Boeing has reached an agreement with the US Air Force to deliver its first KC-46 Pegasus tanker in October 2018.

The Chicago-based aerospace manufacturer was contracted to deliver the first batch of 18 KC-46s by August 2017 but missed that deadline after having production issues. The USAF said it now expects that the first 18 aircraft will be delivered by April 2019.

This agreement paves the way for delivery of the first new tanker to the USAF 16.5 years after the US Senate first proposed a replacement plan for the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker, a 1950s-era tanker.

KC-46 refuels A-10 640

The first KC-46 will be delivered to McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas. Then, aircraft will be delivered to Altus AFB in Oklahoma and Pease AFB in New Hampshire. Boeing said it now has 43 aircraft in some stage of production, including 34 aircraft which are now in the final stages of build.

“This has been a long time coming. It’s going to be a great day to get this capability to them,” said Leanne Caret, president and chief executive of Boeing Defense “There’s a lot of people who have worked countless hours and have just been tireless in their commitment to them.”

The USAF and Boeing are still discussing how to resolve remaining Category 1 deficiencies on the KC-46, such as sunlight glare problems with the aircraft’s refueling boom camera and design problems that cause the drogue refueling hose to disconnect in certain situations.

The KC-46 is a converted 767-2C freighter that can be used by the military for aerial refueling or cargo transport. The tanker’s boom system can transfer up to 4,540l (1,200gal) of fuel per minute to other aircraft while in flight and its Cobham-supplied hose and drogue systems, located on both the plane's wing and centreline, enables the tanker to refuel probe-equipped aircraft with up to 1,510l of fuel per minute.