials, leading to an IOC. Recent orders have raised the number of KC-46s on contract to 52, out of a currently planned total of 179.
In the meantime, the KC-46 made its first visit to Europe. On December 1 aircraft N842BA (Air Force serial 15-46005) flew from Boeing Field to Anchorage, Alaska, before departing on a 10-hour, five-minute over-the-Pole flight that landed at Ramstein AFB in Germany in the afternoon of December 2.