Boeing has rolled out the first KC-46A tanker/transport aircraft intended for delivery to U.S. Air Force from its Everett, Washington facility.
The new generation KC-46A aerial refueling aircraft, which can also configured for troop/cargo transportation will expand strategic reach of USAF further with its unprecedented refueling capabilities, operational flexibility and combat readiness.
Boeing currently have six KC-46 aircraft in flight testing, including four fully configured KC-46A tankers, carrying out Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airworthiness certifications to achieve a supplemental type certificate as the aircraft is based on type certified Boeing 767 commercial platform.
Despite delays in flight testing, Boeing remain confident of commencing delivery later this year. But a USAF report last month predicts the first delivery will be delayed until first quarter of 2018 against the third revised date of September 2017.
Boeing was awarded an engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) contract by USAF in 2011 to deliver 18 tankers(of the planned 179), nine sets of wing aerial refueling pods (WARPs) and two spare engines by August 2017. This was later extended to deliver first 18 aircraft and WARPs separately by October 2018.
|The refeuling boom being installed on the aircraft Copyright Boeing|
The first 18 aircraft will be equipped with refueling boom and centerline drogue refueling capabilities as well as all other contract required capability except the wing-aerial refueling pod (WARP)s.
The tanker is designed to replace the Air Force's aging KC-135 Stratotankers, which have been the military's primary refueling aircraft for more than 50 years.
The 767-2C based tanker integrate elements of other Boeing aircraft models, such as the 767-300F wing and the 787 flight deck displays. The tanker will provide refueling support to aircraft serving with the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and allied forces.
The KC-46 is equipped with a boom and three hose and drogue aerial refueling systems. The boom allows the tanker to transfer up to 1,200 gallons of fuel per minute, while the plane’s hose and drogue systems, located on both the plane’s wing and centerline, enables the KC-46 to refuel smaller aircraft such as the F/A-18 with up to 400 gallons of fuel per minute.
With a maximum take off weight of 415,000 lbs (188,241 kg), the KC-46A can carry a maximum fuel load of 212,299 lbs (96,265 kg) and is powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW 4062 turbofan engines rated at 62,000 lbf (289.13 kN) thrust each.
In January, USAF awarded Boeing a third LRIP contract, bringing the total aircraft on order to 34 worth $4.9 billion.