The first Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tanker fully equipped with refueling gear extended both its boom-type and probe-and-drogue-type equipment in two separate test flights last week, according to the Air Force. Drogue hoses and baskets—the gear needed to refuel Navy, Marine Corps and many types of allied aircraft—were deployed from the centerline and wing pod stations during an Oct. 8 flight, and the flying boom was extended on a flight the next day. The flights were, respectively, the third and fourth for the prototype tanker, which made its first flight Sept. 25. Air Force tanker program executive officer Brig. Gen. Duke Richardson, in a statement, said the tests signal “real progress” toward the goal of demonstrating an in-flight refueling. Such a test, likely with an F-16, is tentatively scheduled for late this year or early next, a Boeing spokesman said. The boom is to be capable of passing 1,200 gallons per minute of fuel, whereas the drogue systems on the KC-46 are to be able to pass 400 gallons per minute. The KC-46 is designed to refuel one boom-type aircraft or up to three drogue-type aircraft at a time. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, speaking at ASC15 last month, said the KC-46 program has consumed all its schedule margin, but she and Richardson both said they expect Boeing to meet its obligation to deliver 18 KC-46s by August 2017.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.