Tag Archives: Pegasus

First touchdown of KC-46 at legendary Edwards test field

The US Air Force’s future tanker’s first test aircraft completed its first week of testing on legendary soil Friday 23 October 2015. The KC-46 Pegasus – which first flew ‘for real’ on 25 September this year – landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California on 15 October, coming straight in from its home at Boeing Field in Seattle in the north of the country.

The plan is to have EMD-1 at Edwards for about two weeks, as Boeing and the 418th Flight Test Squadron conduct ground effects and fuel onload fatigue testing on the new tanker.

Ground effects testing will gather aerodynamic data for updating the KC-46A Pegasus simulator as well as supporting certification. Fuel onload fatigue tests will gather data to characterize the aircraft interaction typically experienced when the KC-46A is flying in receiver formation behind a current KC-135 Stratotanker or KC-10 Extender.

While the KC-46’s role is to refuel other aircraft, it too may need to be refueled from other KC-10s or KC-135s to extend its range. Fuel onload fatigue testing is the first look at the KC-46 acting in that role and the interactions between the three different tankers in an aerial refueling formation. Both the USAF’s older tankers KC-135 (92nd ARW) and KC-10 (60th AMW) will participate in the fuel onload tests.

As throughout history, Edwards AFB continues to be the premier base for flight testing the Air Force’s newest capability.

Source: US Air Force
Featured image: The KC-46 program’s first test aircraft, a Boeing 767-2C (EMD-1), touched down at Edwards for the first time 15 October 2015 with the typical photo distortion due to the heat. (Image © Ethan Wagner / US Air Force)

First flight ‘real’ KC-46 Pegasus

In reality the KC-46A has yet to fly, we reported on 28 December 2014 as a Boeing 767-200 destined to become the very first KC-46, took off from Boeing Field. That reality came true on Friday 25 September 2015, as the first fully configured KC-46A Pegasus lifted off from Boeing Field near Seattle.

The flight in December marked the first flight of the Boeing 767-200 that was to become the KC-46. The aircraft back then was missing its air-to-air (AAR) refueling boom, plus other equipment needed for AAR. Since, the missing stuff was added to the aircraft, the first of nearly 180 KC-46s destined to replace large numbers of Boeing KC-135 tankers in the US Air Force and Air National Guard.

A T-38 Talon and F-16 supported today’s flight, which lasted four hours.  During the flight, Boeing test pilots performed operational checks on engines, flight controls and environmental systems and took the tanker to a maximum altitude of 35,000 feet prior to landing.

Followig flight will involve testing of the AAR boom and wing aerial refueling pods (WARPs). Before the end of the year, the KC-46 will begin conducting aerial refueling flights with a number of US Air Force aircraft.

Troubled The KC-46 program has a troubled history, however. If the US wasn’t overly protective of its own economy, the KC-135 would already be retired to the Arizona desert, with Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft taking their place. Initially, in 2003 Boeing indeed won the bid for the KC-X program, but fraud was involved and prison sentences were given to those involved. The contract was cancelled, and a new bid opened. In February 2008, the Pentagon awarded the contract to Northrop Grumman and Airbus Defense & Space, who had entered the A330 MRTT – aka KC-45 – together. Following a Boeing protest, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reviewed the selection and in the end recommended a new bid. In February 2011, Boeing finally had its way and was awarded the KC-X contract. Meanwhile, the A330 MRTT has been providing useful service with several air forces worldwide, such as the Royal Air Force – as Airheadsfly.com found during an exclusive visit. © 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest Featured image (top): The Boeing KC-46 inflight. (Image © Boeing)

Fuel problems for Boeing KC-46

UPDATE 22 JULY 2015: USAF delays low-rate production | Boeing is struggling to get the US Air Force’s next-generation tanker aircraft operational. After initially denying technical issues the US aircraft manufacturer now says it needs another 536 million to fix “unexpected problems” that occurred with the fuel system of the KC-46A Pegasus.

A dramatic sky behind a legendary aircraft. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
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In total 800 million so-called after-tax charges will now be used by Boeing to keep the program “on track”, meaning the first 18 aircraft to be delivered by August 2017. The total US Air Force requirement is for 179 aircraft, which could increase to more than 400 over the years if all current KC-135 Stratotankers in USAF service are to be replaced with the type.

But the Air Force is by far happy with the lack of progress being made. The low-rate production of the first 18 operational tankers planned for August is very likely not to be given a green light until late Spring or early Summer 2016, USAF sources confirmed on 22 July 2015.

The Pegasus performed the first flight of the KC-46 with its air-to-air refueling boom installed in the first week of June this year. However, the in-flight refuelling system itself was not tested, because it isn’t ready nor fully installed yet. Thereby Boeing likely misses the scheduled flight with everything installed this month, putting the tight flight test schedule under even more pressure.

