Boeing plans to deliver 36 KC-46A Pegasus in-flight refuelling tankers to the US Air Force in 2019 despite two stoppages earlier in the year when foreign object debris was found inside multiple aircraft.
The company is on contract to deliver 36 aircraft by the end of the year and has thus far delivered 8 aircraft to the USAF. The service recently signed off on delivery of three more tankers, which are likely to be delivered on 17 May, says the company. Boeing says it should deliver 18 aircraft by the end of June.
Boeing’s push to meet its contractual obligations comes as it continues to submit the tanker to be certificated by the USAF on new aircraft. Thus far, the company has had its aircraft certificated for nine aircraft. In the near term, it plans to pursue refuelling certifications for three more aircraft: the Lockheed Martin EC-130, Bell Boeing MV-22 and Lockheed C-5.
Most recently, on 7 May, the KC-46A was certificated for refueling the Lockheed Martin F-35A. Refuelling the F-35A is a more high-stakes procedure compared to connecting with other aircraft because of the risk that the tanker’s refuelling boom might scratch the stealth skin of the fighter. Certificating took about four months and Boeing says the process was without snags.
The USAF also completed the KC-46A’s first operational refuelling on 7 May. While flying alongside a McDonnel Douglas KC-10 from Travis AFB in California, the KC-46 offloaded 13,600kg (30,000lb) to four Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters en route to an exercise at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska.