Boeing has been awarded a US$2.12bn contract modification by the US Department of Defense (DoD) to manufacture and deliver an additional 15 KC-46A Pegasus tankers for the USAF under a seventh production lot.
The contract was announced by the DoD on January 19, just seven days after Boeing revealed that it had been awarded US$1.7bn to produce 12 examples of the tanker as part of the sixth production lot. As part of this latest deal, Boeing will provide 15 additional KC-46s, as well as data, subscriptions, licenses and G081 flat file to the USAF. Work under this contract will be performed at the company’s facility in Seattle, Washington, and is expected to be completed by May 31, 2024.
In August 2016, Boeing was contracted to manufacture and deliver its first two production lots of KC-46s to the USAF, which comprised seven and 12 aircraft, respectively. The third production lot for 15 examples was awarded in January 2017, followed by the fourth – for 18 KC-46As – in September 2018. The fifth production lot for another batch of 15 aircraft was awarded to Boeing in September 2019.
Boeing describes the Pegasus as a “multi-role tanker designed to refuel allied and coalition military aircraft compatible with international aerial refuelling procedures. It’s also equipped to carry passengers, cargo and patients on any mission at any time.”
The USAF is actively growing its KC-46A fleet, which is being procured to ultimately replace the service’s legacy tanker aircraft – the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker and McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender. However, the KC-46A programme has been beset with delays, problems and cost overruns throughout its development
The most notable of which is the tanker’s troublesome Remote Vision System (RVS), which provides imagery to the boom operator during air-to-air refuelling operations through a series of cameras. This system features numerous Category 1 deficiencies that have led to a complete redesign of the suite. Known as RVS 2.0, the new system will include 4K colour cameras with proper viewing geometry, operator stations with larger screens, boom assistance augmented reality and a laser ranger for measuring the distance of the aircraft being refuelled.
The USAF intends to begin fielding the RVS 2.0 solution from late 2023 but will start to field interim improvements from late-2021 as part of the Enhanced RVS (ERVS) update. To read more about the KC-46’s EVRS and RVS 2.0 solutions, follow the link below.