The U.S. Air Force’s long wait for the KC-46A Pegasus air refueling tanker/transport came to a close Thursday when Boeing signed the paperwork to hand over ownership of the first aircraft that is expected to be delivered to McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas, by the end of January.
“We look forward to working with the Air Force, and the Navy, during their initial operational test and evaluation of the KC-46, as we further demonstrate the operational capabilities of this next-generation aircraft across refueling, mobility, and combat weapons systems missions,” said Leanne Caret, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security.
Boeing said it has four KC-46 ready to deliver to McConnell. Four others will be delivered to Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma, possibly as early as February, the company said. It is on contract to deliver 52 KC-46s to the Air Force out of an expected 179.
McConnell was selected as the first active-duty Air Force base to receive the KC-46. The base expects to receive 18 KC-46s in its initial allocation and will eventually have 36. They will replace 24 KC-135 Stratotankers currently assigned to the base.
The KC-46 is based on Boeing’s 767 commercial airframe, and it will fly faster, farther, and be more fuel efficient than the KC-135 it replaces. It also will have greater air refueling capability for a variety of military aircraft including those operated by NATO members because it comes equipped with a traditional tail-mounted refueling boom and a hose-and-drogue system.
During the flight test program, six KC-46s clocked more than 3,800 flight hours and delivered more than 4 million pounds of fuel to A-10s, B-52s, C-17s, KC-10s, KC-135s, KC-46s, F-15Es, F-16s, and F/A-18s.
Previously, McConnell anticipated receiving its first KC-46 in October, but the program has faced a number of technical issues along the way, causing Boeing to miss its original delivery date of September 2017.