The KC-46A Pegasus successfully transferred fuel through its boom to an F-16C Fighting Falcon Jan. 24 to demonstrate aerial refueling operations in advance of its first production decision later this spring.
The mission was characterized as a complete success. Officials said it was a big step forward for the program and for the tanker capability that will serve as the backbone of Air Force global operations over the coming decades.
The tanker has a robust in-flight refueling demonstration schedule over the coming weeks. The test with the F-16C fulfilled the requirement to connect to a light/fast receiver. The remaining tests with the boom will use an A-10 Thunderbolt II as the light/slow receiver and a C-17 Globemaster III as the heavy receiver.
Flight tests employing the centerline drogue system and wing aerial refueling pods will use an F-18 Hornet as the light/fast receiver and an AV-8B Harrier as a light/slow receiver. The KC-46A will also have to demonstrate its receiver capability by taking fuel from a KC-10 Extender.
These refueling demonstrations represent the significant remaining test hurdles before proceeding to a Milestone C low rate initial production decision. Program officials anticipate awarding the first production contract shortly thereafter.
The Air Force contracted with Boeing in February 2011 to acquire 179 KC-46A tankers to begin recapitalizing the aging tanker fleet. The program is currently working to meet the required assets available date, a milestone requiring 18 KC-46A aircraft and all necessary support equipment to be on the ramp, ready to support warfighter needs, by August 2017.