Published February 01, 2016
The KC-46A is the first phase in recapitalizing the U.S. Air Force's aging tanker fleet. With greater refueling, cargo and aeromedical evacuation capabilities compared to the KC-135, the KC-46A will provide next generation aerial refueling support to Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and partner-nation receivers.
At full operational capability, the KC-46A will be able to refuel most fixed-wing, receiver-capable aircraft. The KC-46A is equipped with a refueling boom driven by a fly-by-wire control system, and is capable of fuel offload rates required for large aircraft. Its hose and drogue system adds additional mission capability that is independently operable from the refueling boom system.
The aircraft’s fuel can be pumped through the boom, drogue and wing aerial refueling pods. All KC-46As are capable of being configured with WARPs, and when equipped, the aircraft is capable of multi-point simultaneous aerial refueling. The Boom Operator controls the boom, centerline drogue and WARPs during refueling operations. The Air Refueling Operator station includes panoramic displays giving the ARO wing-tip to wing-tip situational awareness.
The KC-46A can accommodate a mixed load of passengers, aeromedical evacuation and cargo capabilities. Two high-bypass turbofans power the KC-46A to takeoff at gross weights up to 415,000 pounds. Depending on fuel storage configuration, the aircraft can carry a palletized load of up to 65,000 pounds of cargo. The KC-46A can carry up to 18 463L cargo pallets. Seat tracks and the onboard cargo handling system make it possible to simultaneously carry palletized cargo and passenger seats in a variety of combinations. The KC-46A is also equipped with a number of self-protection, defensive and communication features making it more survivable in a contested environment.
The KC-46A represents the beginning of a new era in air-to-air refueling capability for the joint force. The aircraft has been in development since Feb. 24, 2011, and its initial flight occurred in Dec. 2014. The current contract, with options, provides Air Mobility Command an inventory of 179 KC-46A tankers. The first KC-46A was delivered to McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas on Jan. 25, 2019. The aircraft is will soon undergo operational test and evaluation on the way to initial operating capability.
Primary Function: Aerial refueling and airlift
Prime Contractor: The Boeing Company
Power Plant: 2 Pratt & Whitney 4062
Thrust: 62,000 lbs. - Thrust per High-Bypass engine (sea-level standard day)
Wingspan: 156 feet, 1 inch (47.5 meters)
Length: 159 feet, 2 inches (48.5 meters)
Height: 51 feet, 9 inches (15.5 meters)
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 415,000 pounds (188,240 kilograms)
Fuel Capacity: 212,299 pounds (96,297 kilograms)
Maximum Cargo Capacity: 65,000 pounds (29,484 kilograms), 58 passengers
Pallet Positions: 18 pallet positions
Air Crew: 15 permanent seats for aircrew, including aeromedical evacuation aircrew
Aeromedical Evacuation Crew: Expected to add a basic crew of five (two flight nurses and three medical technicians) for aeromedical evacuation missions. Medical crew may be altered as required by the needs of patients.
(Current as of April 2019)