The KC-46A is a heavily modified Boeing 767-200ER multirole
passenger/cargo-tanker equipped with flying boom and probe/drogue
refueling capability using the Wing Air Refueling Pod (WARP) system.
It is also equipped for aeromedical evacuation.
KC-46 incorporates the 787’s state-of-the-art cockpit, a fly-by-wire boom, remote boom-operator’s station, advanced self-defensive suite including Large Aircraft IR Countermeasures (LAIRCM), RWR, tactical situational awareness, comms relay hosting, and nuclear/chem/bio hardening.
In 2011 Boeing was awarded a contract for 179 KC-46A tankers, the first increment (KC-X), to replace about half of USAF’s KC-135R fleet. Compared to the 50-year-old KC-135, the KC-46A has more fuel capacity, improved efficiency, and enhanced cargo and AE capability. Like the KC-10, it employs an advanced refueling boom and independently operating hose/drogue system.
The program’s provisioned 767-2C prototype (minus refueling boom) flew on Dec. 28, 2014, and received FAA type-certification in December 2017. USAF accepted its first production KC-46 from Boeing on Jan. 10, 2019. The service awarded LRIP contracts for 19 aircraft in 2016, a follow-on Lot 3 contract for 15 aircraft in 2017, 18 aircraft in 2018, 15 in 2019, and 12 in the most recent Lot 6 contract issued Jan. 12, 2021. FY21 funds support Lot 7 purchase of 15 tankers.
The first KC-46 built for a launch international customer, Japan, flew on Feb. 9, 2021. The Japan Air Self-Defense Force plans to buy up to six tankers through FY24.
The KC-46 completed developmental testing and entered operational testing in 2019, though planned IOC and full-rate production has slipped to FY24 or later due to remaining deficiencies with the boom and remote vision system. AMC began employing KC-46 for noncombat refueling of a limited number of types starting in 2021. Pease received its 12th aircraft, completing its fleet Feb. 5, 2021.
First Flight: Sept. 25, 2015 (KC-46A).
Delivered: December 2018-present.
IOC: FY24 (planned).
Production: 179 (planned).
Inventory: 52 (KC-46A).
Operator: AFMC, AMC, ANG, Boeing.
Aircraft Location: Altus AFB, Okla.; Edwards AFB, Calif.; McConnell AFB, Kan.; Paine Field, Wash.; Pease ANGB, N.H. Planned: JB McGuire-DixLakehurst, N.J.; Seymour-Johnson AFB, N.C.; Travis AFB, Calif.; others TBD.
Active Variant: •KC-46A. Modified Boeing 767 designed as a multirole cargo tanker.
Dimensions: Span 156 ft, length 165.5 ft, height 52.8 ft.
Weight: Max T-O 415,000 lb.
Power Plant: Two Pratt & Whitney PW4062, each 62,000 lb thrust.
Performance: Speed 650 mph, range 7,350 miles (farther with air refueling).
Ceiling: 43,000 ft.
Fuel Capacity: 212,299 lb., max transfer load 207,672 lb at 1,200 gpm (boom), 400 gpm (drogue).
Accommodation: Two pilots, boom operator, and up to 12 additional crew; 15 crew seats, incl AE crew.
Passenger Load: 58 or up to 114 for contingency operations. AE load: 58 patients (24 litters and 34 ambulatory).
Cargo Load: 18 pallet positions, max 65,000 lb.