The first two Boeing KC-46 Pegasus aircraft departed Everett’s Paine Field last week for McConnell Air Force Base, where the 22nd Air Refueling Wing was the first unit to receive the tankers.
McConnell will receive two more tankers in the weeks ahead. Then Oklahoma’s Altus Air Force Base will receive four planes to support aircrew training.
The US Air Force will soon begin evaluating the KC-46’s systems in operationally realistic scenarios, which is required before the aircraft can be used in combat.
It will also continue validating the KC-46’s refueling capabilities, with aircraft including the B-2 bomber, C-5 cargo plane, and F-35 fighter. Prior testing involved the B-52 bomber, C-17 cargo plane, and F-15E and F/A-18 fighters, among others.
After delays, Boeing had promised that the first KC-46s would be delivered to the USAF this month, however, even as the aircraft was receiving its final FAA certifications, major technological deficiencies with the aircraft remained unresolved.
Then, on September the 17th, it was discovered that deficiencies had been identified.
In 2006, the USAF released a request for proposal for a new tanker programme, KC-X, to be selected by 2007. Boeing had also announced it may enter an even higher capability tanker based on the Boeing 777, named the KC-777 Strategic Tanker.
Airbus partnered with Northrop Grumman to offer the Airbus A330 MRTT, the tanker version of the A330, which was being marketed to the USAF under the company name, KC-30.
In late January 2007 the USAF issued the KC-X Aerial Refueling Aircraft Request for Proposal.
The RFP called for 179 (4 system development and demonstration and 175 production) tankers, in a contract worth an estimated US$40 billion. However, Northrop and EADS expressed their displeasure at how the RFP was structured and threatened to withdraw, leaving only Boeing to offer an aircraft.