—John A. TIrpak and Brian Everstine
The KC-46A Pegasus tanker has completed the second phase of receiver certification flight testing, Boeing announced on Monday.
The last aircraft in Phase II was the F-15E Strike Eagle, which was certified to refuel from the Pegasus after a three-week test program out of Edwards AFB, Calif. Other aircraft that can now tank up behind a KC-46 include the A-10, B-52, C-17, F-16, F/A-18, and KC-135.
Company Vice President and program manager Mike Gibbons said the milestone “sets the stage for the start of Initial Operational Test and Evaluation testing next year.”
During the tests, the receiver jets and KC-46s flew at different airspeeds, altitudes, and configurations to “ensure compatibility and performance throughout the refueling envelope.”
Refueling tests have racked up 3,700 flight hours and four million pounds of fuel passed.
Phase III certifications begin in 2019, but Boeing did not say what aircraft would be in that mix, which will include 11 aircraft.
While the F-35 will eventually be the most numerous fighter in US armed forces service, it will not be certified with the KC-46 until Phase IV, possibly in 2020. That step was taken because both aircraft were still in development at the KC-46’s inception, and program managers decided not to “mingle” the programs until both were well defined.
A firm date for operational status of the KC-46 has not yet been set.
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