Boeing's new KC-46A tanker completes first flight | World Defense

Boeing's new KC-46A tanker completes first flight

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Boeing's new KC-46A tanker completes first flight
By Ed Adamczyk
Dec. 06, 2017

Boeings-new-KC-46A-tanker-completes-first-flight.jpg

The first KC-46 tanker for the U.S. Air Force takes off from Paine Field in Everett, Wash., on its maiden flight Tuesday. Photo by Marian Lockhart/Boeing


The first Boeing KC-46A tanker plane, expected to be delivered to the U.S. Air Force next year, completed its first flight, the company has announced.

The three-and-a-half-hour flight on Tuesday was called a success by Boeing and Air Force officials.

"Today's flight is another milestone for the Air Force/Boeing team and helps move us closer to delivering operational aircraft to the warfighter," Col. John Newberry, U.S. Air Force KC-46 System program manager, said in a press release.

Test pilots took the tanker to 39,000 feet and performed operational checks on its systems before landing more than three hours later. The aircraft tested Tuesday is the seventh built as part of the KC-46 program, with the previous six being used for testing and certification.

The plane, a modification of Boeing's 767 passenger plane, carries fuel and will be used to refuel fighter jets and other aircraft in mid-air. The company has a contract for the first 34, a $44.5 billion project, of what are anticipated to be 179 planes for the U.S. military.

Boeing announced Tuesday that it will miss its deadline to deliver the first plane to the U.S. Air Force by Dec. 31.

The contract calls for 18 KC-46A planes to be delivered by October 2018, a deadline 14 months later than originally planned. The most serious of three recent flaws seen in the plane is multiple incidents of its retractable boom scraping the aircraft receiving fuel during aerial refueling, Bloomberg News reported on Sunday.

https://www.upi.com/Defense-News/2017/12/06/Boeings-new-KC-46A-tanker-completes-first-flight/3291512577688/?nll=1
 

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The Air Force’s KC-46 tanker is almost ready for prime time
26 Jan 2018
By: Charlsy Panzino  


The head of Air Mobility Command said the KC-46 Pegasus is about 94 percent complete with tests needed for the aircraft’s second — and final — FAA certification.

Gen. Carlton Everhart visited Boeing in Washington state to get a hands-on look at the Air Force’s new refueling tanker.

“If everything stays on track and the weather holds, I think [Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration] can probably get everything done in the next 60 to 70 days, hopefully less,” Everhart told Air Force Times on Wednesday after flying on the KC-46 for the first time.

The four-star general, who has more than 4,500 flight hours, said he performed the takeoff and approached the landing under the guidance of test pilots.

“We get a lot of PowerPoint-deep presentations,” he said. “Every now and then, you’ve got to get out and smell the jet, look at the jet and understand what the test points are.”

In December, the FAA certified the 767-2C, which is the modified 767 commercial plane that forms the basis of the KC-46.

This Amended Type Certificate verifies that the fundamental design of the tanker is safe, and it’s one of two FAA certifications required for the tanker program. The Supplemental Type Certificate focuses on the military-specific equipment that’s installed on the 767-2C aircraft to make it a tanker.

In addition to the two FAA certifications, the KC-46 requires an Air Force-issued Military Type Certification that validates the airworthiness and safety of the military systems and equipment installed on the new tanker, AMC officials said.

Everhart estimates it will take about a month or so for Boeing to complete the testing required for the Supplemental Type Certificate. Then Boeing will turn the data over to the FAA, which should take about another month to give it the stamp of approval.

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Air Mobility Command's Gen. Carlton Everhart, center, visits Boeing in Washington state for a flight on the KC-46 Pegasus refueling tanker. (Col. Chris Karns/Air Force)

One purpose of Everhart’s visit focused on assessing the flying quality and performance of the tanker, which Everhart praised.

“I have flown airplanes that were older than I was when I came into military service,” said Everhart, whose flying experience includes the C-17 and C-130 transport planes.

The modernized airframe and responsiveness of the KC-46 impressed Everhart, who said it has game-changing technology, including more automation so pilots can focus on the mission. The tanker also has the potential to add new technology as it continues to develop, he said.

Everhart also wanted to check out the Remote Visual System, which allows the boom operator to sit near the front of the KC-46 and remotely operate the boom during mid-air refueling. The system was linked to one of the deficiencies discovered during testing.

This deficiency involved reports of the tanker’s boom scraping the receiving aircraft during mid-air refueling. The boom, which extends into a receptacle on the receiving aircraft, in some cases was making contact outside of the receptacle and scratching the other plane.

This could damage the receiving aircraft, especially if the KC-46 is refueling stealth jets like the F-22 and F-35 that are covered in a special coating.

During testing, some of the boom contacts made outside of the receptacle were not detected by the boom operators through the visual system, AMC spokesman Col. Chris Karns said.

Boeing’s software engineers are working to enhance the Remote Visual System so boom operators can prevent these contacts, Everhart said, adding that sometimes the camera view is washed out because of the sun.

“[The engineers] are changing the contrast of how the visuals work with the camera to facilitate a view of the boom and receptacle,” Everhart said.

Part of it could also be an issue of making sure boom operators are properly trained on the Remote Visual System.

