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Photo: Staff Writer
Photo: Staff Writer

After delays, Air Force accepts first KC-46 tanker

After several delays, the U.S. Air Force accepted its first KC-46 tanker from Boeing on Thursday.

The U.S. Air Force has accepted the first Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tanker aircraft, setting the stage for the aircraft’s delivery to McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas in the coming weeks. Boeing is on contract for 52 of an expected 179 tankers for the Air Force. Beyond the first accepted aircraft, nine aircraft are undergoing customer acceptance testing with the remaining aircraft of the contracted amount in production, according to the Air Force.

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“The KC-46A is a proven, safe, multi-mission aircraft that will transform aerial refueling and mobility operations for decades to come. We look forward to working with the Air Force, and the Navy, during their initial operational test and evaluation of the KC-46, as we further demonstrate the operational capabilities of this next-generation aircraft across refueling, mobility and combat weapons systems missions,” said Leanne Caret, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security, in a statement.

The delivery will happen despite unresolved deficiencies in the long-delayed aircraft. Boeing pushed back the first delivery date by nearly two years after missing multiple deadlines.

The development of the KC-46 has seen challenges in recent years. In 2017, the Air Force marked the KC-46 Pegasus aerial refueling tanker with three “deficiency reports” that have raised concerns, according to the service branch. However, the Air Force awarded Boeing a $2.9 billion contract in September for the production of another lot of KC-46 tankers.

Wright-Patterson Air Force base houses the KC-46 Pegasus aerial refueling tanker program. The KC-46 can haul more than 212,000 pounds of fuel and can be configured to carry a maximum of 114 passengers, or 65 patients on an aeromedical evacuation mission.

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