Boeing now has six aircraft in its KC-46 Pegasus tanker test program, expanding its ability to complete ground and flight-test activities as it moves toward first deliveries to the US Air Force. Deliveries however have been delayed over various development issues.
The newest KC-46 aerial refueling aircraft, the second low-rate initial production plane, completed its first flight April 29. Its test activities will help ensure the KC-46 can safely operate through electromagnetic fields produced by radars, radio towers and other systems.
“Adding another tanker will help us to become even more efficient and significantly improve our ability to complete test points going forward,” said Jeanette Croppi, Boeing KC-46A tanker test team director. “We are also re-configuring one of our 767-2C aircraft into a tanker, which means we soon will have four KC-46 tankers in test.”
“This first flight is another important step for the KC-46 program toward verifying the aircraft’s operational capabilities,” said Col. John Newberry, Air Force KC-46 System program manager. “Adding this aircraft brings key capabilities to the test fleet and helps move us closer to delivering operational aircraft to the warfighter.”
Boeing expects to build 179 tankers in its Everett factory. To date, the program’s test aircraft have completed 1,600 flight hours and more than 1,200 contacts during refueling flights with F-16, F/A-18, AV-8B, C-17, A-10 and KC-10 aircraft.
Various issues have plagued test flights though, causing delays and forcing Boeing to pay many millions of USD in penalties.
Boeing and partner Saab have completed the first flight of their second TX aircraft, which they hope in the future will replace hundreds of T-38 Talon trainer jet in the US Air Force.
Boeing and Saab’s TX was designed specifically for the US Air Force advanced pilot training requirement. During the one-hour flight, lead test pilot Steve Schmidt and Boeing test pilot Matt Giese validated key aspects of the aircraft and further demonstrated the low-risk and performance of the design, proving its repeatability in manufacturing. Both pilots trained for the flight using the complete Boeing T-X system, which includes ground-based training and simulation.
“The jet handled exactly like the first aircraft and the simulator, meeting all expectations,” said Giese. “The front and back cockpits work together seamlessly and the handling is superior.”
Boeing and Saab revealed their design in September 2016 and flew the first aircraft last December. Initial operating capability is planned for 2024. Also in the TX competition are Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerspace Industries with their T-50, plus Italian company Leonardo with their T-100.
Boeing has dropped out of the race to replace the F-16 in Belgian service. The aircaft manufacturer, which offered its F/A-18 Sper Hornet, claims the competition is unfair and the playing field ‘not even’. The move comes as nu surprise, since the odds in Belgium seem very much in favour of the Lockheed Martin F-35.
The Belgian government in Brussels has put aside 3.5 billion EUR to replace 54 F-16 with a total of 34 new jets. The first new fighter jet should enter service in 2023.
Still in competition are the Lockheed Martin F-35, Dassault Rafale, Saab Gripen and Eurofighter Typhoon. A final decision is expected in 2018.
Belgium will use the F-16 until 2028. Of the original European Participating Air Forces (EPAF) in the seventies, Belgium will use the F-16 the longest. The other participating countries – the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark – all already selected the F-35 as their F-16 replacement. Norway is expected to loose its F-16 by 2021, with the Netherlands following in 2023. Denmark should not be far behind.
The Polish Ministry of Defense and Boeing on Friday 31 March signed a contract for the delivery of three Boeing Business Jets, otherwise known as 737-800. The aircraft are to be used by the Polish Air Force for VIP transport. The contract is worth 523 million USD.
The first aircraft will be a used example and is scheduled for delivery in November 2017. It will be delivered in standard passenger configuration and upgraded later to BBJ standard at a later stage. The other aircraft will be completely new and be delivered in BBJ2 configuration. The first of these should arrive in Poland in 2020.
Poland formerly operated Tupolev Tu-154s for VIP-duties. One of these aircraft crashed near Smolensk on 10 April 2010, killing all 96 occupants, including Polish president Lech Kaczyński.
Poland since already ordered two G550 business jets, the first of which is about to be delivered.
© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest & contributor Paweł Bondaryk
Norway on Wednesday 29 Match formally signed a contract for the purchase of five Boeing P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft to replace six P-3 Orions and three Dassault DA-20s currently in service. The first Poseidon should arrive in 2022, with deliveries to be completed the next year.
The contract is worth 1.8 billion EUR and includes missions systems, anti-submarine weapons. Norway considers the P-8 the ideal solution for covering and protecting its vast coastal waters. The new aircraft will be operated by 333 squadron that will move from its current Andøya Air Station to Evenes Air Station a bit further south in northern Norway.