KC-46A: Advanced Multirole Aerial Refueling Capability for Asia-Pacific

February 15, 2022 in Defense

  A KC-46A Pegasus refuels a C-17 Globemaster III. A KC-46A Pegasus refuels a C-17 Globemaster III. (Photo credit: Paul Weatherman, Boeing)

The versatile Boeing KC-46A tanker arrives at the 2022 Singapore Air Show featuring the most advanced multirole capabilities of any aerial refueler in the world and is ideally suited for air mobility support in the Asia-Pacific region.

“Asia-Pacific is a growing and strategically crucial area of the world, with geographic challenges demanding the rapid air mobility that the KC-46A tanker is uniquely equipped to provide,” said Sean Liedman, Boeing director of Mobility and Surveillance International Business Development.

With multi-mission capability for aerial refueling, cargo and passenger transportation, aeromedical evacuation support, and data connectivity, the KC-46 enables all facets of fleet air mobility for the Asia-Pacific region’s vast expanses of water coupled with its many smaller, austere airfields.

Aerial Refueling: Boeing’s KC-46 delivers more fuel at all ranges and from shorter runways than the KC-135 aircraft it is replacing.  It is capable of refueling all U.S., allied and coalition military aircraft compatible with international aerial refueling procedures. To date, the KC-46 fleet has already delivered more than 60 million gallons of fuel around the globe and made more than 40,000 boom contacts.

Cargo: The versatile, multi-role KC-46 tanker carries 18 military standardized pallets (463L) in cargo configuration, as many as a C-17 and three times more than a KC-135.

With its large door and cargo rollers, the KC-46 can be converted into cargo, passenger or aeromedical evacuation mode in two hours.

Passengers: The KC-46 carries up to twice as many passengers as the KC-135—and can carry a mixed load of passengers and cargo with its palletized seating.

Medical and Humanitarian Evacuation: With its aeromedical evacuation configuration KC-46 is well suited to support humanitarian and disaster relief efforts. The aircraft features onboard emergency oxygen and electrical power for medevac support.

Communication & Data Connectivity: Secure communications and data link means that the KC-46 also delivers data as well as fuel, providing fleet connectivity at the tactical edge to ensure situational awareness for the force.

All of these capabilities are wrapped in the robust defensive and tactical situational awareness systems of the KC-46, ensuring the fleet is able to secure and maintain air superiority. The KC-46 can detect, avoid, defeat and survive threats using multiple layers of protection enabling it to operate safely in contested environments.

“Considering the additional capabilities not found on competitor aircraft, the proven KC-46 represents the best value over its total life cycle,” Liedman said

Boeing is already the world’s largest tanker supplier—more KC-46s now operate globally than any tanker except the Boeing-built KC-135—with the operational experience and expertise to ensure fleets are successful now and able to evolve with the mission into the future.

Boeing has already delivered more than 50 KC-46A tankers to the U.S. Air Force, of the 179 it is slated to build.

Japan became the first operator of the KC-46A outside the United States in 2021. Boeing expects to deliver a second KC-46A to Japan in 2022, with a total of four on contract. Israel is also interested in acquiring the KC-46 and recently signed a Letter of Offer and Acceptance for an additional two aircraft, bringing the total to four aircraft.

Boeing also provides crucial services and support, including both routine maintenance as well as modifications that extend the life and capabilities of the aircraft. The growing global KC-46 fleet increases interoperability for parts as well as shared learning.

“With each KC-46A that goes into service, there’s more interoperability and mutual learning within countries and among allies as a growing number of users prove out the capabilities of the platform,” said Liedman.

Boeing is talking to a number of potential customers at the Singapore Airshow about the KC-46A tanker and looks forward to supporting customers with the world’s most advanced multirole aerial refueler for decades to come.