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C4iSR: Air

US Air Force eyes KC-46A aerial refuelling boom redesign

29 January 2019
The USAF will redesign the problematic boom on the Boeing KC-46A Pegasus aerial refuelling tanker to better accommodate lighter aircraft such as the Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II. Source: Boeing

Key Points

  • The US Air Force is planning to redesign the KC-46A boom to better accommodate lighter aircraft
  • The USAF agreed to pay for this upgrade as Boeing met its international standard

The US Air Force (USAF) will redesign the problematic boom on the Boeing KC-46A Pegasus aerial refuelling tanker to better accommodate lighter aircraft such as the Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II.

USAF Secretary Heather Wilson said on 24 January that the boom does not disconnect as well from lighter aircraft as it does with heavier aircraft. The service has identified an actuator fix that will make the boom a little more sensitive, and she believes it is likely that the A-10 is the only aircraft affected by this issue.

The A-10 is a lighter aircraft compared with some of the USAF's other aircraft such as transports, bombers, and even other tactical combat aircraft. The Lockheed Martin C-130H Hercules weighs 34,686 kg empty and the A-10 weighs 9,183 kg empty, while the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) weighs 13,290 kg empty.

At Boeing's KC-46A first delivery ceremony, Wilson said that the USAF is paying for the boom redesign as it meets the international standard that the service gave to Boeing. In the deal reached in mid-January over the first delivery, the USAF agreed to pay for the boom fix while Boeing would pay for upgrading the remote vision system (RVS). Boeing is planning both hardware and software fixes to the RVS to allow it to automatically adjust and operate effectively in both the sun's glare and in shadow.

Wilson also said that this boom redesign will be the first programme change in the history of the KC-46A.

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