Nick Cenci, Major, U.S. Air Force Chief of Flight Operations DCMA (left), and Anthony Mariapain, Major, U.S. Air Force KC-46 Chief Pilot DCMA, stand in front of a KC-46A that was accepted by the U.S. Air Force. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force
Jan. 10 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force accepted its first KC-46A Pegasus tanker aircraft from Boeing, the Chicago-based company said Thursday.
The military branch's acceptance signals the beginning of the delivery process for Boeing, which is under contract to provide 52 of an anticipated 179 KC-46A tankers to the Air Force, the company said in a news release. Six KC-46 aircraft have already undergone more than 3,800 hours of flight testing and provided more than 4 million pounds of fuel to other aircraft, including the B-52 and F/A-18.
The Air Force could actually receive the aircraft as early as last January, the branch said in a tweet. The ceremony es expected to be held at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, the Air Force said.
Although the Air Force has accepted the aircraft, it still has concerns on its rollout.
"The Air Force has identified, and Boeing has agreed to fix at its expense, deficiencies discovered in developmental testing of the remote vision system" the branch said in a news release Thursday. "The Air Force has mechanisms in place to ensure Boeing meets its contractual obligations while initial operational testing and evaluation continues."
The aircraft is modeled on Boeing's commercial 767 jet and is able to provide mid-flight refueling to all other aircraft belonging to the U.S. military and allied nations that are capable of such transactions.
Four Pegasus aircraft are currently ready for delivery and will be provided to McConnell Air Force Base, Boeing said.
Another four KC-46A tankers will be delivered to Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma, the company said. Boeing expects those aircraft to be delivered as soon as February.
Nine other KC-46A tankers are going through acceptance testing at the moment, Boeing said.
The rollout of the KC-46A hit at least one major snag. In late 2017, Boeing disclosed it would miss a deadline to deliver the first of the aircraft before the end of that year.
The Air Force announced in July that the Pegasus completed its final flight test.
"The KC-46A is a proven, safe, multi-mission aircraft that will transform aerial refueling and mobility operations for decades to come. We look forward to working with the Air Force, and the Navy, during their initial operational test and evaluation of the KC-46, as we further demonstrate the operational capabilities of this next-generation aircraft across refueling, mobility and combat weapons systems missions," said Leanne Caret, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space and Security. "I want to thank the men and women of the Air Force and across the Boeing tanker team who made this happen."