flew the first all-up KC-46A Pegasus aerial tanker Sept. 25. The jet took off
from Paine Field, Everett, Wash., at 1:24 p.m. local time on what was expected
to be about a four-hour checkout flight ending at Boeing Field in Seattle.
During the flight, the company said, technicians planned to check out basic
aircraft integrity and fundamental systems, such as the engines, flight
controls, and environmental systems. "The KC-46A will provide critical refueling capacity and enhanced
capabilities to the warfighter," said Air Force Secretary Deborah
Lee James. "This flight represents progress and brings us a step closer
to fielding this much needed aircraft." After the flight, a Boeing spokeswoman
said, plans called for calibrating instrumentation prior to the next series of
flights, during which the refueling boom and probe-and-drogue Wing Aerial
Refuel Pods (WARPs) would be tried out. The company declined to say when it
expected to fly the jet again. Previous
flights have been made with the jet’s stablemate, a “provisioned freighter”
767-2C, which has all the plumbing of the all-up KC-46, but without the fitted
military gear and air refueling probe. The test fleet will comprise two
767-2Cs—which will clear all the FAA requirements for the type—and two all-up
KC-46s. The 2Cs will be fitted with refueling gear later to join the test
program, which will be flown out of Edwards AFB, Calif., and Boeing Field. All
four test jets are expected to eventually join the operational force. “Today’s flight is the call to duty for this new aircraft,” said Col.
Christopher Coombs, KC-46 system program manager. “EMD-2 will be
conducting the heavy lifting of testing in demonstrating the
capabilities of this aircraft and leading the program down the path
toward its Milestone C decision.” Boeing is
under contract to build 17 jets, to be delivered by 2017 for initial
operational capability, and ultimately 179 KC-46s under the KC-X program. USAF
plans a follow-on KC-Y and KC-Z program to finish replacing the KC-135 and
KC-10 fleets, respectively.
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