An Air Force testing program passed a milestone on Sunday when Boeing’s next-generation refueling tanker successfully delivered fuel to a fighter jet from Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
It marked the first time that a KC-46 passed fuel to another jet in flight since Boeing won a contract to develop the tanker in 2011.
“We have a lot of work yet to do, but this is an exciting time for the airmen who are preparing to fly, maintain and support the KC-46 Pegasus for decades to come,” Col. Christopher Coombs, Air Force KC-46 system program manager, said in a Boeing news release.
The KC-46 flew out of Boeing Field in Seattle. It connected with an F-16 temporarily assigned to JBLM.
A number of different kinds of Air Force aircraft are expected to pass through JBLM this year to participate in more tests with the new tanker.
The tanker is a militarized version of Boeing’s 767 passenger jet. Boeing’s contract with the Air Force calls on the company to produce 179 of them to replace many of the military’s Cold War-era KC-135 tankers.
This year’s defense budget includes $2.4 billion to build 12 of the new tankers.
Sunday’s flight clocked in at 5 hours and 43 minutes. The linkup with an F-16 piloted by Lt. Col. Daniel Alix of the 416st Flight Test Squadron took place over eastern Washington.
Master Sgt. Lindsay Moon and Boeing’s Rickey Kahler guided the 56-foot KC-46 boom that connected with Alix’s jet, delivering 1,600 pounds of fuel.
“The boom was extremely stable – it handled like it was an extension of my arm,” Kahler said in the Boeing announcement.
Boeing in late 2014 began flying tanker test aircraft without a refueling boom. That 767-2C has flown more than 260 hours.