Air Force's KC-46 Air Tanker Has Tough Road Ahead Before Final Testing

KC-46A "Pegasus"

The Air Force's top generals have repeatedly referred to the KC-46A air tanker program as one of its top priorities. The flying service badly needs the KC-46A to replace its aging fleet of KC-135 Stratotankers, many of which date to the Eisenhower administration, including the eight stationed at Scott Air Force Base.

And while Boeing has largely addressed early development problems with its KC-46 tanker, a government watchdog is warning the company has a challenging road ahead to complete testing, deliver the required number of aircraft to the US Air Force, and get the planes FAA certified, according to

Test officials believe Boeing's test schedule for the KC-46 program is "optimistic," according to an April report by the Government Accountability Office. The program office projects Boeing will need an additional four months beyond the August 2017 target to deliver 18 full-up tankers due to testing and parts qualification issues, the report states.

The Air Force and Boeing were forced to revise the original test and delivery schedules due to three major development challenges: wiring design issues, redesign of several components of the aerial refueling system, and a fuel contamination accident in July 2015.

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