Flight testing allowing McConnell Air Force Base to receive its first KC-46 air refueling tanker has been finished, the Air Force said Friday.
“With this milestone complete, the test program has demonstrated a level of maturity that positions Boeing to deliver, and the Air Force to accept, an aircraft by the end of October 2018,” said Will Roper, Air Force service acquisition executive, in a news release.
McConnell, in southeast Wichita, will be the first base to receive the tanker that uses the Boeing 767 passenger airplane as its airframe.
The flight testing for first delivery was completed July 6 at Boeing Field in Seattle, the Air Force said. The final bits of testing included the tanker’s remote vision system that allows the air refueling operator to see the plane he or she is refueling, and certifying the tanker can refuel the F-16 and C-17 in flight. Testing was also wrapped up on refueling the KC-46 with an older KC-135 tanker.
Col. Josh Olson, commander of McConnell’s 22nd Air Refueling Wing, said in a statement to The Eagle that the completion of the flight testing “is a critical step to bringing the KC-46 Pegasus home to McConnell and the Wichita community.”
Friday’s announcement comes three weeks after Boeing announced its intent to deliver the first tanker in October.
“I can’t wait to see the first of the KC-46s on the tarmac at McConnell Air Force Base,” Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said in a statement to The Eagle. “The (22nd Air Refueling) Wing has been training and anticipating this delivery for some time. We are ready.”
The long-awaited tanker replaces the KC-135 air refueling tankers that dominate McConnell’s two air refueling wings, the 22nd and 931st Air Refueling Wings.
McConnell was designated as the first base to receive the tankers. The base 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 of deliveries.
Eventually, McConnell will have 36 KC-46s, replacing its fleet of KC-135s that were manufactured between 1957 and 1963.