Boeing hopes that Poland will become the first export customer for the KC-46A Pegasus tanker it is developing for the US Air Force.
Warsaw has issued a request for proposals seeking as many as four tankers to help it meet refuelling requirements as part of the NATO alliance, with a decision expected by the year end.
Although the east European nation is also a member of the European Defence Agency, which has a separate requirement for eight tankers, Poland is keen to ensure its air force is not constrained by any decision taken by the EDA.
“If you are a go-to-war kind of air force you are going to need a [combat-capable tanker],” says James Eisenhart, director, business development USAF battle management and mobility programs at Boeing.
“Look at the new normal with the Ukraine and so on. There appears to be more instability in the world than there was five years ago,” said Eisenhart at Poland’s MSPO defence show in Kielce.
International delivery slots for the 767-derived KC-46A are available from 2018, says Eisenhart. “And when we deliver those aircraft, they will have been through USAF flight-test certification.”
He points to the wide compatibility of the Boeing-developed boom system, which is suitable for the 64 different receivers used on aircraft operated by NATO members, plus the critical mass provided by the USAF’s planned fleet of 179 tankers, as key selling points.
Boeing faces competition in Poland from the Airbus Defence & Space A330 MRRT and Israel Aerospace Industries, which is pitching a converted passenger 767.
Four initial aircraft – designated the 767-2C – are being developed by Boeing for the KC-X programme. First flight is anticipated by the end of the third quarter, with a KC-46A to make its maiden sortie in the first quarter of 2015.