The KC-46 tanker program reached a major milestone on January 24, 2016, when it successfully demonstrated its first aerial refueling contact and fuel transfer with an F-16C from Edwards Air Force Base in southern California, USA. The flight was the first in a block of testing out of Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, using the boom system.
The Pegasus passed 1,600 lb of fuel to an F-16 piloted by Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Alix, 416st Flight Test Squadron, who characterized the mission as a complete success. The KC-46A is currently scheduled to go to Edwards AFB in early 2017 to continue aerial refueling certifications and simulator data collection.
The new KC-46 comes with several big improvements and uses a remote vision system to operate the boom. Current tankers require the boom operator to conduct refueling by viewing the receiver aircraft through a large sighting window in the aircraft aft. The KC-46 boom operator does this while stationed in the front of the aircraft and using a remote camera system to view a 3-D image of the boom and receiver. The system has panoramic cameras offering a 185-degree horizontal field of view behind the aircraft, which is especially useful for probe and drogue refuelings.
The KC-46A will provide aerial refueling support to the United States Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, as well as allied nation coalition aircraft.
January 29, 2016