The US Air Force has signed off on the first of a tranche of four Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tanker aircraft, which will be delivered to McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas in the next month. Today's announcement comes after extensive covert, day and night testing of six KC-46 that involved over 3,800 flight hours and the offloading of four million pounds (1.8 million kg) of fuel in all conditions and involving A-10, B-52, C-17, KC-10, KC-135, KC-46, F-15E, F-16, and F/A-18 aircraft.

According to Boeing, the acceptance was typical of a government contact and was largely a matter of signing the required DD250 paperwork to authorize the delivery of the first four of 52 tankers, with an eventual total of 179 airframes expected by the Air Force. The next four will go to Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma as early as February. Until then, the next nine aircraft in the queue will continue with customer acceptance testing.

Today's acceptance comes after years of delay marked by a controversial procurement process, company protests, and resubmission of bids. The "NewGen Tanker" is based on the 767-200 airframe combined with an advanced version of the KC-10 refueling boom. This boom is compatible with all allied and coalition military aircraft, and cockpit displays from the 787 commercial aircraft. In addition to refueling, the KC-46A can transport passengers, cargo, and medical patients.

"The KC-46A is a proven, safe, multi-mission aircraft that will transform aerial refueling and mobility operations for decades to come," says Leanne Caret, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security. "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. I want to thank the men and women of the Air Force and across the Boeing tanker team who made this happen."

Source: Boeing