Recent reports have noted the KC-46A Pegasus tanker has successfully refueled an F-16 and C-17. The boom had not been functioning properly, creating a major program delay.
If the F-35 had a big brother in terms of issues and delays it would be the KC-46A tanker.
Boeing has already been hit with $1.5 billion in cost overruns on the program. In May, it was revealed that Boeing was unable to deliver the first 18 tankers on time. The timeline was pushed back from August 2017 to January 2018. The problem: challenges certifying the hose-and-drogue air refueling systems.
Gen. Goldfein, the new Air Force Chief of Staff, said he was “confident” the company could fix the problems with the refueling equipment that led to the delay. “This isn’t radically new technology,” he said.
No kidding. The USAF has been refueling aircraft for years. The new KC-46A has one true mission that is the same as all of its previous tankers: Air to Air Refueling. Thankfully, General Goldfein is taking a hard stance on the program and it may be working. Additionally, none of the current cost overruns cost the taxpayer, as the KC-46A is on a fixed price contract.
The recent good news of the reworked boom is a step in the right direction and means that the KC-46A appears to be back on track. The refueling of the C-17 Globemaster was a considerable milestone. Refueling larger aircraft is one of the key attributes of the KC-46A and the issue with the boom was discovered on initial testing of these larger aircraft.
The initial delivery of KC-46A’s will have the capability to refuel with the boom and centerline drogue. However, they will have no capability to refuel using pods mounted on the plane’s wings. The wing-aerial refueling pod, or WARP, will be delivered later and separately.
The KC-46A is the first phase of a 3-phase effort to replace the U.S. Air Force’s aging tanker fleet. The aircraft has a modernized KC-10 refueling boom. The boom contains a proven fly-by-wire control system that can deliver a fuel offload rate required for large aircraft. The hose and drogue system also add additional mission capability that is independently operable from the refueling boom system.
Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James told Defense News in an email Wednesday: “I’m encouraged by these results. The KC-46 program continues to move forward, making important progress that will get this vital capability into the hands of the warfighter.”
Let’s hope the progress turns into deliverable tankers.
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Top Photo credit: The KC-46A Pegasus performs its first-ever aerial refueling Jan. 24, 2016, passing 1,600 pounds of fuel to an F-16 Fighting Falcon. (Boeing photo/Paul Weatherman)