Boeing’s second functional KC-46A has joined the fledgling Pegasus fleet as the US Air Force's next-generation tanker programme advances toward a production decision by the Pentagon in April or May.
The fourth engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) aircraft took flight from Boeing’s Paine Field in Washington state on 2 March and landed a while later at Boeing Field in Seattle.
The company announced the flight in a joint statement today, and confirmed that the second 767-2C aircraft (EMD-3) used for FAA and military type certification will join the tanker programme in April.
Boeing’s second KC-46 tanker (EMD-4) flies from Paine Field in Everett, Washington on 2 March
“Adding a second tanker to the flight test program is very important as we move into the next phase of testing,” US Air Force KC-46 system programme manager Col John Newberry says. “The team will initially use the aircraft to test mission system avionics and exterior lighting. Later, it will share the air refuelling effort with the first KC-46.”
The second fully configured tanker will help Boeing move through “receiver certification” for 18 aircraft types faster. KC-46 has already demonstrated functionality with the Lockheed Martin F-16, Boeing F/A-18 and refuelling from a Boeing KC-10.
This week, the KC-46 passed fuel to a Boeing AV-8B Harrier II, checking off another receiver aircraft on the "milestone C" review list ahead of a production decision.
Boeing says its first 767-2C (EMD-1) that first flew in December 2014 has completed more than 260 flight test hours. “EMD-2, the program’s first KC-46A tanker, made its maiden flight on 25 September 2015 and has now completed more than 180 flight test hours,” Boeing says.