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General gives KC-46A progress report at symposium

Brig. Gen. Duke Richardson, the Air Force Program Executive Officer for Tankers at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, discusses the KC-46A Pegasus during the Tinker and the Primes Requirements Symposium at the Reed Conference Center Aug. 23. (Air Force photo by Kelly White)

Brig. Gen. Duke Richardson, the Air Force program executive officer for tankers, discusses the KC-46A Pegasus during the Tinker and the Primes Requirements Symposium at the Reed Conference Center in Midwest City, Okla., Aug. 23, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo/Kelly White)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. (AFNS) -- The first active-duty KC-46A Pegasus is slated to arrive at Tinker Air Force Base for routine maintenance three years from now, but preparations for the new aerial refueling tanker are in full swing across the Air Force, the program’s executive officer said.

Brig. Gen. Duke Richardson, the Air Force program executive officer for tankers, delivered a comprehensive progress report Aug. 23 at the 11th annual Tinker and the Primes Requirements Symposium in Midwest City.

The KC-46 program hit major milestones in July. After hundreds of hours of flight testing, the tanker was cleared for production Aug. 12. Six days later, the Air Force ordered initial production of 19 planes in a $2.8 billion contract with Boeing. Similar buys are scheduled annually through the 2020s, he said.

“We are off to the races,” Richardson said.

Officials broke ground in July on the 158-acre KC-46A Tanker Sustainment Campus at Tinker AFB. A total of 14 hangar docks are planned for the repair, maintenance and overhaul of 179 planes the Defense Department currently plans to buy. The depot operation is expected to create more than 1,300 jobs.

The first mission-ready Pegasus is scheduled for delivery next fall, Richardson said, but Tinker AFB’s Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex won’t receive its first plane for routine maintenance until 2019. Pegasus aircraft will be on a staggered maintenance schedule, with aircraft systems worked on every two years in an eight-year cycle. A KC-46’s first scheduled maintenance stop, for example, should last 14-16 days.

“It’s not like a KC-135 (tanker) coming in here for 160 flow days, but it’s also not coming back every five years,” he added. “It’s coming back every two years.”

Deliveries of KC-46 support equipment have already begun at Altus AFB and McConnell AFB, Kansas, Richardson informed. McConnell AFB will be the first base to fly the Pegasus aircraft in 2017, flown by both active-duty and Air Force Reserve aircrews. Crews will be trained at Altus AFB.

“If you go to those two bases now, you’ll see hangars full of support equipment,” Richardson said. “By and large, the whole system is getting ready to start operating this weapon system.”

The 448th Supply Chain Management Wing at Tinker AFB will eventually handle the platform’s supply chain, he said. Other KC-46 maintenance and sustainment operations will be based at the Ogden Air Logistics Complex, Utah, and Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex, Georgia.

The joint Boeing-Air Force team is operating five KC-46s in the flight test program. Flight testing is about one-third complete, Richardson said.