Boeing’s KC-46s program has been criticized by many as being too ambitious when it comes to the time frame, with the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) f.e. airing serious concerns in April.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: Image of first KC-46 flight in June 2015. The boom was installed after this image was made (Image © Boeing)

Gates open for the Flying Gas Station of South Korea

South Korea has officially entered the beginning of the end of the selection process of an in-flight refuelling aircraft for its Republic of Korea Air Force. Long due and delayed many times, Seoul has officially opened the bidding contest on Tuesday 14 April 2015.

With money and interoperability with the US Air Force as important issues the three candidates for the four tanker aircraft are the Airbus A330 MRTT, the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus and the Israeli Aerospace Industries Boeing 767-300ER MMTT solution. Two of the four aircraft of the expected future have to be available by 2018, the second pair within two years after that, according to sources in Seoul.

The Israeli solution of refurbishing existing aircraft seems to be the cheapest solution, with the type on its way to the Brazilian Air Force, the KC-46 the most logical choice politically speaking and the A330 MRTT probably the best choice if Seoul chooses for a proven platform instead of a new.

A RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornet waits while a RAAF KC-30A taxis past at Al Minhad Airbase, UAE (Image © SGT Andrew Eddie / 28SQN AFID - AMB / Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence)
Combat proven with many of US and European made aircraft: the Airbus A330 MRTT in RAAF service as KC-30A, seen here in action at Al Minhad Airbase in the UAE supporting the war on ISIS (Image © SGT Andrew Eddie / 28SQN AFID – AMB / Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence)

The A330 MRTT already is or will be in service with the Royal Air Force (Voyager; 10 aircraft plus 4 planned, flown by AirTanker), Royal Australian Air Force (KC-30; 5 aircraft with 2 more expected), the United Arab Emirates Air Force (3), the Royal Saudi Air Force (3 plus 3 ordered), Singapore (6 planned), Qatar (2 planned), France (12 planned), India (6 planned), Spain (2 planned), the Netherlands (2 planned) and European NATO nations Belgium / Norway / the Netherlands (2 planned). Note that only 9 RAF Voyagers are fully equipped as in-flight refueller to have London save costs.

The pre-KC-46A on its maiden flight on 28 December 2014 (Image © Boeing)
The future mainstay of the US Air Force tanker fleet: a pre-KC-46A on its maiden flight on 28 December 2014 (Image © Boeing)

Although the number of 62 A330 MRTTs looks impressive, it is small compared to the 179 to 400 KC-46s the US Air Force is expecting to field the coming years. But the Boeing project has been hit by delays and the first fully-equipped Pegasus is yet to make its first flight, planned for July this year.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: The RAF Voyager, or Airbus A330 MRTT (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Test flight with the new Boeing 767-300ER MMTT tanker/cargo aircraft converted by IAI (Image © Israeli Aerospace Industries)
Test flight with the new Boeing 767-300ER Multi-Mission Tanker / Transport converted by IAI (Image © Israeli Aerospace Industries)

Tanker issue: “KC-46 is due to be delayed by another year”

The new tanker project of the US Air Force is quite likely to be hit by at least another year of delays, judging by a fresh report from the US Government Accountability Office (GAO). According to the official American watchdog the proposed flight test period of only three months before the Pentagon needs to decide if production gets the green light. Nobody really doubts that the go-ahead will come, but the GAO wants Washington to base the decision on thorough data – not on rushed data.

“Boeing remains at risk of not being able to demonstrate the aerial-refueling capabilities in time to meet the new production decision date due to late parts deliveries, software defects, and flight test cycle assumptions, which could result in additional delays,” the GAO report reads. “Significantly less testing will now be conducted prior to the decision (to move on with the production).”

The GAO wishes that the planned flight test program of 13 months will be respected. Planned for July 2015 the first of four 767-200s-to-be-KC-46 will take to the skies with the in-flight refuelling equipment installed, with the Pentagon currently still holding onto a production decision date in October. True, the prototype KC-46 did make its first flight in December 2014, but as just another cargo aircraft without all the stuff needed to make it a tanker.

However, Boeing is confident that it will meet all what is expected to do, within the time frame that has been set.

The US Air Force plans to buy 175 KC-46A Pegasus tankers to start replacing its aging KC-135 fleet of over 400 aircraft. As Airheadsfly.com editors experienced this month themselves those KC-135s are still doing a great job:

>>> READ & PRESS PLAY: AHF↑Inside: Ridin’ the Stratotanker >>>
 

(Image © Dennis Spronk)
(Image © Dennis Spronk)

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): The pre-KC-46A on its maiden flight on 28 December 2014 (Image © Boeing)