“Because you’re not lying back there [where you can actually see the boom],” Everhart said. “You’re looking through a camera.”

Another of the deficiencies involved an “uncommanded boom extension,” where the boom has unexpectedly extended after refueling is stopped.

A software fix is expected to resolve this deficiency by the spring, Karns said.

The third open deficiency deals with ensuring that the high-frequency radio remains off during refueling, and options are being developed to address this, he said.

“A lot of energy is being put towards this program by Boeing and the Air Force to deliver the aircraft this year,” Karns said.

Boeing had originally planned on delivering the first KC-46 to the Air Force by the end of 2017, but now the plan is to deliver the first tanker by late spring.

The Air Force plans to buy 179 of the aircraft, and Boeing is contractually obligated to deliver the first 18 certified tankers by October.

McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas and Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma will be the first to receive the KC-46, which will replace the KC-135 Stratotankers.

The KC-135 fleet is on average 55 years old, Karns said, adding that maintaining America’s military advantage over adversaries requires modern tankers.

In November, Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation rolled out an upgraded tanker designed to replace its legacy aircraft.

“The new Russian tanker will have increased fuel capacity,” Karns said. “Russia and China recognize the strategic benefits of extending their reach and are prioritizing fielding enhanced aerial tanker capability.”

After Everhart’s visit to Boeing, he said he believes they’re still on track to deliver the first tanker by this spring.

He’s asked Maj. Gen. John Wood, Air Mobility Command’s director of strategic plans, requirements and programs, to go back out to Boeing at some point.

“I need the more people I can to see the airplane,” Everhart said. “It will bring tremendous capability to our joint war fighter.”

https://www.defensenews.com/news/your-air-force/2018/01/25/the-air-forces-kc-46-tanker-is-almost-ready-for-primetime/
 

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Air Force: KC-46 testing showed tanker could withstand electromagnetic pulses
By: Charlsy Panzino  
25.02.2018

The Air Force is working with the Pentagon’s operational test and evaluation office to reconcile concerns raised in a January report about the KC-46 Pegasus, but the service isn’t planning to change the tanker program or test timelines.

The Director of Operational Test and Evaluation said the KC-46 refueling tanker may not have met the office’s standards for electromagnetic pulse testing because not all of the systems were online during the tests.

The goal was to assess whether the aircraft could safely operate when confronted by electromagnetic fields generated by equipment like radar.

The test showed that the tanker’s flight-critical and boom-refueling systems could withstand a 6-decibel electromagnetic pulse, but certain systems were uninstalled or deactivated before testing, according to the report.

“The configuration of the KC-46A used for EMP testing was intended to test the mission-critical functions of the aircraft to ensure it can continue to operate in an EMP environment,” Air Force Materiel Command officials told Air Force Times.

The mission-critical functions include safe taxi, takeoff, flight, landing, control of the aircraft, life support, refueling operations (using the boom and centerline drogue system only), and voice communications.

“The systems that were uninstalled or deactivated were not flight critical or required for aerial refueling operations,” the command said.

After the KC-46 was exposed to electromagnetic pulses, the results showed that these critical systems retained their functionality, according to AFMC.

“During a post-test functional flight, the boom operated successfully throughout its operating range (full telescope and movement) while the pumps filled the boom with fuel,” the command said. “The [refueling system] was also successfully trailed to full trail, filled with fuel, and fully rewound. The wing-mounted refueling pods were installed on the aircraft during the EMP test but were not tested during the post-test functional flight.”

The electromagnetic testing took place in July at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, and Edwards Air Force Base, California.

AFMC said that as of now, there are no additional EMP tests scheduled for the KC-46.

One of the next steps is to assess how the tanker performs during nuclear threat-related tests. This includes an inherent hardness assessment and base escape study.

The inherent hardness assessment considers the KC-46’s inherent hardness to nuclear weapon effects, AFMC said. A test of the aircraft’s thermal curtains, which protect aircrew from some of these effects, will be assessed.

The base escape study is an analysis of the time required for a KC-46 to launch and fly a safe distance from a simulated nuclear attack.

The IHA and BES tests are scheduled for the second half of fiscal 2018.

Gen. Carlton Everhart, head of Air Mobility Command, told Air Force Times in January that the KC-46 is almost done with tests needed for the tanker’s second — and final — Federal Aviation Administration certification.

In December, the FAA certified the 767-2C, which is the modified 767 commercial plane that forms the basis of the KC-46.

This Amended Type Certificate verifies that the fundamental design of the tanker is safe, and it’s one of two FAA certifications required for the tanker program. The Supplemental Type Certificate focuses on the military-specific equipment that’s installed on the 767-2C aircraft to make it a tanker.

In addition to the two FAA certifications, the KC-46 requires an Air Force-issued Military Type Certification that validates the airworthiness and safety of the military systems and equipment installed on the new tanker, AMC officials said.

The Air Force plans to buy 179 of the aircraft, and Boeing is contractually obligated to deliver the first 18 certified tankers by October.
McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas and Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma will be the first to receive the KC-46, which will replace the KC-135 Stratotankers.

https://www.airforcetimes.com/news/your-air-force/2018/02/23/air-force-kc-46-testing-showed-tanker-could-withstand-electromagnetic-pulses/
 

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