Aviation

Air Force documents show McConnell plans for KC-46 tanker arrival in mid-November

McConnell Air Force Base is gearing up for an event next month to mark the arrival of its first Boeing KC-46 air refueling tanker, though Boeing and McConnell officials aren’t confirming it as a delivery date.

The Air Force this week posted a solicitation on the FedBizOpps website for a contractor to provide audio-visual and other equipment for the “McConnell AFB KC-46 Pegasus Welcoming Ceremony.”

The solicitation said the equipment “must be in place no later than . . . 10 AM 16 Nov 2018 and removed NLT 4:00 PM 17 Nov 2018.”

The solicitation also notes that those dates are “subject to change to a later date.”

“The contract solicitation for the KC-46 arrival ceremony is the next step in preparing our base and our Airmen for the delivery,” McConnell said in an e-mailed statement on Tuesday. “We have been watching the program’s progress to ensure we are prepared when the time comes to celebrate the arrival.”

That statement also notes that the ceremony’s date could change.

“ . . . The contract will not be awarded until we have a solid delivery date agreed upon between the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Air Force, and Boeing,” the statement said.

A Boeing spokesman said he couldn’t confirm an exact delivery date for the KC-46.

“We continue to plan for first delivery in fourth quarter this year,” Charles Ramey, Boeing’s KC-46 program spokesman, said in an e-mail.

The solicitation comes less than a week after Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told Bloomberg the Air Force would not take delivery of its first new tanker in late October.

McConnell was selected as the first active-duty base to receive the KC-46. McConnell 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. The KC-46 also has defensive systems that most of the KC-135s in the Air Force fleet don’t have.

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 in the KC-46’s development, costing Boeing billions of dollars and delaying delivery of the first tanker to McConnell, which was originally set for March 2017.

Jerry Siebenmark: 316-268-6576, @jsiebenmark
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