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USAF awards USD1.7 billion for KC-46A tankers

by Gareth Jennings

The US Air Force (USAF) has awarded Boeing USD1.7 billion for Lot 6 production of the KC-46A Pegasus tanker-transport aircraft.

A pair of Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tanker aircraft prior to delivery to the USAF. Boeing is now under contract for 79 of the USAF’s planned 179 tanker-transports. (Janes/Gareth Jennings)

A pair of Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tanker aircraft prior to delivery to the USAF. Boeing is now under contract for 79 of the USAF’s planned 179 tanker-transports. (Janes/Gareth Jennings)

Announced by the US Department of Defense (DoD) on 12 January, the contract covers 12 aircraft and will be complete by 30 April 2023.

With this award, Boeing is now under contract for 79 of the 179 tankers included in the USAF’s KC-X procurement programme, comprising seven aircraft in Lot 1; 12 in Lot 2; 15 in Lot 3; 18 in Lot 4; 15 in Lot 5; and 12 in Lot 6. Of these, 42 have already been delivered.

The KC-46A is a 767-2C provisioned freighter with a 767-400 flight deck (this flight deck features the Rockwell Collins large format displays of the 787 airliner). The KC-46A has a minimum crew of three comprising a pilot, a co-pilot, and a mission system operator/officer. It can carry 96 tonnes of fuel, although it should be noted that the KC-46A loses much of its underfloor cargo space with auxiliary tanks in doing so.

In terms of its USAF mission, the KC-46A will be deployed ‘closer to the fight’ to bettersupport the service’s expeditionary operations. With this in mind, the KC-46A has been fitted with ballistic armour in the cockpit and passenger cabin, as well as for the fuel tanks; electro-magnetic pulse hardening; and nuclear, biological, and chemical protection.

Speaking at the SMi Military Airlift and Air-to-Air Refuelling 2020 that was held virtually in December 2020, a current KC-46A pilot compared his experience of the aircraft with the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker that it is replacing.

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The US Air Force (USAF) has awarded Boeing USD1.7 billion for Lot 6 production of the KC-46A Pegasus...

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