A third, full-configuration KC-46 aerial refuelling aircraft has joined the flight test programme, bringing the total test fleet to six, including three 767-2Cs (KC-46s without the refuelling system).
The newest aircraft, the second low-rate initial production aircraft, completed its first flight on 29th April. According to Boeing, it will focus on test activities to ensure the KC-46 can safely operate through electromagnetic fields produced by radars, radio towers and other systems.
Boeing says that one of the 767-2C aircraft is currently being reconfigured into a tanker, which means there will soon be four KC-46 tankers in test.
To date, the programme’s test aircraft have completed 1,600 flight hours and more than 1,200 “contacts” during refueling flights with F-16, F/A-18, AV-8B, C-17, A-10 and KC-10 aircraft.
The U.S. Air Force awarded Boeing $2.1bn for 15 KC-46A tanker aircraft, spare engines and wing air refueling pod kits in January. The order was the third low-rate initial production lot for Boeing. The first two came in August 2016 and included seven and 12 planes, respectively, as well as spare parts.
Boeing has taken a series of charges on the programme as it seeks to resolve technical and scheduling problems. In July 2016, the company announced a $393m after-tax charge on the KC-46, the fourth such charge in two years.