This week, Boeing announced it had added a sixth aircraft to its KC-46A aerial refueling tanker test program. The newest addition to the test fleet will be used to evaluate the tanker’s resistance to electromagnetic fields.
In practice, the KC-46’s electronic systems must prove resilient to potentially disruptive electromagnetic discharges. To check this, the tanker will complete a series of refueling tests up against heavy electromagnetic transmissions from radar, radio towers and other systems.
Boeing receives orders in tranches from the US Air Force upon meeting certain commercial requirements. The most recent addition to the test fleet was the second unit of a US $2.1 billion order for two “low-rate initial production” lots of seven, and twelve airframes. With deliveries to the Air Force expected to begin later this year, Boeing plans to build a total of 179 KC-46 tankers, based on the 767-200 platform.
To date, the tanker test aircraft have completed 1,600 flight hours, and have made more than 1,200 refueling “contacts” with a variety of military aircraft including F-16, F/A-18, AV-8B, C-17, A-10 and KC-10 aircraft.
And now for a video of how the KC-46’s air refueling operator station (AROS), uses high definition 3D imagery to enable refueling with increased precision.