MILESTONE C approval for the Boeing KC-46A Pegasus programme has been granted by Frank Kendall, the Under-secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. The decision, announced on August 12, confirms that the aircraft is ready to enter into production.
Work is now underway to award the first two low rate initial production (LRIP) lots within the next 30 days. These will comprise seven aircraft in LRIP 1 and 12 aircraft in LRIP 2. The contact cost for the 19 aircraft, plus associated spare parts, will have a pre-negotiated $2.8 billion combined value.
US Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said: “I commend the team for diligently working through some difficult technical challenges. The KC-46 program has made significant strides in moving the Air Force toward the modernization needed in our strategic tanker fleet.”
Securing approval to begin low rate initial production required completion of several aerial refuelling demonstrations. This includes refuelling an F-16 Fighting Falcon, C-17A Globemaster III and A-10 Thunderbolt II off the boom, plus an AV-8B Harrier II and F/A-18 Hornet off both hose and drogue systems. The KC-46 also proved its receiver capability by taking fuel from a KC-10 Extender.
Some demonstrations were delayed due to higher than expected axial loads in the boom. Boeing installed hydraulic pressure relief valves to alleviate loads and last month all remaining demonstrations were quickly completed. As previously reported on AFD, the last of these required tests, refuelling an A-10, was completed on July 15.
The first aircraft deliveries will be to McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, and Altus AFB, Oklahoma. A total of 18 tankers are scheduled to be delivered by early 2018.
As the test programme continues, the KC-46 will complete a robust schedule of Federal Aviation Administration and military certification flight testing, including refuelling test flights, in order to achieve certification for aircraft in the US Air Force and Department of Defense inventory.