KC-46A tanker program makes first test flight

The KC-46A tanker program makes its first flight (Photo: Boeing)

Boeing and the US Air force have announced the successful first test flight of the KC-46A tanker program. Set to replace the Air Force's aging fleet of KC-135 Stratotankers, the KC-46A is designed to act primarily as an airborne refueling tanker that is compatible with all US, allied, and coalition aircraft capable of in-flight refueling, but can also carry passengers and cargo, or act as a medivac airplane.

As part of the KC-46A test program, Boeing is building two 767-2Cs for testing as freighters (after which they will be fitted with in-flight refueling and other military systems systems) and two KC-46As built fully equipped to complete the FAA and military certifications.

In today's test, one of the Boeing 767-2C commercial cargo aircraft lifted off from Paine field in Everett, flew for 3 h and 32 min, and then landed at Boeing Field in Seattle.

Based on the 767 airframe and incorporating the cockpit avionics from the Large Boeing 787, the aircraft's versatility is further boosted by the fact that it's equipped with countermeasures that allow it to fly in medium-threat environments.

Powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW4062 turbofan engines, the KC-46A carries a crew of three, including the refueling boom operator, and has permanent seating for 15 passengers, though it can be reconfigured to hold 114 passengers, 18 pallets, or 58 patients. It has a fly-by wire refueling boom and can lift off with more fuel from shorter runways than the KC-135. According to Boeing, it has a cruising speed of Mach 0.80 (530 mph, 851 km/h), and a range of 6,385 nmi (12,200 km).

The first 18 of 179 KC-46As are scheduled for delivery in 2017.

Source: Boeing

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