Air Force asks Boeing to provide 18 additional KC-46 tanker aircraft and avionics in $2.9 billion deal

Sept. 11, 2018
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio – U.S. Air Force aerial refueling experts are asking the Boeing Co. to build 18 KC-46 Pegasus twin-engine widebody tanker aircraft under terms of a $2.9 billion order announced Monday.
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio – U.S. Air Force aerial refueling experts are asking the Boeing Co. to build 18 KC-46 Pegasus twin-engine widebody tanker aircraft under terms of a $2.9 billion order announced Monday.

Officials of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, are asking the Boeing Defense, Space & Security segment in Seattle for lot 4 KC-46 aircraft production, initial spare parts, and support equipment.

The KC-46 is a military aerial refueling and strategic military transport aircraft based on the Boeing 767-200 widebody jet airliner. The multirole tanker can refuel all U.S., allied, and coalition military aircraft compatible with international aerial refueling procedures. In addition to refueling other aircraft in midair, the KC-46 also can carry passengers, cargo, and medical patients.

Boeing received its first two production lots, for seven and 12 aircraft in August 2016. The third lot for 15 aircraft was awarded in January 2017.

The KC-46 aircraft can detect, avoid, defeat and survive threats using several layers of protection that enable it to operate safely in medium-threat environments, Boeing officials say. Monday's order also calls for Boeing to provide data, two spare engines and five wing refueling pod kits.

Related: Boeing chooses mission control avionics from GE Aviation for Air Force KC-46A tanker aircraft

Honeywell Aerospace, Northrop Grumman Corp., Raytheon Co., and Rockwell Collins are among the companies providing avionics subsystems and components for the KC-46.

Honeywell Aerospace in Coon Rapids, Minn., provides the air data inertial navigation system for the KC-46, while the company's facility in Phoenix provides the auxiliary power unit. The Honeywell Aerospace facility in Tucson, Ariz., provides the KC-46 cabin pressure control system, while the company's facility in Urbana, Ohio, provides the tanker's lighting system.

The Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems segment in Rolling Meadows, Ill., provides the KC-46's Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM), while the Raytheon Co. Space and Airborne Systems segment in El Segundo, Calif., provides the tanker's digital radar warning receiver and digital anti-jam global positioning system (GPS) receiver.

Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, provides the KC-46 integrated display system with 15.1-inch diagonal liquid crystal displays, which are based on the avionics suite for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner passenger jet.

Related: F-35 fighter, P-8A patrol jet, KC-46 tanker are big winners in 2016 DOD budget proposal

Rockwell Collins also provides the KC-46's tactical situational awareness system, remote vision system 3-D and 2-D technology for the boom operator, the communications, navigation, surveillance (CNI) system, networking, and flight-control systems.

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The DRS Technologies Inc. Laurel Technologies Partnership in Johnstown, Pa., provides the KC-46's aerial refueling operator station (AROS). The Eaton Aerospace facility in Grand Rapids, Mich., provides the tanker's electromechanical and cargo door actuation systems.

Woodward Inc. in Skokie, Ill., meanwhile, provides the sensor system, control unit, and telescopic and flight control sticks for the KC-46-s aerial refueling boom.

GE Aviation Systems facilities in Grand Rapids, Mich., and Clearwater, Fla., provide the KC-46 mission control system avionics, which provide integrated communications management to support air traffic management data link, and enable the aircraft to perform with navigation precision not currently available to the tanker fleet.

Related: Air Force orders LAIRCM laser-based missile-defense systems for large military aircraft

GE Aviation also provides the KC-46 flight management system (FMS), which helps the aircraft fly relatively short flight paths and idle-thrust descents to reduce fuel consumption, while lowering emissions and reducing engine noise.

The KC_46 will replace the Air Force's fleet of KC-135 aerial refueling aircraft, which are based on the 1960s-vintage Boeing 708 four-engine passenger jet. Boeing will build as many as 179 KC-46 aircraft.

The KC-46 Pegasus will be based initially at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kan., and at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. As many as 10 operating bases are to be chosen for the KC-46 fleet, which could include Tinker Air Force Base, Okla.; Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass.; and Grissom Air Reserve Base, Ind.

On this order Boeing will do the work in Seattle, and should be finished by January 2022. For more information contact Boeing Defense, Space & Security online at, or the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at

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About the Author

John Keller | Editor

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

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