The Boeing KC-46 Pegasus development program completed its first flight of Engineering, Manufacturing and Development (EMD) aircraft №1 on December 28. Boeing EMD №1 is a provisioned 767-2C freighter and the critical building block for the KC-46 missionized aerial refueler. The maiden flight took off at 9:29 AM PST from Paine Field in Everett, Washington, and landed at 1:01 PM PST at Boeing Field in Seattle.
«Getting in the air is a critical step in the development of this important capability for the warfighter», said Brig. Gen. Duke Z. Richardson, the program executive officer for tankers at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. «The team at Boeing has done a remarkable job creating an entirely new aircraft that will soon become the backbone of our ability to project power anywhere in the world».
The 767-2C freighter is the initial step toward producing a KC-46. The aircraft will undergo additional finishing work s at the Boeing facility such as installing the refueling boom and other military specific equipment. The first flight of a Boeing KC-46 Pegasus (EMD №2) is expected in the spring of 2015.
«Today’s flight is a key step in the next generation of tankers», said Col. Christopher Coombs, the KC-46 system program manager. «We know flight testing will lead to some discovery; today’s flight kick-starts that work. There is an aggressive schedule going forward into the Milestone C decision point for approval to start Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP), but we remain cautiously optimistic we can meet the mark».
The Air Force contracted with Boeing in February 2011 to acquire 179 Boeing KC-46 refueling tankers to begin recapitalizing the aging tanker fleet. This flight is an early but important step toward meeting the required assets available date – a milestone requiring 18 KC-46 aircraft and all necessary support equipment to be on the ramp, ready to support warfighter needs, by the August 2017 timeframe.
The Boeing KC-46A Pegasus is intended to replace the U.S. Air Force’s aging fleet of KC-135 Stratotankers, which has been the primary refueling aircraft for more than 50 years. With more refueling capacity and enhanced capabilities, improved efficiency and increased capabilities for cargo and aeromedical evacuation, the KC-46A will provide aerial refueling support to the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps as well as allied nation coalition force aircraft.
The KC-46A will be able to refuel any fixed-wing receiver capable aircraft on any mission. This aircraft is equipped with a modernized KC-10 refueling boom integrated with proven fly-by-wire control system and delivering a fuel offload rate required for large aircraft. In addition, the hose and drogue system adds additional mission capability that is independently operable from the refueling boom system.
Two high-bypass turbofans, mounted under 34-degree swept wings, power the KC-46A to takeoff at gross weights up to 415,000 pounds/188,240 kg. Nearly all internal fuel can be pumped through the boom, drogue and wing aerial refueling pods. The centerline drogue and wing aerial refueling pods are used to refuel aircraft fitted with probes. All aircraft will be configured for the installation of a multipoint refueling system.
MPRS (Multi-Point Refueling System) configured aircraft will be capable of refueling two receiver aircraft simultaneously from special «pods» mounted under the wing. One crewmember known as the boom operator controls the boom, centerline drogue, and wing refueling «pods» during refueling operations. This new tanker utilizes an advanced KC-10 boom, a center mounted drogue and wing aerial refueling «pods» allowing it to refuel multiple types of receiver aircraft as well as foreign national aircraft on the same mission.
A cargo deck above the refueling system can accommodate a mix load of passengers, patients and cargo. The KC-46A can carry up to 18 463L cargo pallets. Seat tracks and the onboard cargo handling system make it possible to simultaneously carry palletized cargo, seats, and patient support pallets in a variety of combinations. The new tanker aircraft offers significantly increased cargo and aeromedical evacuation capabilities.
The aircrew compartment includes 15 permanent seats for aircrew, which includes permanent seating for the aerial refueling operator and an aerial refueling instructor. Panoramic displays giving the ARO (Aerial Refueling Operator) wing-tip to wing-tip situational awareness.
The Boeing Company was awarded a contract for the EMD phase of the KC-46 program on February 24, 2011. The first flight of a Boeing KC-46 Pegasus (EMD №2) is expected in the spring of 2015. The current contract, with options, provides the Air Mobility Command an inventory of 179 KC-46 tankers.
Primary Function: Aerial refueling and airlift
Prime Contractor: The Boeing Company
Power Plant: 2 Pratt & Whitney 4062
Thrust: 62,000 lbs/275.790 kN/28,123 kgf – Thrust per High-Bypass engine (sea-level standard day)
Wingspan: 157 feet, 8 inches (48.1 meters)
Length: 165 feet, 6 inches (50.5 meters)
Height: 52 feet, 10 inches (15.9 meters)
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 415,000 pounds (188,240 kilograms)
Maximum Landing Weight: 310,000 pounds (140,614 kilograms)
Fuel Capacity: 212,299 pounds (96,297 kilograms)
Maximum Transfer Fuel Load: 207,672 pounds (94,198 kilograms)
Maximum Cargo Capacity: 65,000 pounds (29,484 kilograms)
Maximum Airspeed: 360 KCAS (knots calibrated airspeed)/ 0.86 M/414 mph/667 km/h
Service Ceiling: 43,100 ft/13,137 m
Maximum Distance: 8400 miles/13,518 km
Pallet Positions: 18 pallet positions
Air Crew: 15 permanent seats for aircrew, including aeromedical evacuation aircrew
Passengers: 58 total (normal operations); up to 114 total (contingency operations)
Aeromedical Evacuation: 58 patients (24 litters/34 ambulatory) with the AE Patient Support Pallet configuration; 6 integral litters carried as part of normal aircraft configuration equipment