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Air Force's KC-46A Tanker Refuels F/A-18 Hornet

A KC-46 refuels an F/A-18 Hornet in flight.
A KC-46 refuels an F/A-18 Hornet in flight.

The U.S. Air Force's KC-46A tanker made by Boeing Co. has completed its first aerial refueling of an F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet, the company announced.

The Chicago-based company on Friday said the refueling occurred on Feb. 10 during a more than four-hour test flight in Washington state and marked the program's first time using the aircraft's hose and drogue system, according to a press release. The aircraft were flying at 20,000 feet.

The milestone came a month after the aircraft used the boom to refuel an F-16 fighter.

The KC-46A is designed to refuel U.S. and allied aircraft using both its boom and hose and drogue systems, the release states. The boom can transfer as much as 1,200 gallons of fuel a minute, while the hose and drogue systems move up to 400 gallons a minute (mostly used for smaller aircraft such as the Hornet), it states.

Boeing, the world’s largest aerospace company, in September conducted the first test flight of the new tanker, known as Pegasus and based on the 767 twin-engine commercial airliner, after months of delays.

The Air Force plans to spend $49 billion to develop and build 149 of the planes to replace its aging fleet of KC-135s, according to Pentagon budget documents. Boeing forecasts an $80 billion global market for the new tankers, according to Trading Alpha.

Boeing plans to deliver the first 18 KC-46As to the service by August 2017 despite a recent string of technical challenges on the program.

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