Boeing Defense, Space & Security now has six aircraft in its testing program as it seeks to complete ground and flight tests for the KC-46 tanker for the U.S. Air Force. The KC-46A tanker is a reconfiguration of the Boeing 767 twin-engine wide-body passenger jet, which Boeing is developing as aircraft that can refuel all U.S., allied, and coalition military aircraft. It also will be able to carry passengers, cargo, and patients.
The aircraft that took flight on April 29 is the second KC-46 produced and the third to enter the test program. These tests will help ensure the jets can operate safely through electromagnetic fields produced by radars, radio towers, and other systems, Boeing explained.
“This first flight is another important step for the KC-46 program toward verifying the aircraft’s operational capabilities,” according to Col. John Newberry, Air Force KC-46 System program manager. "Adding this aircraft brings key capabilities to the test fleet and helps move us closer to delivering operational aircraft to the warfighter."
To date, the program’s test aircraft have completed 1,600 flight hours and more than 1,200 “contacts” during refueling flights with F-16, F/A-18, AV-8B, C-17, A-10 and KC-10 aircraft.
Last August, the USAF presented a $2.8-billion contract for Boeing to begin low-rate initial production for two “production lots” of the KC-46A tanker aircraft. The first lot involves seven aircraft, while the second will cover 12 aircraft. Including future options, Boeing expects to build 179 of these refueling and strategic airlift aircraft for the USAF.
“Adding another tanker will help us to become even more efficient and significantly improve our ability to complete test points going forward,” according to Boeing’s Jeanette Croppi, KC-46A tanker test team director. “We are also re-configuring one of our 767-2C aircraft into a tanker, which means we soon will have four KC-46 tankers in test.”