Aviation

First Boeing KC-46 refueling tanker, slated for McConnell, to be delivered in October

McConnell stands ready to accept the KC-46A Pegasus

McConnell Air Force Base held a ribbon cutting ceremony Oct. 16, 2017, to signify completing the preparation for the arrival of the KC-46A Pegasus.
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McConnell Air Force Base held a ribbon cutting ceremony Oct. 16, 2017, to signify completing the preparation for the arrival of the KC-46A Pegasus.

Nine months after crews wrapped up $267 million in construction projects for the Boeing KC-46A Pegasus, it looks like McConnell Air Force Base is finally getting its tankers.

Boeing Defense said Wednesday it will deliver its first KC-46 air refueling tanker to McConnell in October.

"With first delivery now set, the men and women of the Air Force know when they will start receiving this warfighting capability," Boeing said in a statement.

Col. Josh Olson, commander of the 22nd Air Refueling Wing at McConnell, said in a statement the base was excited to finally be receiving its first tanker.

"The base is ready, our Airmen our ready, and most importantly our community is ready," Olson said in the statement. "Let's bring it home!"

The Air Force confirmed the October delivery date and an April 2019 completion date for the delivery of the first round of 18 tankers to three bases.

But the Air Force cautioned that while the tanker flight test program is almost wrapped up, "significant work remains."

"The Air Force is looking forward to KC-46A first delivery and will continue to work with Boeing on opportunities to expedite the program," it said in the statement.

The long-awaited tanker replaces the KC-135 air refueling tankers that dominate McConnell's two air refueling wings, the 22 and 931st Air Refueling Wings.

McConnell was designated as the first base to receive the tankers. The base, in southeast Wichita, has about 3,000 airmen and employs about 500 civilians. Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma and Pease Air National Guard Base in New Hampshire also will receive tankers in the first round.

The KC-46 will be faster, fly farther and be more fuel efficient than the KC-135 it replaces. Unlike most of the KC-135s in the Air Force fleet, the KC-46 also has defensive systems that its crews can employ if their aircraft comes under attack.

Besides the refueling boom, which is operated from a panel near the tanker's cockpit, the KC-46 also is equipped with centerline drogue and wing-aerial refueling pod systems using a flexible hose. Those systems allow tanker crews to refuel military aircraft that aren't equipped to accept fuel from a boom.

Those systems also have been problematic for Boeing in the KC-46's development, delaying delivery of the first tanker to McConnell, which was originally set for March 2017. The delays have cost Boeing billions of dollars.

At McConnell, the 16 projects comprising the new construction for the tankers include three new hangars that have a combined 297,000 square feet.

Eventually, McConnell will have 36 KC-46s, replacing its fleet of KC-135s that were manufactured between 1957 and 1963.

Jerry Siebenmark: 316-268-6576, @jsiebenmark
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