KC-46 is US Air Forces third most expensive program after the F35 and the Long Range bomber and it is entering initial production

The US Air force awarded Boeing a $2.8 billion modification to a previously awarded contract for the first two lots of low-rate initial production of the KC-46A Pegasus refueling tanker. The KC-76A is based on the 767. Boeing designed the KC-46 to carry passengers, cargo and patients. The aircraft can detect, avoid, defeat and survive threats using multiple layers of protection, which will enable it to operate safely in medium-threat environments.

The agreement calls for a total of 19 aircraft, four spare engines and 10 wing refueling pod kits across both lots, the announcement states. Work will be performed in Seattle and completed by Aug. 24, 2018

The Air Force’s top priority programs are the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Long Range Strike Bomber, and the KC-46 tanker

Technical challenges have resulted in program delays. Boeing had initially planned to deliver the first tranche of airplanes by August 2017, but that was pushed back until at least January 2018 in part because of parts of the aircraft needed to be reworked. Complete delivery of 179 tankers will be completed by 2027.

The Air Force plans to spend $48 billion to develop and build 179 of the planes to replace its aging fleet of KC-135s, according to Pentagon budget documents. Boeing forecasts an $80 billion global market for the new tankers.

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. 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 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 wing-tip to wing-tip situational awareness.

SOURCES- US Air Force, Defense Tech, Wikipedia, Boeing