Boeing’s KC-46 can now use the refueling boom for operational missions


Washington — The US Air Force has begun conducting operational KC-46 missions using the aircraft’s refueling boom, making another small step forward in attacking problematic tankers.

The U.S. Transportation Command is currently Boeing KC-46 Tanker Use the refueling boom to refuel C-17 freighters, B-52 bombers and other KC-46s.Previously, KC-46 was allowed To use that centerline drogue For refueling work requested by TRANSCOM.

This decision was made by General Jacqueline van Ovost, Commander of the Mobile Corps, on August 5, and was announced by Service on August 6.

“We’ve considered many of the KC-46’s operational employment standards over the past few months and it’s clear that we’re ready for the next milestone,” Brig said. General Ryan Samuelson, who leads the KC-46 cross-functional team.

Fully maneuverable aircraft are still “a few years away”, but the Air Force wants to accelerate the KC-46’s flight by gradually approving the operation of the KC-46.

According to an Air Force statement, the KC-46 has safely refueled the C-17, B-52, and KC-46 more than 4,700 times during training and exercises since October 2020. By allowing the KC-46 to undertake operational missions to refuel these aircraft, the service hopes to reduce the workload of the legacy KC-135 and KC-10 tankers.

Air Force leaders claim that the service will not declare the KC-46 in operation until all its serious technical flaws have been resolved. The program currently has six Category 1 flaws in the book. These issues pose a risk to either safety or operation.

Two recently discovered problems Paul War, the Air Force’s mobility and trainer program executive, told reporters on Tuesday. This includes software issues with the KC-46’s flight management system and drain tube cracks that occurred during sub-zero flight.

However, the biggest problem requires a redesign of the aircraft’s remote vision system, which supplies video images to boom operators during refueling, and the new system is not ready for production until at least 2023.

Boeing delivered the latest KC-46 to the Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma on August 6. The company slowed delivery of the KC-46 this spring due to a pandemic, but plans to increase it up to twice a month, War said.