KC-46A Pegasus refueling tanker passes a milestone test
By DALE DENWALT | The Oklahoman | Published: December 5, 2018
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (Tribune News Service) — The U.S. Air Force's new tanker scheduled to base operations in Oklahoma has been certified to refuel eight aircraft.
When certification is complete, the KC-46A Pegasus will be able to link with more than five dozen different airplanes during midair refueling operations. Monday's announcement by the manufacturer, Boeing Co., represents another step forward in the craft's expected delivery to the Air Force.
Pegasus has been certified to refuel some of the military's most essential combat and support aircraft, including the F-16, F/A-18 and B-52.
Additional tests and evaluations will continue through 2019, 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," Gibbons said.
In October, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said a planned delivery of the first aircraft was delayed because supplemental certification by the Federal Aviation Administration took longer than expected. Boeing spokesman Charles Ramey confirmed this week that the plan still is to deliver aircraft this year to the Air Force.
During the Phase II receiver certification flight tests at Edwards Air Force Base in California, the Pegasus and receiver aircraft flew at different airspeeds, altitudes and configurations to verify performance and whether the tanker and receiving aircraft were compatible across a wide range of situations. Six test aircraft now have completed more than 3,700 flight hours and supplied more than four million pounds of fuel in flight to receiver aircraft, Boeing reported.
Phase III receiver certification testing will be conducted by the Air Force at Edwards Air Force Base in 2019. That testing will include additional receiver aircraft.
The $44.3 billion contract issued in 2011 called for the first of 179 aircraft to be delivered in 2016. Boeing has compensated the military for delays.
After the Pegasus is delivered, the fleet eventually will make its way to Oklahoma. Aircrews will train at Altus Air Force Base, while the Air Logistics Complex at Tinker Air Force Base will take care of the planes at a newly constructed maintenance center.