Boeing Defense, Space and Security has a new $5.7-billion contract from the U.S. Dept. of Defense for post-production work on K-46 Pegasus tanker aircraft, to prepare the U.S. Air Force’s aircraft refueling fleet for combat. The work will be performed through April 28, 2029.
"This contract provides for a broad range of post-production related non-recurring and recurring requirements," according to a DoD announcement.
The KC-46 Pegasus is a widebody, multirole tanker built from Boeing 767 commercial jets, and designed to refuel all U.S., allied, and coalition military aircraft compatible with international aerial refueling procedures. According to Boeing, the KC-46 is designed to carry passengers, cargo, and patients, and it can detect, avoid, defeat and survive threats using multiple layers of protection, so it will be available to operate in medium-threat environments.
The USAF selected the KC-46 in 2011 to replace the previous refueling tanker, the KC-135 Stratotanker. The initial order was for 18 KC-46 tankers to be delivered by 2017, and the Air Force intends to order a total of 179 new tankers over the life of the program.
Due to program delays, the first KC-46 delivery was delayed more than a year, to January 2019. The KC-46 program also has been plagued by cost overruns.
More than that, after the initial delivery in January the USAF halted deliveries in February, reportedly because foreign object debris (tools and trash material) were found in delivered aircraft and aircraft still in production. The deliveries resumed, but were halted again by the USAF in April due to debris.
Reportedly, the USAF and Boeing now will establish a more intensive inspection process prior to deliveries.