The wait for new tankers at McConnell Air Force Base is almost over. Air Force officials said Tuesday that the first KC-46A Pegasus is scheduled to be delivered Jan. 25.
The 22nd and 931st air refueling wings at McConnell will accept the new planes at a ceremony. McConnell was selected as the first active-duty base to receive the new refueling tankers.
“The extensive planning and preparation efforts of our Airmen and the local community have been a long time coming,” said Col. Josh Olson, 22nd Air Refueling Wing commander, in a release. “We are pioneering KC-46 integration and are now more than ready to deliver on rapid global mobility for our nation.”
Boeing had missed multiple deadlines on the KC-46, which pushed back its first delivery by nearly two years. The company was supposed to have the first airplane to the military in April 2016.
Instead, the Air Force didn’t get one of the new tankers until earlier this month. That came after months of missed deadlines by the aircraft manufacturer, in part due to turnover at the Pentagon. Defense Secretary James Mattis left the office in December, and President Donald Trump’s pick to fill the position is a former Boeing executive.
Boeing officials last week signed paperwork to deliver the planes to the Air Force. But military officials said the new tankers had deficiencies. It may be years before the tankers clear technical hurdles.
Air Force Capt. Hope Cronin said the plane’s deficiencies are in its remote vision system, and Boeing will fix them at its own expense. She called the decision to accept the plane “a major milestone for our next generation tanker” that will allow the Air Force to begin operational testing and flight training.
McConnell is expected to receive four planes in the first delivery, Boeing officials have said. Eventually, 36 of the tankers are expected to be based in Wichita.
The KC-46A Pegaus is expected to eventually replace the KC-135 Stratotanker air refueling tankers that dominate McConnell’s two air refueling wings, the 22nd and 931st. It’s expected to be faster, fly farther and be more fuel efficient than the Cold War-era tankers in use today.
The KC-46 can hold 212,000 pounds of fuel for refueling, 12,000 more than the KC-135. It also refuels faster than the KC-135. The KC-46 refuels at a rate of 1,200 gallons a minute compared with 1,176 gallons a minute for the KC-135.
The new tankers will serve alongside the KC-135 in supplying aerial refueling and other capabilities for the military, Lt. Daniel De La Fe said in a news release.
The Air Force base in Wichita has undergone $267 million in construction and renovations in preparation for the aircraft. The base has used its new training facility since may to train Air Force personnel from across the country.
Contributing: Chance Swaim of The Eagle